Henri ponders the joys of upcycling

Upcycled materials

Upcycled materials

After a visit to my sister in Copenhagen last month, my daughter announced that she wanted her room to look exactly like her cousin’s: all black and white, and with strategic splashes of colour.

Having just completed the annual clear-out of my daughter’s room, filling charity bags with toys and clothes she had outgrown, plus a couple of bin liners of just… rubbish, I put my head in my hands and groaned. Not only is it the blatant assumption that I have nothing better to do with my time, it’s also the cost involved (and the sheer futility of it – give her five minutes, and her room is back to being a tip).

So I decided to upcycle.

Upcycling is the opposite of downcycling (geddit?). Whereas downcycling involves converting materials and products into materials of lesser quality, upcycling is, according to Wikipedia, “the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value”.

In layman’s terms, sprucing up something old.

In the spare room we had an old flat-pack chest of drawers which I’d had since my flat-share days. I gave it a lick of white paint, decorated the knobs* in different colours and patterns using a handful of tester pots I had in the garage. The bookcase was also painted white, as well as a redundant spice rack which can be used for knick-knacks.

* I’m aware that using the word “knob” in cyberspace could lead to some interesting misunderstandings, so I just want to emphasise that I’m talking about the handle variety here.

To finish I covered a pair of hideous old sofa cushions (also from my flat-share days) in strong white fabric, and fashioned a beanbag out of an old sofa cover and some refill polystyrene beads I had lying around. The black, folding sleep-over mattress is from IKEA.

A selection of, er, knobs

A selection of, er, knobs

Total cost: a can of white satinwood paint £11.99, a bobbin of sewing thread £1, sleep-over mattress £12 = £24.99.

Now I’m off to polish my halo with an old can of Brasso I have lying around…

22 thoughts on “Henri ponders the joys of upcycling

  1. As the mother of two daughters, I completely identified with all that, Henriette! As for Brasso – I’m old enough to remember it well :-( .

  2. Henri, you’re a saint, and a creative one at that.

    Unfortunately, I always think, ‘But time costs money …’ And I pay someone else to do it! :-D I’m not absolutely certain of my economic balance and whether it works, though.

  3. Wow, Henri, I take my proverbial hat off to you! How ingenious, and what skill. As someone who is completely non practical, I’m in awe of those who are.

    Liz X

  4. Love the result, Henri, well done! You can come and “upcycle” at my house any time! Although I am trying it myself at the moment with the old kitchen cupboards, not sure mine will turn out as well :)

  5. How fantastic! Like Liz, I am completely unpractical, and as mother of three daughters who think that empty floorspace is an abomination, cannot conceive such a project. Any daughter who asks for a room makeover will be pointed towards my DIY kit of two paintbrushes and a stiffened roller, and told to ‘knock yourself out’.

  6. Margaret – Brasso is not that old, is it? I use it all the time, for the halo ;-)

    Sue – I’ve been called many things but never saintly! Thanks, it made my day (am feeling anything but at the moment). And you’re right, time is money – which is the reason I have a cleaner, my one true luxury (see, if I was a saint, I’d be down on my knees scrubbing the floors myself…).

    Liz & Jane – I’m not that practical. If I was, I’d have done what Jane does, and pointed daughter in the direction of the paint tins herself (actually, that’s a brilliant idea, that).

    Pia – I’m sure your kitchen cupboards will be just fine. Will inspect them carefully in August and give you my verdict (hee-hee).

  7. Wow! What a clever and really cost-effective way of transforming a room – and I just love those *coughs* knobs. Hope your daughter appreciates what a brilliant Mum she’s got.

  8. How clever are you?! And I bet it feels fantastic! Well…what did your daughter think?

  9. As Christina said, you can come round to mine and upcycle any time. Everything looks really good, and I’m sure your daughter will be thrilled! x

  10. Aww, thanks! I’m blushing now. You’re making me feel that all those hours of sanding, filling, painting, rinsing brushes, stitching, unstitching, pricking myself on needles, breaking my finger nails, dropping something on my toes, getting stuff in my hair, etc. were worth the trouble. That, and daughter not being a grouch for the whole of 10 minutes :-D

  11. I am so impressed – it all looks totally fab – especially the (umm)knobs.
    I don’t suppose you want to come visit us – and bring your sewing machine. We have paintbrushes.

  12. Wow, I’m getting commissions now! Maybe I’m in the wrong line of business… And I agree with Jane, “Wonderful Knobs” is a great title, possibly GLBT? That’s a sandwich, btw.

  13. First congratulations, Henri, on the transformation: you have done it, as they say, with knobs on. Brilliant! But I am left with a half-facetious, half you-may-be-on-to-something here, query which is whether you couldn’t ‘up’ anything else in relation to home furnishing? For example, clutter. Might there be something useful in upcluttering? Indeed what might upcluttering be all about other than the subject for the feature pages of one of our less popular magazines. Isn’t upcluttering what IKEA do? By selling us storage boxes they invite to to obtain more clutter with which to fill them. Or those pictures and silk flowers they sell? These must all be species of upclutter. I am sure your daughter is de-stressed in her new room, but maybe if she is to keep it tidy perhaps she needs to be up-stressed. I don’t know what that might involve, but if you could invent it you might make your fortune.

  14. Hm, Fennie, I might need a couple of glasses of wine before I can answer that one ;-) but as you say, whoever cracks it, could become a millionaire. Will keep you posted.

  15. You see what you’ve started, Henri? Some of us are having withdrawal symptoms from Wednesday Hottie and your knobs have filled a large hole (so to speak). Jane, I’ll let you write ‘Wonderful Knobs’. I’ll focus on ‘Knobs and Nobility’ à la Jane Austen.

  16. Oh, dear, I’ve done it again, haven’t I? Okay, I’ll let you concentrate on “Knobs & Nobility”, Jane can have “Wonderful Knobs”, and I’ll do “Knobs & Knockers”, shall I? I see a theme emerging…

  17. Aw! What a lovely mum – how caring of you to listen and then do so much to give your daughter the room she was hoping for. Full marks to you Henri!

  18. Very impressed Henri. My daughter is currently demanding a set of bedroom furniture from Feather & Black that would set me back over £1000 if I agreed to it.

  19. Chris – Thanks for saying so! I do what I can to listen, but sometimes I have to put my foot down too. I’m good at putting my foot down ;-)

    Mary – One thing I’ve learned about kids is that we need to make them think we’re giving them what they want. Perhaps you can persuade your daughter to accept an IKEA alternative, but with personalised accessories that no one else has. Her friends will think the personal touch is cool, and she’ll have her sanctuary, which’ll become more and more important as she gets older. I would certainly put my foot down at a £1000 price tag!

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