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How to Upcycle Furniture: 11 Ideas for Repurposing Furniture

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 4 min read

Repurposing old furniture is a great way to makeover a room. Rather than buying new furniture for your home, breathe new life into old furniture by transforming it for further use.

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What Is Upcycling?

Upcycling is the act of recycling an object or material and turning it into a higher quality item than its original form. Upcycling is an environmentally beneficial practice that allows you to convert unwanted materials or byproducts into items of value, reducing waste and your carbon footprint. You can find materials for DIY home upcycling projects at thrift stores, salvage yards, flea markets, or even the curb in front of your house.

What Are the Benefits of Upcycling?

Upcycled furniture projects contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle by extending the life cycle of certain materials, rather than polluting the environment by discarding them in a landfill. Upcycling DIY projects can lead to unique and creative additions to your furniture, like cutting down a bookcase and turning it into a small storage shelving unit, transforming a dresser into a bench, or turning a coffee table into an ottoman.

11 Ideas for Upcycling Furniture

There are several creative ways to repurpose any piece of furniture.

  1. Turn drawers into side tables. You can give your chest of drawers a furniture makeover by upcycling the old drawers into bedside tables. With the handle side up, add small wooden legs to the bottom of the drawer and a shelf to the middle of the drawer. Place your new side table in your bedroom or use it as an end table for your living room.
  2. Turn a desk into a pair of nightstands. If you have a long desk with drawers on each side, you can use a saw to cut the desk in half to repurpose it into a pair of nightstand tables for new bedroom furniture. Some desks have multiple posts so the nightstands can stand on their own, or you can attach legs to adjust the height.
  3. Turn old chairs into a bench. Repurposing old dining chairs is a great way to add additional seating to your home decor. Face the seats toward each other, securing them at the center with wood or another binding material. Use vibrant spray paint to inject a burst of color into the backrests of your repurposed chairs. Finally, add upholstery to the connected chairs to create one long bench seat.
  4. Turn an old mirror into a vanity. You can save that antique mirror in your attic by converting it into a vanity. Attach the mirror to an empty wall in your home, then install floating shelves beneath it to make the perfect space-saving dressing table.
  5. Turn a dresser drawer into a planter. Give an old dresser drawer a new purpose by upcycling it into a hardy vegetable planter. Drill holes in the bottom to provide drainage, then layer in your soil. You can stack these wooden box planters asymmetrically to create a tiered gardening tower if you have multiple drawers. You can also create your own herb garden with repurposed mason jars.
  6. Turn an old door into a headboard. Transforming an old door into a headboard is a great way to update your bedroom set. Remove the paint and knobs from the door, sanding down any rough edges and removing splinters. Once the surface is smooth and even, add some crown molding to the sides and style with chalk paint for a rustic feel, or a fresh coat of mineral paint for a waterproof and washable finish. Once the paint dries, affix your stylish new headboard to the wall behind your bed.
  7. Turn a crib into shelves. If your baby’s old crib is taking up space in your basement, you can convert it into toy storage or a bookshelf. Remove one of the side railings from the crib and fasten it in the center, creating a divider. Make a countertop for the new shelving unit with a slab of butcher’s block or an old recycled tabletop.
  8. Turn an armoire into a pantry. Repurposing is a great way to refresh a piece of vintage furniture. For instance, you can transform a retro armoire into a pantry by affixing holders on the inside of the doors for spices, applying a new coat of paint, and building additional shelving inside for storing snacks and other food items.
  9. Turn pallets into a kitchen island. You can repurpose wooden pallets into a DIY kitchen island. Attach and stack old pieces of wooden pallets together. Top with a slab of wood or glass to serve as the countertop. You can attach wheels to the bottom to create a movable kitchen island.
  10. Turn a sideboard into a TV stand. Save yourself a trip to your local furniture retailer by transforming your old dining room sideboard into an entertainment center. You can remove the doors and drawers for open storage, or leave them in to hide your storage. Strip off the paint, sand down the surface, add new handles, and stain to turn your buffet into a new television stand. Drill holes in the back to run cords through the stand before plugging in your electronics.
  11. Turn an old ladder into a coat rack. Converting a ladder into a coat rack is a repurposing project that you can complete in a couple of easy steps. First, turn the ladder horizontally and attach it to the wall. Secure the ladder in place so it can bear the weight of your clothing items and the project is complete. The side or rungs of the ladder can fit a few hangers to hang your coats and jackets, making it a handy item in your entryway for you, your family, and any guests who enter your home.
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Kelly Wearstler Teaches Interior Design
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