Upcycled Vintage and DIY Planning. Sustainable and Inspiring!

Unless you’ve been actively trying to ignore the flourishing DIY upcycle / recycle trend or otherwise passively living under a rock, you’ll know by now that this trend is not just a fad – for some people it’s something that they’ll try just the once, for others it’s a weekend hobby, and for quite a few it’s become a way of life and a sustainable business model.

Why DIY? To those that have never attempted a DIY project, it can seem a bit of a mystery. It’s not until you’ve experienced the deep satisfaction that comes from getting your hands dirty, with your blood pumping and your sweat glands flexing, all thanks to your own ideas and hard work, that it starts to make sense.

skateA major element of this DIY passion is upcycling old furniture and sustainability is a driving force for many DIY-ers. If you need confirmation that this really had taken off in the way we’re talking about, just search Pinterest for “DIY Upcycled Furniture” to get a taste of what we mean. Here’s just one example of someone who’s turned some unused skateboard decks into functional sitting spaces – perfect for some quirky low key seating.

Whilst the quirky and the strange can be a lot of fun and a great way to impress people (or weird them out), upcycling and restoring furniture doesn’t mean having to create absurd bits of artistic furniture.

Finding and old table at a garage sale, or claiming one from your mates garage, can leave you primed for a brilliant new piece of furniture. Take this website for example – they find old pieces of furniture, strip them back, and finish them off again so that they look like showroom quality, one of a kind items that you’d be proud to show off!

Obviously, these are examples of work already done. You came here because you want to get your own hands dirty and save some money along the way. Using the prior examples as inspiration, lets looks at what’s involved in sprucing up an old bit of timber to create something that’s both gonna last, and look great!

First; think about what you want and where it’s going to go. Don’t lock yourself into one specific idea – so much of this is about having fun and being creative and getting surprised along the way – but if you find inspiration lacking, think about what you need, A space saving solution? A new lighting fixture?

Research. If you don’t own the piece (or pieces) that you plan to work on, go garage shopping or reclaiming – local op-shops and vintage second hand retailers can also offer much in the way of hidden gems.

Plan. Got your item? Get busy. But before you pick up tools, pick up pencils and paper. Sketch out a quick plan and a list of items you’ll need.

ladderHere’s a quick example where a scrappy old ladder was used to make a unique hanging light. It’s a great combination of vintage and modern! Just sand, varnish, wrap with lights (or other decorations of your choosing) and hang. Simple!

For this project you’ll only need:

  • Scrappy old ladder!
  • Brush for cleaning – just use a broom or brush to knock off any dust and cobwebs before you begin.
  • Dropsheet – put this down before you begin to protect your work surface from drips and dust.
  • Sandpaper + sanding block for removing blemishes, old varnish etc. Use a fine grain sandpaper and work with the grain of the wood. Once sanded and cleaned up, move on to the most important step:
  • Clear Varnish. We recommend Monecel Clear Timber Varnish. Why? It’s super easy to use, durable, and competitively priced. This varnish serves two functions:
    • First of all, it protects your wood from any sun it may be exposed to using their advanced nanoZ™ technology – it basically acts like a sunscreen for your wood, and, especially if you’re putting wood in the Australian sun, you’ll need a high quality product.
    • Secondly, it will seal and protect your wood from all the heat and other elements, along with the general wear-and-tear that it’s going to be exposed to! Bondall, who make this varnish, have got three easy to follow steps on how to use their product here.
  • Lights – use christmas fairy lights, led strings or strips, or low watt/low heat globe lights on ropes (Jaycar & Bunnings are both great places to start looking).
    • IMPORTANT! The lights you choose must produce low heat and low light. this is not only for safety reasons, but you are also going to have quite a few exposed lights hanging up there, and too many bright lights will blind you and your guests, thereby ruining the whole effect – “Hey guys, like my new light fitting! … Oh, oh you’ve burned holes in your retinas have you? Hmm… Bugger”.
  • Finally, hang the thing somewhere!

Of course, this is but one application for an old ladder. Get inspired with these 25 other great ideas we found for decorating with old ladders. Restoring any old furniture and thinking outside the box will set you up for a sustainable, fun hobby, a great sense of pride, and you might even manage to add a real touch of vintage class to your own home!