Upcycle like a pro

10th April 2016

It’s the ‘spring’ clean season, and for many of us that means having a good clear out of ‘stuff’. But instead of heading off to the tip with yet more landfill, why not upcycle your old furniture and bits and bobs into something new, useful and above all, cheap?

DIY designer style

We asked Margate-based furniture designer Zoe Murphy, whose ideals of ‘Loving what belongs to you’ are beautifully reflected in her iconic ‘rejuvenated’ pieces, for her top tips on upcycling.

Furniture designer Zoe Murphy and her upcycled pieces

British furniture designer Zoe Murphy

Zoe’s 3 ways to beautifully upcycled furniture

  1. When upcycling or renovating a piece of furniture, pick a piece that you can unscrew and take apart easily in order to complete a proper and thorough restoration job.
  2. Pieces can be easily updated by simply changing handles and legs. You don’t always have to cover it in paint – I like to celebrate the original woods on an item before I think about decorating it.
  3. Gently remove the varnish (either with sandpaper in different grades or with varnish remover) on a wooden or veneered piece before you consider painting it. You’d be surprised how new furniture can look when you strip it back and recoat it. Often a lot of damage – scratches, stains, etc – will be on the coat of varnish and not the furniture itself.


Upcycling projects you can try at home

Want to get started on turning your own ‘trash’ into ‘treasure’? Here are three upcycling ideas for your home, from some of the web’s most stylish bloggers and interiors experts.

Tin can wine rack

Tin cans painted and upcycled to create a wine rack

Upcycled tin can wine rack

Top creative bloggers brit.co have this great idea for reusing old tin cans and turning them into an attractive and useful wine store.

 Skill level

Can you use a can opener? Then you’re good to go!


1 hr plus drying

You’ll need

Large tin cans (check they’re wide enough to take a wine bottle)

Can opener

Spray paint

Hot glue gun and glue

Simply remove tops and bottoms, clean thoroughly before painting in your favourite colours and glueing together. For full instructions, see here.

Pillowcase clothes bags

Upcycle old pillowcases and turn them into garment bags

Pillowcase clothes bags


The experts at Better Homes and Gardens have an innovative way to upcycle old pillowcases and give them a new lease of life as covers to keep your clothes dust-free. Perfect for getting your wardrobe in order this spring.

 Skill level

You don’t even need to use a sewing machine!


15-30 mins per cover

 You’ll need


Liquid stitching glue (available at craft stores and online)


Bias binding tape

Make a small slit in the seamed end of the case (big enough to fit a hanger handle through), seal with liquid glue then cover with bias binding. For full instructions, see here.

Cross-stitch decorated chair

Repurposed furniture ideas for upcycling projects

Cross-stitched cane-backed chair

Add instant interest and va-va-voom to an old cane-backed chair with some stylish cross-stitching. With thanks to the style geniuses at countryliving.com.

Skill level

Ability to thread a needle and follow a simple pattern


2 hrs plus, depending on the complexity of your design

You’ll need

Pencil to trace design on to chair

Chunky yarn (from craft shop or haberdashery)


Lightly trace your pattern on to the chair back, then cross-stitch your design following the pattern. For full instructions, see here.

Retro reloaded

If upcycling is all too much for you, or you simply don’t have the time, here are a few pieces from DFS that you can choose to inject a cool retro vibe into your home whether it is a sofa or a chair. For more retro style ideas, check out our 70s-inspired looks with a modern twist, part of our new Style Sourcebook, online now

To infinity and beyond

If you love the 50s Atomic Age look, check out the Napoleone chair with its space grey colour and funky, futuristic shape.


Rock on!

Add some hippy-hippy shake to your décor with this 60s-influenced Ripple rocker. Far out, man.



Chasing rainbows

Streamlined and sleek with a riot of colour-block stripes, our Kaleidoscope sofa is the 70s personified, beautifully reflecting that era’s love of pattern.


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