Things You Can Restore or Upcycle and Save Big!

"One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” the old adage goes. Furniture is no exception to this rule. On average, Britons discard 22 million pieces of furniture a year — most of it goes right to landfills. That’s a lot of furniture that could just as easily be restored or upcycled.

So, what’s the difference between restoring and upcycling? Restoring an item means breathing new life into it. With a fresh coat of paint, some buffing and cleaning up, you could turn it into a new and improved version of its past self. Upcycling, on the other hand, means taking an item and, instead of throwing it away, turning it into something entirely different to serve a new purpose.

Perhaps you are eyeing some new furniture to pretty-up around your home. Perhaps, you have fallen in love with an eco-friendly lifestyle, and want to continue doing your bit for the environment. Or funds may be running low, but you don’t want to let that stop you from making your home feel special... If so, you will walk away from this article with a treasure trove of inspiration.

Here is a list of some things you can restore or upcycle.

Antique Mirrors

One of the classiest things you can find laying around the house — or at a car boot or house clearance sale — is an antique mirror. Instead of throwing it away, try restoring it. If the glass has gone foggy, a solution of vinegar and a soft washcloth will help clear any impurities. As for the frame, polish the silver and tend to damaged wood with a solution of olive oil, water, and vinegar to bring back the mirror’s lost glory.

Since mirrors are delicate pieces of furniture, sometimes restoration isn’t possible. If your mirror’s glass is shattered, consider creating mosaic patterns with the shards. These make for eye-catching table tops or will add drama when incorporated into a garden fence. If broken glass isn’t your thing, you can turn the mirror into a tray, either for serving guests or to be sat atop a vanity. You can also, depending on the size, turn an old mirror into a beautiful ornate frame for pictures and photos of all sizes.

Old Doors

What to do with an old door? More often than not, a fresh coat of paint in a new colour does the trick of adding life to the front of your home. If it’s wooden, taking it down to sand, stain, and applying a coat of varnish can make it look brand new.

If you’d rather switch it up, the flat surface of a door can be made into a charming coffee table or work desk. You can also use it as the seat for a bench or garden swing, or keep it vertical and create room dividers. Another idea, if you want to keep your old door standing upright, is to create a bookshelf out of it.

Window Panes

Whether it’s a single pane or four, windows can be upcycled to help you be more organised at home! You can hang one up in the entryway to organise keys, dog leads, umbrellas, and any other small last-minute grabs.

Furthermore, if you think the window feels more at home in a study, repurpose it with cork and chalkboard paint to create the ultimate home office notice board. Don’t forget to buy some chalk and pins!


It’s usually old furniture that gets left out to be taken away. 30% of people surveyed by the British Heart Foundation have admitted to throwing away old furniture, electrical items, and homeware that could be recycled. It’s often difficult to upcycle larger furniture items, but restoring them can be easy and cheaper than buying an entirely new set.

You might have a sofa that was a big hit in its heyday, and is now beginning to look a little worn. There’s nothing a little bit of new upholstery won’t fix to return it to its glory days. The same can be said for armchairs and chairs to keep them looking plush and as good as new. And just like that, you have a dearly beloved furniture set restored, as opposed to forking out a thousand pounds for a brand new one.


Sure, they look a little plain when you take the wrappers off, but aluminium and tin cans are some of the easiest go-to upcycle projects. They are super versatile and likely will always be found somewhere around the house. Grab some aluminium-safe paint and turn your boring old cans into:

Building Materials

If you have building materials laying around from any old redecoration projects, take the time to turn them into something that will make your home pop. If you have leftover bricks or cinder blocks, a fresh coat of paint and some soil can make for adorable, rustic garden planters.

Alternatively, should you have wood on hand instead, consider creating shelves out of planks by sanding and mounting them. If you have full wooden crates, they serve as excellent wall-mounted cubbies that will liven up any Pinterest board!

Of course, at the end of the day, some things just cannot be salvaged and are best sold or left to be taken away. This might be by paying someone to haul off old furniture that is too bent out of shape to be donated to charity. However, consider joining neighbourhood groups on social media that are interested in restoring and upcycling. You might find someone who will take a piece of furniture from you, and transform it into something magical of their own.

So get on Pinterest, pick up some basic carpentry, buy some paint, and you’re on your way to working some restoration and upcycling magic!

Do you have any upcycling or restoration success stories? Any absolute fails? Let us know!

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