There is no denying that bringing home a new decor item is thrilling. The satisfaction of repurposed furniture that is all your own? Yowza! After all, upcycled furniture is not only affordable, it gives you an opportunity to work on DIY projects that allow you to exercise considerable creative muscle, and it is more sustainable than buying a new piece. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, as of 2018, there was about 12 million tons of furniture and furnishings waste generated, with roughly 9 million making it to the landfill. Old furniture made of wood was the largest waste material generated in the category. “It’s doing your part to combat the climate crisis, but in a way that’s not only practical and beautiful but feel-good too,” says Whitney Frances Falk, founder and CEO of the New York–based furniture rental service ZZ Driggs.
If you need a bit inspiration to get started on a furniture makeover project, AD has 15 stellar repurposed furniture ideas from upcycling experts who share their favorite, innovative (and easy!) ideas for turning one piece into another.
What is repurposed furniture?
“Repurposed furniture is furniture given a second lease on life—whether reupholstered, refinished, repainted, or redone,” Falk says. Think of this makeover as more than something cosmetic for a coffee table or an old dresser, but, in some cases, a complete functional transformation. For example, reconfiguring a coffee table into a huge planter or adding doors on a bookcase to make it into an organized kitchen pantry. “It’s reworking [furniture] in a way that brings utility and beauty to your interior,” she continues. And because repurposed furniture is often a DIY project, it turns in a sentimental piece that’s a conversation starter.
What is it called when you repurpose furniture?
“Repurposing furniture is also commonly known as upcycling,” says Grace Baena, interiors curator for used-furniture marketplace Kaiyo. “For most, it’s a way to take something that may have seen better days and make it feel fully custom and unique.” Repurposing furniture, whether it’s a bookcase or a nightstand, is one of the most useful, alluring, and simply fun ways to create a treasured heirloom out of nothing.
What can I make out of old furniture?
The short answer is: Anything. If TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube have taught us anything is that creativity has no limits when it comes to DIY furniture. What it does come down to is your willingness to try something new and the perseverance to rummage through garage sales and thrift stores for home decor. “Other popular places to look for items to upcycle are Facebook Marketplace, estate sales, and swap meets or flea markets,” says Wendy Smit of Wendy Smit Interiors in Nashville.
Your skill level, of course, comes into play. Popular upcycled furniture projects include headboard updates, chalk paint magic on a vintage console table, old table transformations, kitchen island rehabs, refinishing midcentury cabinets, and lighting. So much lighting! “The options for upcycled furniture are endless if you’re handy and have a good imagination,” Smit says.
How do you upcycle furniture for beginners?
“There are tons of video tutorials to get inspiration on TikTok (#furnitureflip has 5 billion views) and Instagram,” Baena says. “For beginners to DIY furniture, I recommend starting with reupholstering, painting, or staining.” Smit suggests you start by looking around your own home for items that no longer serve you, could use an update, or need a new function. For instance, an old IKEA bookshelf can be transformed into a savvy new piece. One thing to keep in mind is that you’re already working with old furniture and, while refinishing or repurposing gives it new life, if you mess up you’re destroying something of serious value. Read on for some ideas to get you started.
1. Convert a cabinet into a bar