Upcycling Furniture: How to Buy and Repurpose Used Furniture

Upcycling Furniture: Why Should You?

Wondering why you should care about restoring and upcycling furniture?

The current system of throwing out old furniture only to be replaced by cheaply made items, is wreaking havoc on the environment. Inexpensive furniture actually comes at a very high price. Each year, 80 percent of the furniture and decor items Americans toss out, end up in landfills. To be more exact, that’s around 12 million tons of no longer wanted items. 

But a great deal of these design objects could have a new life either with their original owner, or in someone else’s home. You know what they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

In this post, we highlight the main benefits of buying used furniture, and offer you suggestions on how to repurpose used items.  We will also outline some eco-friendly restoration tips as well as furniture upcycling ideas. 

So let’s dig in!

The Main Benefits of Buying And Repurposing Used Furniture

There are many reasons to not add that brand new piece of furniture to your shopping cart. 

Buying new furniture, particularly fast furniture, is not only harmful to the planet, but can also be an infringement on human rights. Plus, it’s often not actually even the cheapest or most convenient option for your pockets. 

Instead, consider the following advantages of upcycling furniture:

Less expensive

Once an item is no longer considered new, it loses a lot of its initial monetary value. However, that doesn’t mean it’s lost its value as an object! Although fast furniture is extremely cheap, by buying an antique piece you might spend even less money, and get a better quality. Plus, if you find the item locally, you can go pick it up yourself and avoid any additional shipping costs.

Supports your local economy

If you purchase an item of furniture produced in your neighbourhood, you are directly putting money back into your local economy. 

Supporting your neighbors, and helping your local economy become stronger, will directly benefit you. That’s because all of us do better when our community is doing better.

Higher quality products

Vintage furniture will not only cost you less money than fast furniture pieces, but in many cases, upcycled things will also be of higher quality. 

Fast furniture is not made to last. It’s made from cheap materials and it easily gets damaged. High quality new furniture however, is generally quite expensive, and out of reach for many people. To get more bang for your buck, buy a high quality used furniture piece, and repurpose it.

 

why its better to repurpose furniture

More sustainable

As previously mentioned, the furniture industry wreaks havoc on the planet. Not only are millions of tons of items discarded each year as waste, but furniture production causes a massive environmental impact. We are talking about deforestation, plastic production, and climate change among many others.

      • Deforestation: Buying new wooden items increases the demand for timber. Deforestation contributes to biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 
      • Plastic: The global plastic furniture market, which continues to grow, was valued at 11.9 billion in 2018. Plastic isn't biodegradable and is made from fossil fuels. Additionally, each year, more than 20,000 tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean, polluting the water and injuring wildlife.
      • Climate change: In 2018, the U.S., was the leading importer of furniture in the world. Buying local used furniture or better yet repurposing an item you already have at home, can help lower your carbon footprint.

Doesn’t infringe on human rights

Furniture production can involve unfair wages or even child or forced labor. By upcycling furniture and refusing to spend money on products made by companies that aren’t employing fair practices, you are taking a stand against injustice.

Places to Buy Beautiful Used Furniture

places to get furniture for upcycling

 

If you are interested in upcycling furniture, there are many places, both online and in-person, where you can find wonderful, quality used furniture items for sale. 

Through online markets, such as Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp, you can find items listed for sale by people in your area.  Once you make an offer through the app, you can arrange to go see and pick up the items you chose to offer a breath of new life. 

You can, of course, find furniture the old fashioned way too. Visiting estate and yard sales, or thrift stores, is a great way to find used items.

Many companies are also offering furniture for rent now. This can be a nice option if you think you’ll be moving out in the short-term and you don’t want to lug heavy items to your new place. Renting furniture is also good for those not wanting to deal with selling old items, or those who don’t want to end up discarding perfectly good pieces.

Finally, a lesser known option for finding used furniture items is through hotels. When they renovate, many hotels sell their old furniture for extremely low prices. 

Tips for Restoring or Upcycling Used Furniture

how to repurpose furniture with zero voc paints

Wondering how to repurpose furniture?

Or what to do with an old table top?

If you have a furniture item you’re considering tossing, or if you find a used piece that doesn’t appear to be in great condition, think about whether or not restoring or upcycling that piece may be possible. With a fresh coat of paint or by breaking down the item and using it in a completely different way, you may be able to create something you love. 

Consider the following simple, eco-friendly DIY restoration tips and tricks for an used furniture item that just needs a little updating and freshening up:

      • Get scratches out using nuts: Nuts, such as walnuts, can be used to get rid of scratches and signs, fast and easy. The oil from the nut soaks into the wood, which causes scratches to fade.
      • Give it a fresh coat of paint or finish: Use natural paints and non-toxic finishes to give your used coffee table or cabinet a new look and feel.
      • Reupholster using sustainable fabric: Use a sustainable fabric, such as organic cotton or linen to reupholster an item!

If an item seems beyond restoring with just some basic tips and tricks, consider getting a little more creative. You may be able to upcycle it! 

Upcycling furniture, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming unwanted materials or items into new products. 

Here are a few ideas for upcycling to get your creative juices flowing:

    • Transform a desk into an end table: Turn the desk drawers vertically to create a small end or side table. 
    • Turn a crib into a bench: The sides of a baby’s crib can easily become the back of a bench.
    • Create a coat rack from a headboard: Secure the headboard of a bed to the wall and add hooks to make a coat rack.
    • Turn a dresser drawer into a dog bed: If the entire dresser isn’t salvageable, consider removing one or two of the drawers and add pillows and blankets to make a cozy, sustainable pet bed.

    how to repurpose furniture

    There is so much you can do with used furniture. By reinvesting in older pieces you can save money, invest in your community, and help protect the planet.

    If you are just starting on your upcycling furniture journey, we hope our post will offer you some inspiration and ideas for your future projects. And for similar blog entries like this one, please visit our sustainable living blog.

    The beautiful illustrations in this post are compliments of Apartment Guide.

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