Do you remember the BBC2 programme ‘Changing Rooms’? I used to love it.
Smiley, smiley, Carol Smillie. DFS sofa-designer Linda Barker. Fuchsia and zebra-print –obsessed Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen. Good old Handy Andy.
A friend of a friend had her house made over by the Changing Room team. Unfortunately the end result was foul and shoddy; curtains had been hung, in a gravity-defying trick, with blu-tack.
Those were the days.
But this is 2012, not 1997. Although the word is not yet included in the OED, ‘upcycling’ generates a whopping 1,850,000 results on a well-known search engine. In Changing Rooms, there was a certain catharsis in ripping out high-quality, if unfashionable, antique furniture. Instead, cheap materials such as MDF were revered for their very disposability.
Nowadays, though, we are all aware of our carbon footprint, and of the need to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill. While the “see it, want it, buy it” mentality is still our society’s mantra, the increased use of websites such as Preloved, Freecycle and Gumtree indicates that some are turning their backs on cheap, throwaway products, preferring to invest in antique or high-quality, second-hand items.
Upcycling is part of this movement. On the web, it is defined as “the practice of converting waste materials into products of greater value” or “reusing unwanted items by turning them into new products”.
In the past I’ve rather snubbed this idea. Generally, I prefer modern pieces over antiques. I also thought that it was only any use if you had a great haul of old furniture stashed away in your loft, bursting with potential. I, on the other hand, am starting from scratch, having only moved out of the family home comparatively recently. If you have to shell out for battered old furniture, you may as well opt for the minimalist, relatively inexpensive designs of IKEA, I believed.
As I mentioned in a recent post, though, I have just inherited a sewing machine table from my grandparents, which I am going to use as my new desk. In contrast to my usual style of plain white or light-toned wood, this is very dark, with brass handles. I began to wonder how I could adapt the piece, to fit in with the rest of my bedroom.
I started out by researching how to paint a wooden piece of furniture. I learned that it would require a primer, paint and then a polyurethane gloss to protect the finished article. All very technical!
So, I placed my order with Homebase, and when I get home from another week away with work, I’ll get started. I’ll let you know how it goes!