By Yasmine Dehimi (Guest Writer)
The process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects is both a key component of modern waste reduction and a critical element in modern interior design. The practice is a combination of breaking down old materials to create new ones and upcycling. The latter, being the process of creating something new and better- from old objects. The distinction here is, the use of existing objects to improve their original form.
Britain alone produces around 280 million tonnes of waste each year, as people get rid of their perfectly functioning unwanted items. These are often replaced with newer, bigger and better versions. Either as the primary driving force or merely as a passive by-product, upcycling thas great potential to reduce this wastage.
The ultimate aim of recycling and upcycling is to create an item or piece of furniture that is eco-friendly and one-of-a-kind. This practice, when adopted by the interior designer creates innovative, socially and environmentally responsible design projects. Often they demonstrate a creative desire for sustainability and make for the most cost-effective approach.
DIY enthusiasts have created fun and creative ways to recycle and upcycle old and new items into home furnishings and trendy designs. At the lowest cost, they create personal, bespoke and eco-friendly living spaces.
Recycle and Upcycle at Home
Paint, break and remake furniture at home to create the ideal living space that represents you and your family. Recycling and upcycling have very similar causes and effects, however, there are some distinct differences you should know before undertaking either. Recycling is generally the use of furniture and building materials that have been salvaged from elsewhere (be it from a different room in your house or another building entirely). Upcycling takes things one step further by taking unwanted items and changing its purpose or appearance to make it useful and beautiful again.
Do’s and Dont’s
Do ensure that the structural elements of all materials are sound and fit for usage. This means that rotten wood, soaking fabrics, damp infested furniture and crumbling tiles are a no-go. Use sound judgement to determine whether the materials you wish to recycle or upcycle are in good enough condition to withstand the test of time. Quality matters and whilst frequently upcycling furniture can be great fun- there is little use in modifying rotten wooden stools that serve no purpose.
Do make sure that the material you’re working with is fit for purpose. In other words, don’t just pick things up for the sake of it. Choose items you need and have plans for and use them accordingly. One of the reasons to recycle in the first place is to avoid over-cluttering your living space.
Don’t give up. It’s all about trial and error. It’s meant to be fun, challenging and rewarding. If your first attempt doesn’t give you your desired result, try again. The process fo exploring what works and what doesn’t will only make you better at restoring and remaking new things.
An odd place to start but an incredibly creative one- make the most out of your ceiling space. Often the ceiling serves more purpose as the flooring for the room above- but it can provide just as much functionality for the room it overlooks.
To make the most out of your ceiling space, the idea is to reuse existing objects that can both reach the ceiling and allow for some functionality. In most cases, this includes things like hanging baskets and shelves.
Sand, paint and polish an old wooden ladder and find a way to attach it to the ceiling. Already- you’ve created a useful piece of furniture that can be whatever you want it to be. In this case, consider using the steps as shelves, a storage area, shoe rack or bathroom cabinet. It frees up floor space and creates the illusion of a bigger room.
Get really creative and reimagine wooden pallets. These sturdy pallets make a great base material for handy upcycled furniture. Consider using them to give your settees some extra height. Pad up spare pallets up with cushions and recycled upholstery to create beautiful bespoke pouffes. There are plenty of use for wooden pallets outside of the living room too. Take them into the kitchen to create planting stations for herbs, or a makeshift wine rack.
When it comes to clearing out our homes, we all seem to possess the same items we think are worthy of disposal. From plastic, clothes and CDs to paper waste and old containers. Not only does the inappropriate disposal of this ‘waste’ cause harm to our planet, but we also throw away out creative-selves. Let’s take a look at how recycled materials can be used.
Artis Ian Berry demonstrates perfectly, the creative capacity that exists within us all. He creates works that at first glance, could be mistaken for drawings or paintings. Upon closer inspection, they are actually crafted from recycled jeans. Through his art, Berry portrays contemporary life using the material of our time- denim.
Another characteristic and revolutionary development of today’s age that has rendered CDs and DVDs redundant- Netflix, Spotify and iTunes. But is it necessary to part ways with the large volume of hardware we leave behind, forever?
Recycling old discs made from layers of aluminium and plastic into something useful, beautiful and original is not easy but can be done to elevate CD art to new heights. As has been done by a new wave of designers. They’re already shiny with a mirror effect and require little decorative attention. The task is to simply put them together spectacularly. Consider photo frames, hanging decorations, and wall art.