Old Stuff. Those two words tends to conjure up pretty unappealing images don’t they? They shouldn’t, old stuff doesn’t have to suggest unwanted and discarded. If we use our imagination a little to discover potential, old stuff can become reclaimed treasure!
Chalk paint and shabby chic?
Upcycling has had an image in the past of being a bit make do and mend. Taking a piece of junk and turning it into something mediocre but more acceptable and not quite ready for the landfill just yet. To be fair there are plenty of examples on local buying and selling sites that show a dated but solid piece of furniture covered with a quick and usually unprepped paint job being sold for not much more than the materials cost. I blame the chalk paint/shabby chic trend, the idea that you could paint without prep and the brushstrokes and distressing were all part of the charm! Thankfully this has been superseded in recent years by a much sleeker look and a more professional approach.
Upcycling is now enjoying some serious recognition as an aspirational way to furnish your home. Professional upcyclers, often quite rightly referred to as furniture artists are changing the image of upcycling. Their work can be found in some scroll stopping examples all over Pinterest and Instagram. Interior designers now recognise the value to be had in sourcing unique hand painted furniture for their clients whilst also keeping to a sustainability brief. The industry has been quietly evolving and improving. Every professional starts out as any hobby up cycler does. They make the mistakes, learn from the disasters and put the hours and effort in. They take the workshops, pick the brains of those who’s work they admire and knowledge and experience they respect. They discover their own preferred techniques and often develop a particular style. Ultimately they fall in love with the buzz of satisfaction from carrying out quality transformations on solid vintage furniture. They command prices for their work that are appropriate and deserving of the quality of finish, design and workmanship that takes years of steep learning curves to perfect.
Anyone starting out as a hobby upcycler has the potential to become a professional and to appreciate the possibilities with old stuff. You will probably know if it’s for you quite early on. If you hate the prep and just want a quick fix it’s not going to be the business for you. If on the other hand you’re already admiring the quality of the piece in it’s unfinished state, letting the shape, material, style or era direct design ideas from the moment you see it then you’ve probably found your passion! Start as you mean to go on if you want to create pieces to make you proud – and potentially earn you money! Seek advice on what products are suited for the job from your local paint stockist. It’s important to understand what products are appropriate for each project. Different substrates require different preparation. There are various options for application, brushes, rollers and which type? Then the finish, are you painting or restoring the wood finish? Perhaps a bit of both. Get to know your upcycling product suppliers, they are a handy source of information and they love to hear about your projects! Taking a workshop run by a professional up cycler is a fantastic investment, have your questions ready to make the most of the session and their valuable experience. Practice on projects for your own home first, you’ll know when you’ve created a piece that can command a price worthy of the quality of furniture, the materials used and importantly your time and expertise.
Quality furniture, treated with respect
That’s where the value of “old stuff” can be discovered by those who recognise it. For some, old stuff will always be just that and visualising the potential is too difficult. Others will look at old stuff with it’s knocks, scuffs and scratches, cobwebs and even smelling of old cigarette smoke. They will respect it’s history and visualise that solid piece of quality furniture restyled and highly desirable to a discerning and increasingly environmentally conscious interiors market.
(blog first published on Wellness Markets. Wellness Markets supports small ethical businesses in Kent)