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Rookie’s Guide to Using Recycled and Upcycled Products to Decorate Your Home

Decorating with recycled materials

Flickr – Elizabeth Abernathy

When it comes to home décor that has been recycled or upcycled, there are only two real questions most homeowners ask: why choose such products and what is available? Okay, in truth you might be wondering, for starters, just what the difference is between recycling and upcycling, so let’s have a little lesson to start you off right.

When something is recycled it is either passed along as is to a new home or broken down so that the components can be used to create something else (often of lesser value). You might get a recycled chest of drawers at the Goodwill, or plastic bottles could be broken down to create plastic bags.

Upcycling, on the other hand, takes something with little value and breaks it down to make items that are considered more valuable. You could tear old t-shirts into strips and weave them into raggy kitchen rugs, for example. Or the rubber from old shoes could be made into playground surfaces. So now that we’ve got that straightened out, why would you choose these products? And what kinds of items are out there?

There are a couple of good reasons to go for recycled and upcycled products when it comes to your home décor, not the least of which is supporting the health of the planet that in turn supports all human life. These cyclical production models not only ensure that more “trash” makes its way back into households as usable goods, but also that further resources need not be diminished to outfit your home in style. In addition, you may be able to save some money in the process, helping you to create a beautiful living space without breaking your budget. And of course, you can always let your imagination go wild by starting projects that allow you to transform items already in your home so that they might be used for a different purpose.

So now that you’ve got the why of the matter, it’s time to consider the inception of your decorating plan. Just what kinds of home goods can be found in the recycling and upcycling world? You might be surprised to learn that everything from flooring and cabinets to furnishings and other décor can be found in a reclaimed format, which means that it has been taken from one home and refurbished in order to enjoy a second life in another home. You could find magnificent hardwood cabinets by this method without having to cut down new trees to get it. But of course, you might also wind up with antique lamps, side tables, or all manner of accessories that need a little TLC before they’ll work in your home.

As for “new” items that are the product of recycling or upcycling, you may want to check out green boutiques in your area or online. One option with mass appeal is Vine.com, a website recently purchased by Amazon that offers all kinds of housewares that come with perks like sustainable or recycled materials, as well as eco-friendly manufacturing processes and other environmental benefits. With a slew of decorative items like linens, dishware, furniture, and even home appliances, you’ll find all kinds of options to decorate your home that look just as good as (or better than) new production. And while you might not stumble across electronics or water features, a little searching will net you all kinds of recycled and upcycled home goods that will give you the lovely household you crave without the carbon debt you’re used to.

Tips on Decorating with Upcycled Objects by Sarah Keenleyside:

  • Lighten up the wood with paint. Too much wood makes a piece look very heavy and takes up a lot of visual space.
  • Mixing in clean modern elements with upcycled ones helps keep the decor looking curated as opposed to cluttered.
  • Focus on what you like, then EDIT.
  • Incorporate some unexpected modern sleek pieces to temper the decor. It adds an element of the unexpected and keeps your decor from looking like a well displayed junk sale.
  • Use paint to add interest and colour. Adding colour can make an older object appear more contemporary.
  • Keep you wall colour very dark or off-white. This tends to give the items a more curated gallery look. If you are working on a colourful wall, then you will have to keep your pieces more monochromatic.

Contributed by Leon Harris for Kinetic Fountains. Harris lives in Southern California, and enjoys eating healthy and exercising with his two Golden Retrievers.

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