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March 30, 2011

The art of up-cycling

Don’t just recycle — up-cycle

Alykhan Velji

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The on-trend word for last year was Up-Cycling, and it continues on this year. The concept is basically turning something that you didn’t think you needed into something that you do with a little DIY action of course. This is a great way of being eco-friendly, and helping out with eliminating one more item from our landfills.

I think so many of us get tired of old pieces and end up throwing them away. However, with a little imagination you can re-invent that piece and make it new again. There are rules that you must abide by when Up-Cycling. Not just any old piece can be resuscitated back to its design life and this month I will be discussing these rules to help you create some fabulous weekend projects!

Quality is key when it comes to re-purposing and up-cycling. You want to make sure that the items you are making over have good bones. What are good bones? Well, it all comes down to how the piece is made. Solid wood furniture is fantastic as it can be sanded down, stained or painted. Most melamine products are not made to be refinished and cannot be sanded down. Stick to solid wood pieces and you wont go wrong. 

If you don’t have furniture pieces in your home a good resource is a website called Kijiji. This is a great website that basically allows people to post pics and put up for sale, items they no longer need, a great way to find some hidden treasures. Craigslist is another website that allows people to put things that they don’t want on sale. Anyone that knows me knows that I will stop for a garage sale. I love to take advantage of items that people would otherwise throw away and barter to get the best deal. I found some fabulous chairs, coffee tables, end tables at a fraction of the cost. 

When trying to re-finish something, you want to make sure your technique is correct. Be sure to sand down any wood before trying to re-paint or stain. A good sand goes a long way. Be sure to also prime the piece as you want the paint to adhere well and not start chipping off, especially if it’s going to be a wel-used piece. If you are wallpapering a piece, you want to make sure you are using the right glue, wallpaper paste will not work, so a good strong spray adhesive will do the trick. This way you can have some time to work with the piece in case you place it in the wrong spot. Spray paint is your friend and is an easy fix. There are quite a few types of spray paints available for metal and wood, so be sure to use the right one and to prime before you spray. Remember, light easy strokes will give you the best coverage and be patient. 

Now, up-cycling is not just about refinishing but also about repurposing items. Here are some of my faves:

1. Taking a unique chair and using it as a side table for a bedroom. This works great in a small space and gives you a great surface to put books, alarm clock, and even a lamp. I would use a wooden chair for this and paint a fun, bold accent colour.

2. A dresser that was in your bedroom could have the hardware changed out, re-painted and repurposed as a sideboard in a living room or dining area. You could even use it as a sofa table and place a couple of lamps on top.

3. I have converted a coffee table into two side tables for a bedroom before. How you ask? Well, I took a coffee table purchased at a thrift store, had it sawed in half, and then attached to the wall on either side of the bed so the two legs were facing the front. I also had the two pieces sprayed in a high gloss black and the look was stunning.

4. You can take the same idea as above and take a dining table and cut it in half and install the one piece against a wall with some sturdy L brackets and use it as an office desk for a small space.


Alykhan Velji
Having a successful design career for the last several years, Alykhan Velji has definitely made a name for himself on the Alberta design scene. Coming in as one of the top three finalists for HGTV’s Designer Superstar Challenge in 2006 and then landing a role as a Stylist/Design Assistant on The Style Dept. also was a great boost to his career. As well as having his own design business, Alykhan Velji Design, Alykhan has been featured in many local and national publications, offering his expertise on design and trends. Finding inspiration in his travels and keeping abreast with the design industry’s new and innovative trends ensures his design esthetic is always fresh, all the while remaining original and timeless. In its fourth year as a design firm, Alykhan Velji Design specializes in both residential and commercial projects.

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