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A Beginners Guide to Getting Started with Upcycling

4th May 2017

Upcycled chairs photo
For some, upcycling involves pedaling vertically through a gradient. For others, it is restoring second hand or old furniture to a condition where it can again grace a home in its full glory.

Whether it’s restoring items to like-new, shabby-chic or coffee-shop-hipster (I may have made that one up), upcycling can be a cost-effective and fun way to revitalise a space or object.

But where do you start when it comes to upcycling? Fear not furniture fascists, for here is your beginners guide containing everything you need to get started.

What to upcycle?

First things first, it’s generally a good idea to know what you want to upcycle. That way you can be on the look-out for any bargains at charity shops or car boot sales.

In general, anything can be upcycled if you can imagine a purpose and a place for it. Whether it’s something small like keeping all your chargers and wires stored neatly with toilet paper tubes, or something big like turning an old piano into a coffee table masterpiece; you’ll need to make sure you have the need and space for it. Unless you are looking to upcycle and then sell on, make sure you are only getting items that you can turn into something you’ll treasure, rather than hoard.

Upcycled chandelier photo
Pinterest is a great place to start for inspiration, but there are also a number of blogs out there that will go into the nitty gritty detail of upcycling as you progress.

Simple tried and tested upcycle items to start with are:

  • Old boxes – Into nifty storage containers.
  • Clothes hangers – A few twists and some clips can turn clothes hangers into neat little holders for paper or photos or even a bookstand.
  • Knife holding blocks – These handy items can be renewed into a number of useful items, such as kids creative sets (crayon & scissor holders) or sewing kit holders.
  • Tables & chairs – A good sanding and painting can revitalise old items into a popular retro style.

Where can you work on items

After deciding just what you want to upcycle, another important factor is where you are going to work on these items. Garages or sheds are perfect so that you can easily keep any mess, dust or paint out of your home.

If you do choose to work on an item at home, it’s best to prepare the area as if you were decorating, so plenty of dust sheets to protect your floor and furniture. It’s also important to make sure you have plenty of room to move the item, as depending on how adventurous you are being, what may have fitted through the doorway before you began, might not fit back out.

Another option, of course, is a self storage facility. Easystore Self Storage has 24-hour access, free contents insurance, free van and forklift use, and a bunch of other perks – see the full list here.

What tools do you need

Typically you are going to need the standard safety items you would need for some intense decorating. Some old clothes (preferably still dotted with emulsion from the last bout of redecorating), a basic face mask (for any sanding or painting you will need to do), and plenty of sheeting, to protect the floor you are working on.

Upcycling in process photo
There are a few tools that will be applicable for most items, but of course, every job has a tool, so there may be some more specialist items. But to start, a beginner would not go wrong with:

  • Sandpaper
  • A sander
  • Brushes
  • Stains, finishes and primers
  • Wood putty & a putty knife – for upscaling furniture with a few too many nicks and dents
  • Glue (wood or metal, depending on what you are gluing)


One of the most overlooked aspects of upcycling is time. No matter what job you are doing, to properly upcycle an item it is going to take time. Even the simplest of upcycles – e.g. an old jam jar into a funky candle holder – will take time as you research instructions, gather the materials and carefully work on the item.

Naturally, something like turning an old detergent box into a plastic bag holder is going to take a lot less time and effort than sanding and staining a chest of draws, so always research and plan tasks out.

If you need a space to store your tools and/or upcycling projects then consider Easystore Self Storage in South Wales. We have storage facilities in Cardiff and Bridgend. Why not ask us for a quote today?

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3]

Author: Brendan

Brendan is the owner of Easystore Self Storage.

 029 2046 0066
Packing boxes

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