Paint is one of the fastest and easiest ways to tranform an outdated item. I never fail to be surprised at how a little paint, and a few minutes of my time, can make such a big difference! Upcycling is a great way to give new life to an item that is still functional, but just not cosmetically appealling anymore.
Plus, often these older pieces are much better made than anything you can buy now, so giving them an aesthetic update ultimately ends with you having an attractive, better quality piece than you could get if you bought it brand new.
Benefits of Upcycling:
- you save money
- your piece is likely better made than new items sold now
- you can customize it exactly how you want it by choosing your own paint color
- you can keep something that has sentimental value, and actually make it work in your decor
Where to Get Items to Upcycle
Three of the four items that I’ve upcycled in this post came from my Mom & Dad’s house. These items were all “leftovers” that nobody wanted after we sorted through the contents of the house.
Other places I often find things to upcycle include thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales. I’m not much of a garage sale shopper, but that would also be a great place to look if that’s your thing.
Often, I just find things around my own house to upcycle! Many times I’ve been very close to tossing something in the donation bin, when at the last minute, an idea comes to me and I decide to keep it. It just requires some imagination and being able to envision the item in a new light.
This Lazy Susan is made of solid oak. It still spins nicely, and I like the little “guard rail” detail to it. I remember my mom using this on her kitchen table to hold condiments, and napkins, and such.
The only problem with it was the outdated oak color, but that was an easy fix with paint! Especially with my favorite General Finishes Milk Paint that requires no prep work.
This one little quart of paint is the gift that just keeps on giving! I originally bought it for my Antique Hope Chest Makeover, and even though that was a fairly decent-sized piece of furniture, and I gave it 2 coats, it barely made a dent in the can.
So for this project, I put that same can of paint to work again!
I brushed the paint on fairly lightly, because I wanted to see the beautiful wood grain on this solid oak piece.
I was so happy with how it turned out after only two very light coats of paint! Look how well the woodgrain shows through.
Now, it’s a beautiful shade of gray that fits in so much better with my style, and it’s out where it can be loved and appreciated again, instead of packed away in a basement.
It’s so functional on my kitchen table, which is a very dark wood and tends to show scratches easily. Using this Lazy Susan in the middle of the table works great for holding my fresh flower arrangements, while protecting the table from scratches and water marks. Plus, I can easily turn it to add water, or to vary the side of the arrangement that I want most visible.
This wall clock hung in my parents living room for years. Last month, when I was giving my home office a makeover, I looked online, and at several different stores, for a clock that would work in the space. I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me.
Then, one day I was at my parents’ house, after we had wrapped up most of the division of its contents. This clock was one of the last few things still left hanging on the wall. It had been overlooked and ignored, probably because of its dated oak appearance, but in that moment, I knew I could make it perfect for my office.
With nothing but some painter’s tape and more of my favorite General Finishes Empire Gray Milk Paint, I had it upcycled in no time!
I did have to take a couple of screws out of the back to make sure the interior, where the pendulum swings, got painted gray, too.
I’m going to wait to show it to you actually hanging on my office wall later, when I do my full office makeover reveal, but I’ll give you this little sneak peak. Isn’t it beautiful? The Empire Gray color works perfectly with my new office area rug and chair, and the wall color (Sherwin Williams Collonade Gray).
This clock is so much better than anything I could (or in this case, couldn’t) find in a store. It’s better quality, and it has sentimental value from being a part of my parents’ house for so long.
Plus, a surprise bonus, it actually chimes on the hour, which I had no idea it could do! My parents apparently had the chimes turned off all those years!
This past weekend, my husband and I made a stop into a local antique store that we visit regularly, and they had the exact same clock for sale! It’s a great price at $45 even though it’s missing its pendulum.
These are the types of items that get passed over because they aren’t really “antiques” and it’s hard to visualize how they might look after being upcycled, but remember to keep your eyes open for deals like this that allow you to customize them to your own liking.
The next piece that I’ve recently upcycled with paint is this bookcase. I’ve had this since my kids were very small. We bought it back when VCRs were still a thing, and we had dozens of Disney movies on VHS tapes for the kids.
We used this solid oak bookcase next to the big tube TV to hold all those tapes! I’ve almost gotten rid of it every time I’ve moved over the past 20 years, but always stopped myself because it’s a good, heavy, solid oak piece.
Awhile back I painted it white, but never really loved it. As I was working on my office recently, I was looking for some additional storage and needed something narrow near the doorway. I hauled this bookcase in here, and size and proportion-wise, it was perfect. It was just the color that wasn’t going to work. I got out the rest of the Empire Gray paint that still had paint left in the can after all these projects! With just two quick coats of milk paint, this 20-year-old bookcase had a completely different vibe! 💜
Just look at the side-by-side comparison and you can see how much better it works in the space now.
The last project that I upcycled with paint this summer was this silverware caddy that I also brought home from my mom’s. This was another item that was left behind after other family members had gone through the kitchen and taken everything they wanted.
I’m sure it was passed over because of the somewhat dated looking rooster. But, again, it’s made of solid wood, and I remember my mom using it to hold silverware at almost all of our family holiday dinners. So, it came home with me.
This time, I used Rust-Oleum’s Chalkboard paint. I liked the kind of creamy color of the wood itself, so I just taped off the edges, and only painted both sides where the roosters were. I left all of the rest of it as it was, so this literally took me only a few minutes, plus dry time.
I love how versatile this piece is now. I’ve already used it for our son’s graduation party, for our Father’s Day BBQ, Labor Day BBQ, and for Happy Hour in the driveway with our neighbors!
Upcyling is the way to go, friends. Before you buy something new, take a minute to see if any of your old stuff might have new life in it.