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May 01, 2019

Renewed purpose

Bring renewed energy into design with repurposed furniture

Christina Loc

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Reused, recycled, reclaimed, repurposed, upcycled — have all become very popular terms in the world of furniture. What may be one man's trash could become another man's treasure.
At a time when people are increasingly conscientious of what's being thrown in to our landfills, manufacturers, designers, artists and DIYers (Do-It-Yourselfers) are getting very creative with their design ideas.

Manufacturers are using reclaimed lumber salvaged from places like old houses, barns and factories to boat wood, shipping crates and wine barrels to create beautiful office, dining room, living room and bedroom furniture.

Some designers love going to consignment stores, thrift shops and garage sales to find unique, one-of-a-kind pieces to incorporate in to their client's space. These original items might include things like an antique
Queen Anne chair, a mid-century sideboard or rustic storage bench that will most likely need to be reupholstered, painted or stained. Other great finds can include decor pieces like vintage crystal barware, macrame
planters and hardcover books that have made a very strong come back.

Artists are using scrap metal, newspapers, denim, kitchen utensils and really anything they can get their hands on to create wall art and sculptures.


Replace old handles and knobs for new ones on dressers, nightstands, coffee tables and sideboards. Typically, this will instantly update your furniture piece and is so easy to do.

Refinish or paint old furniture to give it new life. If it is a wood piece you are working with, sand it down and give it a new stain. Older furniture pieces typically have a semi-gloss or high gloss stain with a red, brown or orange undertone. To update your dresser, bookshelf or coffee table, tone down the level of sheen by going with a matte or satin finish in a grey, natural or washed stain. Another option too is to go with a good primer that will cover the grains of the wood and then paint it a nice neutral or accent colour to suit your decor.

Recover upholstery. Update the look of your dining chairs with new fabric. It's amazing what just recovering a seat cushion on your old dining room set can do to freshen up a space. Perhaps you have an heirloom chair that you just don't have the heart to throw out but are tired of storing it away because it doesn't fit your decor. Recover, and refinish it too if need be, so that you can show case it in your home. At local business, Reclaim To Fame, they specialize in original Danish, mid-century, vintage and retro furniture built in the 1950's to 1970's and can help you restore your furniture upholstery pieces.

Paint your accessories. This is a trade secret that is done all the time to give decor new life and it's not even necessarily old items we do it to. When gold decor was not so popular a few years ago and difficult to find, we sprayed newly purchased items gold. There are so many great paints out there, including Plutonium Paint, which can be found at Anilin Decorating Centre, that make this process very addictive — just spray and watch the paint stick to the surface for an instant and gratifying transformation. It's like hitting a gold mine! Just like that, you now have gold (or any colour of your choice) vases, sculptures and bowls to work with. Spraying things black is also a new love right now.

Use old materials. Okay, these DIY tips are what I consider manageable and easy enough to do or source out. If you are really keen and want to take on a true repurposing furniture project using old things lying around in the house or have found at a garage sale, I say go for it. Just keep in mind, it will require time, patience and some acquired skill.

Pinterest is always a good source to go to for inspiration for many ideas including some of these:

• Use an old headboard and footboard to turn in to a bench.

• Turn a dresser in to a nightstand and pet bed.

• Convert a coffee table in to an ottoman.

• Make a coffee table from shipping pallets.

• Transform a crib in to a desk.

• Refinish indoor furniture to withstand the elements for outdoor use.

A good way to assess whether a furniture piece can be repurposed is to imagine all of its possibilities. Ask yourself: what can I do to make it functional and appealing, what can I take away, what can I add to enhance

For example, you may have an old 6-drawer oak dresser lying around and may think it would be so much more functionalfor you if it were a book case. The oak may be too heavy looking and is looking a bit tired so to
make it appealing you will paint it white. You may decide to keep the top two drawers but will take away the bottom four drawers to turn it in to shelving space. To make it more interesting, you will add some
decorative legs to the base as well as a nice patterned contact paper behind the shelves to enhance its aesthetics.

In a consumer-driven world, upcycling or recycling things has a positive impact on the environment and can also be budget-friendly. From a design perspective, however, remember that like any furniture piece you
introduce in to your home, make sure it's the right scale and that it compliments the aesthetics of your surroundings.

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