When I graduated college, I bought myself some “starter furniture” and throughout the years, my purchases proved to be minimal and sturdy enough to stick with me for a while. In the back of my mind, though, I always assumed I’d graduate to something more “grown up” (read: expensive) and kick said pieces to the curb. Literally.
But here’s the problem with thinking of furniture as disposable: According to the most recent survey from the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans dispose of 11.8 million tons of home and office furniture every year, which comes to about five percent of all the garbage generated in the country. When I learned this, I wondered if I should reconsider my desire to get rid of the furniture I’d been using.
Americans dispose of 11.8 million *tons* of furniture every year, which comes to about five percent of all the garbage generated in the country.
Here’s a solution, or at least a step in the right direction: Upcycling. Not only is it a lot cheaper than buying new furniture every few years, it’s also much better for the planet. “Besides getting the exact design you want when you do these projects, sustainability is a big motivation for me,” says Lotta Lundaas, founder and CEO of Norse Interiors, an online furniture shop allows you to customize Ikea furniture to create design-forward pieces that are easy on the eyes as well as the pocketbook. “I like to start looking at what I have at home; what do I have that I could give a makeover?.”
“Upcycling” to Lundaas is not just slapping on a set of new knobs and calling it a day (though, FYI, that is a really easy way to do it). With a few easy updates, she brings entirely new life to boring, old, and tired furniture.
Keep reading for her tips on how to give your furniture new life.
Give it a new coat of paint
Whipping out a paintbrush and going to town on your furniture may be a little scary for first timer, and could leave you with mixed results, so Lundaas recommends using spray paint. “It’s just so easy. Paint can be tricky sometimes, you have to really, work the surface before adding paint to something to make it look good,” she says. “But with spray paint, I feel like anyone can do it.”
Remember to spray from a distance and do multiple layers for a nice even color. The options for what you can spray paint are pretty much endless. “You can transform legs for a chair, or a simple lamp into a nice golden lamp,” she says.
Follow the rustic trend (with a little bit of elbow grease)
The shabby chic farmhouse look is rather easy to execute from a DIY standpoint. If your furniture is made of wood, use some strategic sandpapering to bring out some of the natural wood color. You can give your mirrors the same cool, worn-in look, says Lundaas. Remove parts of the film at the back of the mirror with paint stripper to get to the reflective film, then spray it with a solution of bleach and water. “Since it’s not applied evenly, it will give it that natural, rustic look,” explains Lundaas. (These jobs aren’t actually as difficult to do IRL as they may sound, and there are plenty of YouTube tutorials out there to help get you through it.)
Get handy with fabric
The armchair that you cuddle up in every night after dinner may look a little dingy, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally beat or that you have to say goodbye. Instead, consider reupholstering it. “Changing cushions, like on the chair, is also something that’s fairly easy to do with just a staple gun,” says Lundaas.
A fresh fabric can change the vibe in any room, and prevent you from having to toss an entire chair to the curb.
Hire someone (if DIY isn’t for you)
If the whole DIY thing isn’t really your style but you still want to upcycle, hire the work out. “Make use of hacking companies, like Norse, which has already done all the measurements and thinking for you,” says Lundaas. “You don’t have to do everything from scratch, which can both be time-consuming and difficult.”
Upcycle someone else’s old furniture
Craigslist is the *perfect* place to find someone else’s stuff that you can then turn into your own vibe.”You can mix and match old and new pieces, and make something one-of-a-kind, without breaking the bank,” says Lundaas. Focus your search on finding something with a solid foundation so you know it will last, but don’t worry too much about the aesthetics.
Then, get creative, and turn it into the one-of-a-kind piece of your dreams.
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