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Published on January 22nd, 2014 | by Pete


Upcycling – beautify your home on a budget

Even though we are being told that things are slowly getting better financially, for most of us it’s hard to see the change in our daily lives. It might be a while before we start feeling any better off, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try and make ourselves as happy as possibly in the meantime – we just need to do it on a budget. Most of us would probably say that moving house would make us happier, but that taking such a step is out of the question at the moment. 

Therefore, it’s good to know that there are many things we can do to our own homes and surroundings so that we can trick ourselves into thinking we’ve had a change of scenery.  After all, “A change is as good as a rest”, they say!

‘Upcycling’ is a modern term, coined to describe the practice of changing or adapting things rather than recycling them, or indeed, getting rid of them altogether. Upcycling can be as simple as repainting a wardrobe or as complicated as turning a baby’s cot into a children’s craft table (you can see a picture of this here).

The recent Channel 4 show presented by Kirstie Allsopp has sparked our imaginations and opened our eyes as to what it’s possible to achieve, so there’s a growing focus on upcycling at the moment. If you’re looking for ideas (a blog dedicated to the subject) would be a good place to start.

So, working on the assumption that most of us aren’t trained joiners / builders / painters or decorators, what projects can we take on ourselves that would smarten up our homes without breaking the bank?

 Take the time to plan out your ideal home

While it’s tempting to just rush out and buy a couple of new cushions to brighten up a sofa, it is worth taking the time to think about where best to use limited funds. For example, repainting might not seem any obvious choice, but it could make everything look fresh and clean, as well as totally changing the feel of your rooms if you decide to go for very different colours.  The same goes for replacing flooring – it’s not particularly exciting but it might make all the difference.

Often, it’s a good idea to draw a floor plan of each room in your house showing where the main bits of furniture are currently placed.  Think about whether any of these pieces of furniture could be moved around at all.  Your room might ‘work’ considerably better if things were in a different place and you wouldn’t have to spend any money at all.

Assess the furniture you currently have

It might be that you’ve done all of the above and you still feel that there are things you would like to change in your home.  This is the time to look at your current furniture and think about whether any of it would work better if it were adapted slightly. You might like the basic structure of your dining room chairs, but wish that they had different coloured seat cushions. This sort of thing is easily changed and if you’re not sure how to do it yourself, you could borrow a book from your local library that gives you guidance or you could find advice on the internet.

 If you are thinking about taking on a bigger upcycling project or even building something from scratch then YouTube ( ) is a really good place to look for video tutorials taking you step-by-step through pretty much every DIY project under the sun.

Visit flea markets and haggle

 If you are looking to acquire new items of furniture then a visit to a flea market or antiques market could be a really fun day out.  This list from The Independent  points out some of the more well-known flea markets, but there are likely to be others near you so do a quick search online to find out where and when they might be. You may also wish to go to car boots sales, though these don’t always have larger pieces of furniture.

One you are there, remember to haggle, haggle, haggle!  You might have to be prepared to walk away or you might have to pay the vendor’s price if you really want the item and they’re not budging, but a lot of the time there is definitely room for negotiation. Don’t forget that the item doesn’t have to be ready to go into your house as it is – the lovely thing about buying things like this is that you can change them if necessary.  Try and be open-minded about an item’s potential, especially if you can get it for a really good price.

Look for other sources of cheap, second-hand furniture

Visit reclamation yards, go to the tip and keep your eyes peeled for signs about house clearances.  Recently, we spotted a scruffy piece of card tied to some traffic lights advertising a furniture sale nearby. When we got there, it was being hosted by two property developers and the items for sale were virtually brand new pieces of furniture that had previously been used in show homes. 

 Older furniture might well have been better made and must certainly be reasonably robust if it’s lasted long enough to be for sale again now.  “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure”, as they say, and that’s why it’s worth going to the local tip or looking in any skips that you pass.  You just don’t know what someone else might be throwing away that would be perfect for your own home.

Get going on eBay

Ebay is the world’s most popular auction website, allowing both individuals and businesses to sell their wares. In the same way that you might find a beautiful table in someone else’s skip you can also sniff out a good bargain on eBay. You might even be able to make a bit of money by selling some of your old furniture to make way for any new things.

As mentioned previously, don’t be put off by the current condition of something as you may well be able to change it easily. Some people might not want to do any work to the items they purchase, but if you are prepared to bid on a slightly scruffier wardrobe, for example, you might well be able to get it cheaper. Not only will this save you money but you’ll also be able to customize the wardrobe so it’s exactly as you would like it – perhaps painting it, adding a couple more shelves inside, or using a stencil to add pattern to it.

If you have any questions about items on eBay you are able to contact the seller, as the website aims to take as much of the stress as possible out of buying items before you’ve seen them in real life.  Many sellers will post multiple pictures of their items, which should help give you a good idea as well.

Make use of websites where people give things away for free

Two of the most well-known websites for giving things away for free are Freecycle and Freegle both of which encourage you to join one of their local groups. The idea is that not only can people post about items they are prepared to give away but also that people can ask for items that they need.  You will be responsible for collecting any items yourself, but as you will be part of a local group this hopefully shouldn’t be too tricky.

Our local group has had some wonderful items on it, including a Belfast sink that would have cost hundreds to buy.  Things move quickly so you’ll need to check the group’s posts regularly, but it’s worth it when you come across some real treasures.These websites are not only for furniture, they are for literally anything that people want to give away, so you could also get your hands on some paint, some carpet underlay – the mind boggles!

One of the best things about upcycling and updating your belongings in this way is that it will be unique to you and your home.  Your personal touches will add flair to your furniture and the compliments you receive will make all your hard work worthwhile.

Author bio:

Michael shares his money saving advice on the SurveyCompare blog. You can follow them on Google+ here.

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One Response to Upcycling – beautify your home on a budget

  1. moneystepper says:

    Flea markets and ebay are great places to pick up items which would add “value” to your home – whether it be personal appreciation value or true financial value – without breaking the bank. Great tips, thanks.

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