» Upcycling – Is rubbish your cup of tea?

Upcycling – Is rubbish your cup of tea?

Upcycling is a fairly new phenomenon and a phrase that you will hear more and more frequently. It is the art of taking something old or unwanted, and improving it by turning it into something decorative, unique and useful. There is a very satisfying feeling buying a vintage item that has seen better days and spending time turning it into your own work of art. Your home will take on a uniqueness all of its own as it slowly gets filled with gorgeous artefacts adapted to your taste. Furniture in the olden days was so well made, decorative and unusual that it is just crying out to be given a new lease of life.

Take, for instance, the lovely chair I have recently upcycled. I found it hanging upside down suspended from a garage roof with its stuffing hanging out and if a chair did have feelings I’m sure it was feeling very sorry for itself!

upcycling wingback chair

Old wingback chair before upcycling...

Upcylcing restored wingback chair

... and after!


I wonder how much longer it would have stayed hanging there before someone cleared the garage and deemed it should go to the scrap heap. It now stands in the corner of our bedroom – fully restored to its glorious best.

Hot on the trail of upcycling is the craze of skip diving. I laughed when I heard this phrase but actually I think a lot of us have actually earned the name ‘skip diver’! You are just walking past a skip and an old piece of furniture/picture frame/Lloyd loom chair catches your eye and in you go! I imagine legs in the air and people flailing to get out when I think of skip diving – I have yet to see that but wait in hope! A friend and I have just been ‘bin diving’! Sounds awful I know but it was so funny. We were driving past some bins and happened to spot 2 old deck chairs. Quick as a flash I parked up and we scooped the old deck chairs into the back of the car. We have great plans for these sad forlorn deckchairs that would have ended up in the dump had we not ‘rescued’ them. Keep an eye out for our deck chair makeover!

Now firmly in the grip of vintage mania and having started A Vintage Celebration (a wedding crockery hire service) I have spent many happy days wandering round flea markets, antique fairs and car boot sales searching for vintage gems and have found them by the bucket load. There are so many things out there that can be upcycled – all it takes is a little imagination and some elbow grease. Look out for unusual furniture, picture frames, bits of vintage fabric, old buttons and bric-a-brac that can all be upcycled to make something truly unique. I have just bought an old tea trolley – a gorgeous piece of furniture from a bygone era that cost me just £3! It is going to get a new coat of paint and be put to use for vintage tea parties and weddings.

For my latest project, I have just finished upcycling a rather dull pine chest of drawers. Never having been waxed or finished in any way it was crying out for a new life.

upcycling a plain chest of drawers

From a plain old chest of drawers...

upcycling restored chest of drawers

...to a stylish piece of furniture!


A few coats of paint, wax and some new knobs and it has been transformed to a gorgeous piece of furniture.

So when you look at old furniture now think outside the box and try and give your vintage pieces another life. Never will you feel more satisfied and pleased with yourself than when you have upcycled something.

Tracey Allen is the owner of www.rusticangels.co.uk a shabby chic, vintage and retro homewares & interiors website. Her blog is a constant source of ideas for making beautiful things for the home, and due to popular demand, she has recently launched a vintage crockery hire service for weddings and parties,  A Vintage Celebration.



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