Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Recycled furniture

Now everyone has their own particular fancies when it comes to furniture and that is why recycling furniture is fantastic. Recycling old pieces allows you to pick the style, shape and colours that make you happy.

If you are like me, you can rarely find what you are looking for at the mainstream stores or if you do find something amazing, the price is not so amazing (it can be down right scandalous). This is why recycling can be so great. You get an item you need or want at the price that makes you smile and with a little TLC, voila a new piece of furniture emerges that has your stamp of personality.

I must admit that I had no idea where to start with my recycled furniture expeditions but I think i can now impart some of what I learnt from my stops and starts.

Now where to start, what to do in the middle and the end result.


1. Think about what you need or want. For me this was more storage in my kitchen. My Tupperware and bakeware cupboard was getting out of control so I wanted somewhere to put all my baking tins and platters. 

2. Identify what space you have available. I didn’t have any wall or floor space available in my kitchen but my kitchen is part of my open plan living area. I did have a space there but the height of the space was restricted by an air conditioning unit. So I knew I wanted more storage with space for bulky items and that I could only get something up to a height of 160cm.

3. Ask yourself what style of furniture you like. I am very partial to 1950s style furniture, but my boyfriend is not, but I know that we both like a country feel. With this in mind we agreed on a kitchen dresser. Yay!

4. Think about how much effort (elbow grease) you are willing to put into upcycling the piece that you select. This can make a difference to your budget and the condition of the item that you choose.

5. Now for the budget. Think carefully about how much you are willing to spend, remembering that there may be some costs involved in recycling the piece of furniture that you choose. I personally did not want to spend over $150 on my recycling attempt.

6. Get searching! You can use the internet if you like to relax at home and take your time (with an optional cup of tea and cat in your lap). Ebay (, Etsy ( and Gumtree ( are great sites to try and source second-hand furniture at a reasonable price and I am sure that there are many others. Another way of sourcing your recyclable goodies is to plan a day (hopefully with a good friend or sister) and hit all the local thrift shops (and tip shops if you have access to these). They can be a gold mine for recycling. You may also stumble across some other things that you love along the way too. I personally like to collect anything that has a mouse on it.

6. 'Don't judge a book by its cover' - remember this little saying when you are looking at second-hand furniture. It may not look neat, it may not look clean, it may have lumps and bumps but as long as the structure is sound you could be onto a winner. You can be fairly safe with solid timber pieces however depending on how handy you are you can pretty much overcome any issue. But remember - how much effort are you willing to put in? If the item is made of ply and some of the ply is delaminating, you may have to replace whole sections - is this something you are willing and able to do? This is really about being realistic - a bit of self reflection and honesty people. 

Now back to that little saying about a book. Here is a picture of the item I ending up buying on Ebay for $100.

Hiding behind that sticker on the middle door was a lovely great hole but I did tell myself to expect the unexpected when buying online.

7. When you find that item that you just love and is within your price range and elbow grease limit - BUY BUY BUY! That is the thing with second-hand furniture, you may never find another piece like it.

8. Decide what personality you are going to give your item. Are you going to paint it, stain it, cover it with fabric, photos, washi tape, put stencils on it, insert twigs as inlay? There are so many ways to change the way a piece of furniture looks. Look at Pinterest ( for inspiration or Google images, or your favourite magazines. Look within yourself (here is that self reflection again) and get your inspiration. The options are only really limited by your imagination.

8. Research your item as best you can. What I mean by this is understand what it is made of, what items your will need to inject your second-hand beauty with your design ideas. This can get tricky but once again there are so many people with a wealth of knowledge willing to share it with you. Ask friends, family or research the internet or source handyman magazines. I decided to paint my little beauty but not before having to replace both side panels and one shelf panel with new sheets of ply.

To paint any item it is best to sand it but remember to protect your lungs and eyes when sanding. Give the item a good clean with a damp cloth to remove any dirt and leftover dust. Then use a water-based primer to prime where you are wanting to paint (I prefer water-based primers and paints because it is just so much easier to wash up then oil-based). With painting furniture, it is best to use an enamel paint (like the paint you use for doors, skirting boards and architraves) as it is hard wearing so you can enjoy your recycled delight for many years to come.

9. Use that elbow grease and restore your furniture as you have researched.

10. Move your item into place and voila, you have your recycled dream.

Here is the end result of my labours (and my boyfriend helped of course).

Now I know that this may seem like a lot of work but if you put in the effort (both research and elbow grease) you will definitely be rewarded.

I was just so happy with it and you will be too. Don't worry if the paintwork is not quite perfect, or you used the wrong fabric to cover the seat cushion - this is what makes the item special to you and hopefully those who enjoy looking upon it. I know that my friends and family have made my efforts feel special - and my platters all have a fantastic home.


1 comment:

  1. Looks great!

    Some other sites to find great furniture are
    and facebook!/groups/thingsforfreeinbrisbane/

    Cheers Michelle