Monday, 30 November -0001


Rummage for bargains and upcycle your way to an elegant home, say Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell

Written by Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell
Upcycling and hacking are two new and important words in today’s decorating dictionary. Upcycling is giving an item a new lease of life by using it in a different context or turning it into something else. Redundant pieces of industrial furniture, from dentists’ cabinets to office chairs, can take on a new role in the home, while discarded CDs or blancmange moulds can be made into lampshades, and old floorboards into kitchen units. Meanwhile, in the upcycled garden, drainpipes or old boots become original planters.

House-Apr17-02-590Clockwise from top left: The lamp on the French garden chair is from the 1960s. This house started life as a community centre; the living room used to be a carport. At this end of the room it is light and monochrome, to maximise the natural light. The architect’s map chest doubles as a coffee table. This simple bed is made up with vintage linen sheets from a Provence market; the little bedside stool is w from Burma

Hacking is transforming an ordinary piece into something special. This could be done by making the legs longer on a basic kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom unit, or changing the top, the handles, or the doors. You could paint it, strip it, glaze it, or cover it in fabric – even gift wrap.

By upcycling and hacking, it’s possible to create a designer look at a value-for-money price. But it’s not just a question of saving money – it’s about making your home look different and giving it personality. It also concerns craftsmanship, reusing materials that would otherwise have been discarded or discovering techniques that would otherwise be lost. Before industrialisation, nothing was wasted – everything was used and reused.

House-Apr17-03-590Used colourful San Pellegrino cans have become planters

With upcycling and hacking, there’ll always be a story to tell, too – whether about buying and bringing a piece home or about the person who gave it to you – and those stories and memories are particular to you.

So what do you need to know? If you love rummaging, that’s the perfect starting point. Search, and keep searching. Hacking requires care and attention, rather than expertise.

House-Apr17-04-590The long draper’s table is used as a desk and work station. The blackboard is from an Edwardian school. The factory or mill chairs are from the same period

Most paints, for example, are supplied with good instructions on how to use them. But when it comes to plumbing or electrics, consult a professional – inexpert plumbing and electrical work are the most common causes of house fires and floods.

House-Apr17-05-590School gym bars from the 1920s make good storage. The early 20th-century Xavier Pauchard cafe chair is made of galvanised metal

Above all, upcycling and hacking should be fun. Instead of trawling a characterless mall, filled with all the same international chains, explore a historic town or market instead. And if you happen to be walking down the smartest streets of New York, London or Paris, browse the store windows, then see how you can adapt their ideas using cheaper furniture. Here are a few examples to get you started.

Upcycled Chic And Modern Hacks: Thrifty Ways For Stylish Homes, by Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell, with photography by Simon Brown, is published by Cico Books, priced £19.99.

Forgot your password?
Click to read our digital edition

Boarders Dormitory Master-Mistress
We are looking to appoint a Dormitory Mistress/Master for 5 nights per week, weekday evenings and nights only, term time. (35 weeks). [...]


Housekeeper to Headmaster
We have an opportunity for an experienced live-out housekeeper. You will provide a cleaning and hospitality service for the Headmaster and his guests and help to ensure the household runs efficiently. [...]


Full Time Housekeeper, Nanny
We are looking for a full time, live-out housekeeper/nanny. We are a relaxed young couple living in a large country house, and will have one newborn baby. [...]


Experienced Carer, Companion, Housekeeper needed
Our elderly mother needs a live in carer/companion on a part time basis. Must be warm hearted, calm & compassionate, with a good sense of humour. [...]


Cook, Housekeeper wanted
Good cooking skills required to cater for light meals for the Principal and a small staff, as well as occasional lunch/dinner parties. [...]




What the stars have in store for you this week.2017

Capricorn Aquarius Pisces Aries Taurus Gemini Cancer Leo Virgo Libra Scorpio Sagittarius

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter