Upcycled & Unique

Natalie Lockwood, interior designer and owner of studio and blog Little Mill House, discusses the current upcycling trend, and how you can embrace it to bring a distinctive look and a greener interior.

Upcycling has become as mainstream in recent years as a trip to IKEA for homeowners hunting down affordable ways to stylishly decorate their rooms. It became a huge trend off the back of the vintage movement a couple of years ago, when buying a second hand bargain chair and painting (or even ‘decoupaging’) – it was the thing to do!

The trend to rework something old, to make it fit into your own personal style is a great development in the interior design world as it makes homes much more creative, unique and sustainable.

Second-hand stores, charity shops and online auction sites are great place to find the perfect piece of furniture to upcycle. Focus on hunting down a piece that is the perfect shape and size for your space – and once you’ve found it, creating the perfect finish with paint and wax.

For an on-trend rustic look, there is a huge choice of paint waxes and oils to maintain and protect natural character. If the industrial vibe is more appealing, a metallic effect will be ideal. For a more contemporary or luxurious interior design scheme, you’re not limited to buying new – upcycling can still work as an affordable option. You can give an old piece of furniture a luxe look on a budget with marble or granite effect spray paint.

No limits

Upcycling isn’t limited to second-hand or vintage pieces of wooden furniture. Giving a new lease of life to larger items in the home is a much more sustainable and affordable option than buying new.

A wardrobe is a huge part of the bedroom’s design and a big investment. To give an old wardrobe an update, look at wallpapering it in a coordinating design to the rest of the room.

The kitchen is another space that can easily be revamped by upcycling – paint the cupboards a different shade or create an eclectic look by switching out top cupboards for open, reclaimed wood shelves.

Tile paint is also seeing a bit of a movement in the upcycling world, and can be a lifesaver when you can’t bear the sight of an old bathroom but don’t have the budget for a full refit. Adding some reclaimed wood pieces can also create a modern rustic look (as pictured).

Pallet wood is the most versatile option as it is lightweight, short in length and paints up well.


Home accessories are an important element of any space as they complete the look, bringing together the colour scheme and adding personality to the space.

Often overlooked as an option when funds are running low towards the end of a large project, accessories can be upcycled in a matter of minutes, giving maximum impact for a very small amount of outlay and time. Spray-painting second-hand ornaments, vases or a candlestick is a simple way to update the items and bring them into your colour scheme.

The presumption that upcycling can only be done on ‘preloved’ items is a distant memory in 2018. Love the shape and style of a piece in a shop but can’t find it in the right colour? Bring it home and spray it up, there’s bound to be the ideal colour at any local DIY store.

You can also apply the same thinking to practical items that can come in a selection of quite mundane colours and finishes. I recently created a climbing wall in a child’s bedroom design, but instead of leaving the climbing holds in the usual clashing primary colours I painted them with neon tester pots to make the wall a stylish and fun feature in the room.


Changing the handles or hinges on a dated piece of furniture is a simple trick to upcycle an item without the need to pick up a paintbrush. You can be creative with what you use to replace the old handles too – while new and stylish hardware is easily available online, a champagne cork would make a kitchen cupboard a conversation piece with minimal effort! Switching up the hardware on a piece is also a great way to make a mass produced, flat pack piece of furniture look more expensive.

Upcycling old or bargain homeware into the perfect piece for your home, whatever your interior design style is, has become something most of us are open to trying, in an age where the sustainability of everything we do/use is becoming more important and our budgets are becoming increasingly stretched.

Upcycling is going to play a huge factor in how the next generation of homeowners decorate, so lets embrace this new movement and create an era of homes filled with personality!