How to upcycle furniture using sustainable methods and materials
Restorer and designer Jay Blades talks us through the best ways to upcycle old furniture using traditional methods and more sustainable fabrics and materials
My belief is that you have got to leave this planet better than you found it. If I didn’t make a contribution to the Earth – from recycling products, to working within my community – then I’d be just as bad as those who take it for granted.
As you are reading Homes & Antiques, chances are you already furnish your home in a way that has very little impact on our environment: by buying antique and second-hand furniture. But do think about how you’re getting rid of the items you are replacing, as well.
Is that old sofa going straight to the recycling centre? If so, there’s a high probability it will end up in landfill. Don’t let it! It’s so much better to repair and reuse. And a piece of good old-fashioned wooden furniture is never beyond repair.
Before you start, check out our top tips for upcycling your antique pieces.
Find out what the difference between upcycling and recycling is here.
How to upcycle using sustainable methods and materials
Consult a restoration expert
The way stuff was built back in the day… I believe it can all be restored. Even if you’ve got something that you’re convinced is beyond repair, it’s worth talking to an expert before you throw it out. Someone will be able to fix it. If the work is very extensive, then you’ll need to find an experienced restorer – the older they are, the more likely they will feel confident in taking on the job.
Use water-based paints
If it’s important to you that the restoration is done in an eco-friendly way, then talk to your restorer about it. You want someone who will use water-based paints rather than oil-based, as the strong solutions required to clean up are so bad for the eco-system.
Use traditional methods of upholstery
If the job includes upholstery, you’ll want someone who can offer you fabrics that are made without damaging inks and chemicals. And ask about the various different padding materials they can use. Your best bet is to look for someone who works in traditional ways.
My upholstery teacher, Gregory Cupitt-Jones, will only use the old techniques if he can. And his methods will have very little impact on the planet, if at all. It is more labour intensive, so it will cost more, but it’s worth it.
If you're interested in furniture, check out our round-up of the best furniture upcycling and restoration courses available online and in person.
What to do with unwanted furniture
1. Donate it
Charities like BHF and Emmaus will collect. And someone in your family might need it too.
2. Sell it
Get it on eBay or Gumtree, or, if it’s a quality piece, have it valued by an auction house.
3. Keep it
A change in upholstery fabric or a fresh lick of paint might be all that’s needed to give it a new lease of life.
More from Jay Blades:
- Get to know Jay Blades
- How I got in to furniture restoration
- My favourite small-scale artists
- How I found fame on Money for Nothing
- Furniture reupholstery: Jay Blades on how to make your fabric go further
- The joy of Ernest Race furniture
- Unleashing your creativity
- Bidding for treasure
- Jay Blades on his best auction find