“The kitchen of this city apartment looked boring, and this was made worse by a lack of storage invariably leading to clutter accumulating on the bench,” says journalist and stylist Sarah Heeringa of one of the many DIY projects that feature in her new book ‘Upcycling with Style,’ a step-by-step workbook brimming with practical, upcycling inspo and lots of pretty pictures.
“Sometimes the solution really is as simple as adding a decent set of shelves – and the perfect set to use here were a set of old wooden shelves previously removed from a 1960s bungalow. The upcycled shelves were basic, but made with solid wood, and slightly tapered in shape, making them less overbearing when mounted on the wall,” says Sarah who added a few rows of butcher block tiles above the bench top and painted the walls before installing the shelves. “At $625 for the entire project, the cost was very low for the dramatic change in effect,” says Sarah.
As a contributing editor of Good magazine and the author of ‘Reclaim That’, Sarah is well versed in the art of upcycling with plenty of hands-on experience acquired through renovating four old houses alongside her husband. “While doing this we used as many found and recycled materials as possible. Much of the furniture in our home has been stripped, repainted, reupholstered or otherwise reconfigured to suit our changing tastes and our family’s changing needs. We took this approach to save money, but also because the end result can be so much more interesting,” says Sarah.
“You can choose to go to a big box chain store and buy everything you need to fill your house, but the quality may not be that great or the products very sustainably sourced. Incorporating retro items or upcycled materials into your home can take imagination and a bit of effort but the reward is a home with far more personality,” says Sarah.
Sarah has a particular interest in sustainability which is one of the major drivers behind her passion for upcycling. “It’s about making the most of the things we find around us. It can involve giving things we have a new look or picking things up from second hand stores and adapting them to suit our tastes. Upcycling can be very varied – involving painting, sewing, re-upholstery, woodwork or various other techniques depending on the project,” says Sarah.
“Upcycling can also help us to become more creative because unlike painting, for instance, where you might start with a blank canvas, upcycling starts with something that is unwanted, discarded or broken. You can give yourself permission to try anything, to experiment and to make mistakes. This can be very liberating. Along the way, we can also learn new skills and techniques. And at the end you have something that is better than it was,” says Sarah.
Upcycling with Style, New Holland Publishers RRP $35.00 available from all good book retailers or online
Photography: Amanda Reelick