We all love a bit of upcycling; turning a pallet into a garden planter or giving a junk-shop chair a splash of distressed paint. We want the things around us to have their own story, meaning and history, and buying or making upcycled items is a great way to achieve this.
But these days, upcycling is more than just a hobby or passing trend. We’re seeing a fundamental change in the way some products are made, a shift in the supply and production chain that is based on reusing materials in a way that makes communities stronger and the environment cleaner.
For a start, let’s big-up our beautiful Antique Bone wastepaper basket , because it ticks all those ethical upcycling boxes, and it just happens to be gorgeous too! It’s made from the horn and bone of water buffalo. Water buffalo are farmed in India for milk and meat, but as with many intensive farming practices, the horn and bone would usually be discarded, heading for landfill and potentially creating pollution and contamination problems.
So, local craftsmen in India have found a way of using these waste products to create luxury items. Prices for these pieces are locally set by the craftsmen who make them, so money is going straight to the local community, while traditional craft skills are passed on to a new generation as old and young members of families work from home.
A similar upcycling project to turn bone and horn from cattle has been set up in Botswana by The Supply Change, an organisation that connects global brands with local artisans.
So, how can you support the upcycling philosophy when it comes to decorating your home? Luckily you don’t need to start riffling through local skips for old furniture if you don’t want to, because a whole host of designers and retailers are doing it for you and producing beautiful and ethical furniture and accessories you’ll want in your home. Here are some great resources to get you started with the upcycling trend.
Get your lighting from: The Gifted Few Online retailer of a gorgeous range of vintage and upcycled lighting, furniture and home accessories. We love their cool industrial lighting, cleaned and rewired so it looks old but works like new. www.thegiftedfew.com
Get your paint from: Annie Sloan Annie Sloan is a designer who helped kick-start the trend for DIY upcycled furniture with her chalk-based paints. She wanted to create paint that went on any material, dried fast and looked great. Her range of wonderful colours is the result. www.anniesloan.com
Get your statement furniture from: The Old Cinema London-based antique, vintage and retro store who also sell online. They have an amazing range of upcycled furniture where colour and fabric are used to add a modern twist to old pieces. www.theoldcinema.co.uk/Collections/Upcycled-c-7_134
Get your upholstery and linen from: Offset Warehouse These guys say their mission is to make being eco easier. They don’t upcycle specifically, but they do source ethically produced fabrics for fashion and interiors so that you can make informed choices about what you’re buying and why. They have everything from furniture padding and organic thread to throws, cushions, upholstery fabric and much more. www.offsetwarehouse.com
Get your knick-knacks from: Remade in Britain Online marketplace selling upcycled home accessories, DIY upcycling materials and salvage products. www.remadeinbritain.com
Do you have a unique upcycled piece that you made or bought? Send us a picture of it on our Facebook page! We’d also love to hear more recommendations for upcycling retailers and websites.