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Upcycling, which is the process of transforming useless junk into items of exceptional beauty, is an activity people have been doing ever since the first piece of furniture made by the hand of man came to the end of its useful life.
As a social media activity, restoring decrepit old dressers, tables, and other old furniture has never been as scorchingly HOT as it is now.
From Instagram to Pinterest, social media influencers are showing off the beautiful works of art they’ve made from trash that was ready for the junkpile.
It’s a real artistic endeavor that allows you to express your own unique creativity.
The best practitioners of the craft are artists who take discarded furniture and give them a whole new artistic lease on life.
These gifted upcyclers endow their projects with a higher value than they originally had.
That’s the beauty of upcycling!
It’s a cost-effective, sustainable solution to one of the most pressing problems contemporary society is faced with: how to save the planet from devastating environmental degradation.
Creative upcyclers do their part by rescuing junk about to be tossed into a landfill.
There’s a whole lot of unloved trash out there, and upcyclers seeks to transform it from worthless refuse into objects of incomparable beauty.
If you join their proud ranks, you’ll not only save the planet.
You’ll save yourself some cash by not shelling out your hard-earned money for new stuff.
You could even turn your upcycling activities into a lucrative business.
If you have a burning passion for transforming old furniture into stunning works of art and would like to make a living at it, mind-meld with this article and absorb all the information in it!
Finding Pieces for Projects
To find projects to work on, seek out pieces crafted from genuine wood that have lots of hidden potential.
These are items that have seen better days.
However, with a little love and attention, you can transform them into something people will pay top dollar for.
You can find furniture like this at places like garage sales, thrift shops, estate sales, and classified ads.
Moving sales are superb places to acquire raw material for your artistic efforts.
That’s because, at these events, people just want to get rid of their stuff as quickly as possible.
You’d be astounded at what you can pick up at these sales for very little cash!
To expand your upcycling opportunities, tell everyone you know that you’re looking for old furniture.
Ask them to contact you first before they sell or get rid of their pieces.
You’d be surprised at how many of your buddies have old furniture just sitting around their house taking up space.
Often, they’ll give you stuff for free if you pick it up.
This saves them the hassle of hauling it off themselves or storing it until the next garage sale.
You can also let the managers of stores that sell used furniture (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, etc.) know to contact you if they get in the kind of items you’re looking for.
What Are Your Skills?
You can either provide a cosmetic facelift to the piece or repair structural damage.
If you have the skills to do the latter, you’ll have more potential projects you can work on.
You can find some outstanding video tutorials on YouTube to acquire the advanced knowledge that will allow you to level up your skills from merely making cosmetic repairs to fixing something that’s on the verge of destruction so that it’s as good as new.
Getting A Piece Ready for Refinishing
Sometimes, all your piece requires is a little sanding and refinishing to make it as good as new again.
If your project has rough or worn surfaces, they can easily be smoothed out with a sander.
Make sure your item is sturdy enough to withstand this kind of treatment.
Don’t do any sanding if you have laminate furniture, because you’ll ruin the finish.
Make sure you tighten any wobbly legs with a screwdriver.
If parts are coming loose that aren’t screwed together, use Unibond No More Nails wood adhesive to make sure they stay.
Buy High-Quality Paintbrushes
Invest in some high-quality paintbrushes, because cheap ones can leave bristles in your work.
Besides, cheap brushes won’t adequately apply paint, and your furniture piece won’t look as good as it could.
All good paint brands have their own paintbrushes which work well together.
Many times, brands recommend using a specific type of brush for a particular kind of paint they sell.
Follow these recommendations for best results.
Make sure you wrap your paintbrushes in between applying coats to keep them from drying out.
As soon as you’re completely done with your project, thoroughly clean them.
Now, you’re ready to paint your piece.
Look upon your upcycling activities not merely as a job to finish quickly, but as an artistic endeavor.
When you see your work in this light, there will be a zillion creative possibilities when it’s time to paint your piece.
To make sure your work of art absorbs the new color, remove any existing finishes first.
If it’s a smaller piece, the best way to do this is to sand the furniture gently by hand.
For larger projects, use an electric sander.
If the finish is hard to remove with either of these methods, use paint or varnish remover.
If you do, make sure you use hand, eye, and face protection.
