Upcycling expert Max McMurdo spoke to us about his passion for the movement and recommends an easy first-time project...
If you’re wondering how and why to start upcycling Max McMurdo is going to do his best to convince you. Last year, his book ‘Upcycling’ sold out on Amazon within an hour and now he’s Sarah Beeny’s right-hand man on the new Channel 4 series How to live mortgage free inspiring thrifty homeowners to save money by getting hands-on with their old pieces of furniture.
For Max, upcycling is about adding value to an object, whether that’s financial, visual, or emotional, but above all it’s about adding design. ‘Design can be a slight change of colour, sanding it back, or completely converting it into something else and repurposing it.’ He also says upcycling can refer to something as simple as repairing and re-oiling a table.
Are you sitting on the fence when it comes to upcycling? Here are six reasons why you should give it a go:
- It saves you money
There is of course plenty of budget furniture available online and on the high street, however if you already have an old chest of drawers or stool sitting in the garage, why spend money on a new one?
Concerned about the cost of tools? Max says, ‘once you’ve got the tools, you own them, they’re yours, and you have them there for your next projects. Tools are much more affordable than they used to be, and I think everyone should have a toolbox at home anyway to be able to repair things. By the time you’ve upcycled a couple of bits, it has easily paid for itself’.
- It’s on trend
The industrial look is all the rage right now, and its characteristics of exposed brickwork, copper piping, and reclaimed wood all lend themselves perfectly to the upcycling movement.
- You can create unique pieces
Rather than buying uniform furniture designed by someone else, upcycling means you can create your very own bespoke, personalised pieces that suit your tastes and your needs. ‘These are the pieces your friends will notice and admire, not your flat-pack furniture’, says Max.
- It’s satisfying
Max says: ‘You can go to work and earn a lot of money to purchase something from the shop, but then you look at that object and it’s just inanimate. But when you sit down and put your mug of tea on a palette-wood coffee table that you’ve spent three hours in the garage working on with your boy, having a laugh and learning new skills, saving something from landfill, that is a million times more rewarding than looking at something that you bought with the money you earned.’
- You’re learning a skill for life
Until recently, ‘make do and mend’ was a household motto. Nowadays, however, because of fast-changing fashion and cheaper products, many of us have lost the skills required to repair broken objects. Think how much money you could save by learning how to use a hammer, nails, fabric glue and a staple gun to fix a broken table leg or reupholster a chair. And it’s a skill you can pass down to future generations too.
- It’s easy
You may feel daunted by the idea of building a chair out of a crate or a kitchen surface out of a huge piece of oak, but upcycling doesn’t have to be complicated. There are plenty of ideas that are easier than they look. Max says ‘it can be as little as a bit of wallpaper in the back of a wardrobe, or drilling a hole into something and making it into a clock. It doesn’t have to be overly elaborate, but I do like there to be an element of design. Something simple but with a bit of personalisation.’
Once you’ve got the hang of the simpler tasks, you can turn your hand to bigger and more complicated projects. And what project does Max recommend for a first-time upcycler?
‘I like to go for an upholstered dining chair. It allows you to try many different techniques. You can sand it back, paint it, or leave it raw. You can learn how to upholster which is an easy process that you can do in fifteen minutes using a cheap staple gun. It’s a wonderfully simple, achievable thing, and once you’ve done one you’ll get the bug.’
So don’t give up on that old dining chair, grab some tools, and get creative!