Give your paint a vigorous stirring, so you thoroughly mix it.
Tape over any parts of the project you don’t want to paint.
Next, give your piece a base coat.
Keep in mind that the type of brush strokes you use will affect its final look.
Making your brush strokes visible can give your project a rustic touch.
Use a foam roller if you want a smoother finish.
This will give it a more contemporary look.
Make sure whatever style of refinishing you’re going with matches the original style of the piece.
After your piece dries, give it a second coat.
Experiment with different patterns, colors, and brushstrokes for a look that will perfectly complement your piece.
Add a Protective Coat
After you’re done painting, apply a protective coat of wax or varnish to your masterpiece.
If you want to be frugal, use old socks for this part of the job.
Just make sure they’re not too fluffy, as fibers can stick to your project.
Pricing Your Projects
After you’ve got your piece just the way you want it, settle on a price for it.
Make sure you include all the time, money, and effort you spent on transforming it from trash to treasure.
You don’t want to undervalue your project!
If you don’t get any offers after a week, you probably priced it too high.
If you get a bunch of offers on the first day, you probably priced it too low.
Be prepared to get some lowball offers because many buyers are looking to negotiate.
Try not to get offended by their gambits because trying to get rock-bottom prices for everything is only human nature.
Where to Sell Your Projects
Places to list your pieces for sale include Craigslist, Facebook, local vintage markets, and classifieds in your local newspaper.
If you know what you’re doing, you can make a lot of money selling your pieces on the web.
You can also try antique or consignment shops.
However, selling your furniture through third parties means you’ll be making less of a profit than if you sold your stuff yourself.
Additionally, items in these sorts of shops are often priced very high, which can deter would-be buyers.
But if you like the idea of someone doing all the selling for you, then go for it.
Another thing you can do is to rent a booth at a flea market or swap shop.
Research the local markets and find the one that has the cheapest booth rental price, the most traffic, and prices that are around the same as your own.
Crafting a Compelling Ad
If you’re going to sell your work online or in print publications, you’re going to need a powerfully written ad that will make your merchandise irresistible to would-be buyers.
When writing your ad, use the exact keywords buyers will use to look for pieces they want to acquire.
Prospective buyers use keywords to weed out all the nonrelevant possibilities.
However, don’t make these keywords too generic.
For example, “USED BEDROOM SET” is too blah.
Ad copy this banal won’t compel anyone to buy!
On the other hand, “LINK TAYLOR SOLID MAPLE 5 PIECE BEDROOM SET” is just about perfect.
Capitalize each word in the title and don’t add too much punctuation.
If your piece was crafted by a well-known manufacturer, that would be a powerful selling point.
So, make sure you highlight that information.
If you know the history of the piece (such as when or where it was made), include that as well.
Also, add what you did during the refurbishing process.
These are tidbits such as the nature of the repairs you made, and what made you decide which color palette to use when you painted it.
Including this information will help get potential buyers excited about what you have to sell.
Photographing Your Magnus Opus
Add a high-quality photo bathed in natural light that will really sell your piece.
It’s essential to have a photo because nobody wants to buy something sight unseen.
When taking your photo, remove everything from the frame except for your project.
You don’t want anything in your photo to distract from its one job: to powerfully sell your upcycled masterpiece.
Think about how to photograph your piece so that it makes prospective buyers drool.
For example, if you just refinished a midcentury rolltop teak desk, add a stack of classy looking books and a glass banker’s desk lamp to really highlight its underlying beauty.
If you’re able to offer free delivery, you’ll have a lot more customers willing to buy your wares.
Of course, you’ll only be able to offer this for local buyers.
Ideas for Projects
It’s hard to give you precise directions without photos, so just use these ideas in this section as a rough guide.
Use them as a catalyst for your imagination, and then come up with your own ideas that flow up from the endless wellspring of creativity that lies within your own heart.
I’m a firm believer that a strange and wonderful form of alchemy occurs during the creative process when your passion is miraculously transmitted to the piece you’re working on.
Your customers will sense this energy in every work of art you create.
It’s the vital spark that puts your customers into a buying mood!
So, get out there and create, and then create some more.
You’ll be handsomely rewarded by the universe (and paying customers) for your efforts.
Here are a few ideas to inspire you:
Cooler and Drink Table
Make a cooler and drink table out of an old sewing cabinet.
The hollow inside of the table will become the cooler.
And the flip top makes a perfect serving table!
- To begin, spray the table in a color that will be sure to dazzle.
- After the table dries, take out its electric guts if it has any.
- Then, grab an old roasting pan lid and place it in the opening of the table.
- Nail a piece of wood to the underneath of the lid so it won’t fall out.
- Next, flip the table over and fill the lid with ice.
- Use the side serving table for anything you want to accompany your beverages.
- Then, add some drinks and have a party!
Dresser to Storage Bench
By converting a dresser into a storage bench, you’ll have a more stylish showcase for your wardrobe.
- Take the drawers out of a chest of drawers.
- Unscrew the handles.
- Remove the back of the chest.
- Remove the top.
- Remove the board in the middle.
- Wipe all the dust off the chest.
- Cover with two coats of paint, and then, let it dry.
- Cut plywood to fit over the bottom drawer and the two sides.
- Stain these pieces.
- Replace the handles.
- Cut plywood for the back.
- Add wood trim around the top edges.
- Finally, add hooks to the back piece.
Side Table to Drink Cart
Take two side tables, stack one on top of the other, and you’ll have a terrific way to store your beverages when you’re having a soiree.
- Add contact paper to a side table.
- Poke holes in the contact paper.
- Add a towel bar to one of the sides of the table.
- Attach caster wheels to the bottom of the legs of a second side table.
- Use four corner braces to attach this second table to the top of the first one.
- Put beverages on both levels of the unit.
Bookshelf to Kitchen Counter
By doing this project, you’ll have a unique kitchen counter with plenty of storage capacity.
- Attach four legs to the bottom of a bookshelf.
- Take a piece of plywood and attach it to the top of the bookshelf with screws (the overhang should be at least eight inches).
- Paint the top.
- Put hooks on the sides of the unit.
- Put spices, dishes, or plants on the shelves.
- Put dishtowels or kitchen implements on the hooks.
Chest of Drawers to Outdoor Storage Unit
Here’s a great way to store away all of your garden tools and supplies.
- Take two drawers from a chest of drawers.
- Cut a board so that it dissects one of the drawers in the middle lengthwise.
- Attach the two drawers with screws so that they’re side-by-side.
- Cut a board for the base so that it fits on the bottom of the two drawers.
- Attach a board that covers the top of the two drawers.
- Attach this second board to the base with hinges.
- Attach two chains to both sides of the second board.
- Attach an eye bolt and a hook to one side of the unit, so you can latch it closed.
- Stain the unit.
- After it dries, attach it to your house.
- Use it to store your garden supplies.
Mid-Century Modern Shelf
Here’s a way to infuse new life into a tired old shelving unit.
- Get your hands on an old shelving unit with one drawer from a flea market.
- Clean the entire unit.
- Sand off all the old paint.
- Add metal legs to the bottom of the unit.
- Paint the unit any color you’d like.
- Apply some Tung oil on the legs and the drawer.
- Here’s a magic trick for you: transform an old bookshelf into a chic nightstand that will be the envy of the neighborhood!
- Find an old bookshelf.
- Thoroughly clean the unit.
- Paint the inside of the shelf using chalk-style paint.
- Once the coat is dry, add a couple of coats of wax.
- Then, cut some “peel and stick” wood tiles to cover the outer parts of the shelf to give the effect of a weathered look.
So, there you have it—a bunch of excellent tips you can use to upcycle furniture like a consummate pro.
If you crave a profitable career as a furniture upcycler and want to make $50,000 or more a year, follow these tips to the letter.
By doing that, you’ll magically transform formerly forlorn and useless junk into items of profound beauty that will often have immense practical value.
You’ll also be a hero to environmentalists everywhere because you’ll be preventing junk from ending up in a landfill.
Just remember to use your own God-given creativity to fashion wildly imaginative pieces.
If you’re able to do this, you’ll have droves of customers clamoring to buy what you create.
To reach this level of achievement, you’ll have to hone your upcycling skills to the nth degree.
There are thousands of people around the world upcycling furniture.
You can join the ranks of these proud artisans and start raking in the moolah!
Just remember to use your unique creative gifts and pour your heart out into every piece.
By doing so, you’ll be developing highly marketable skills that can last a lifetime.