Let’s just say you’ve inherited four Victorian dining chairs with needlepoint cushions from your grandmother and desperately want to give them away or sell them or put them on the curb but guilt makes you keep them and you cart them around from house to house wondering what in the world you’re going to do with them (ahem). Along comes Vicky Sanderson, who abhores throwing out good pieces of furniture, or almost anything for that matter, if she can breathe new life into it by giving it a stylish update. Bringing old pieces up to date will not only make you enjoy your old pieces, but also make you think fondly of your childhood days at granny’s instead of resenting the pieces themselves. Not sure how to do this? Read on as Vicky inspires us with ideas for sprucing up your home by reusing what you have and adding a little paint to breathe life into old pieces (and rooms).

Upcycle. Repurpose. Steampunk. They’re all variations on a theme, used to describe the practice of modifying and repairing existing goods to extend their lives. While the design cognoscenti may claim it as the latest trend, it’s been a way of life for greenies for a long time — at least as long as the motto, reduce, reuse, recycle has been part of common eco-parlance.

It’s only now that the cool kids get that not only is recycled decor good for the planet — it can be a quick shortcut to seriously chic room design. And getting the look is dead easy, because it’s entirely based on personal taste and imagination.

A coat of paint is one of the quickest, most affordable ways to refresh the style of any room, or to give new lustre to a beloved, but well-worn piece of furniture or accessory.  And colour, of course, is always highly personal.

Used in a room, colour can breathe new life into tired furniture by providing an exciting backdrop. Applied in a block or wide stripe, it makes a striking statement, and it can define space in an open concept design. To get a polished look, you’ll want crisp, sharp paint lines, which are easy to achieve if you use a good tape, such as 3M’s new Edge-Lock painter’s tapes. It doesn’t bleed, seep or irritate the skin and can remain on the surface over several days, allowing paint to fully dry and set. For décor ideas with paint, as well as tips on how to mask like a pro, go to www.scotchblue.com, and look under Painting Tips and Techniques.

There are loads of options for eco-friendly paints these days, including a new line from Rona www.rona.ca called Rona Eco, which is made almost entirely from recycled paint. According to Rona, the production of this low-VOC, latex-based recycled paint reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent, compared to an equivalent production of virgin paint.

Scotch blue painter's tape
Some paint and a roll of good tape can produce distinctive looks (Photo courtesy of 3M)

An edited palette of 16 shades offers plenty of options, all of which dry to a lovely velvety finish that’s also a snap to wipe clean.

Appliance decals give an instant custom look (Pic RONA)

You can also add visual interest to any wall by using graphic decals, either with or without painted effects. There are even decals for appliance fronts these days. Look for the Mur-Mur line, also available at Rona.

Settee — “Before”
Chairs – “Before”

Reupholstering old furniture is another way to create unique décor. Search for interesting pieces on Kijiji, in thrift and vintage shops or at local garage sales. Keep an eye on the curbside in your neighbourhood too, which is where the chairs in the “before” picture shown were discovered. They, along with a tired settee, got a fabulous new look, with help from the wickedly creative Jim Connelly and Peter de Souza of Masterpieces Studio www.masterpiecesstudio.com. Notice that the fabric on the seats and chairs don’t match; that’s because we used scraps that many would have sent off to the trash. The settee was refinished with metallic foils which are then covered with a lacquer-like finish suitable for outdoors. Seats and backs are covered in marine-grade vinyl, so that the piece will work indoors or out.

Settee and chair "after" pictures
Settee and Chair — “After”

Your local bookstore, library or fave décor mag is also a good source for inspiration. Check out, for example, Lisa Occhipinti’s locchipinti.com new book, The Repurposed Library (www.stcbooks.com). This artist uses simple tools to transform old books into distinctive objets and accessories.

Repurposed books into disctinctive objects
Two books become a unique candle holder (Photo courtesy of Lisa Occhipinti)

So whether it’s dubbed upcycling, repurposing or steampunking, remaking used and vintage finds into new décor is finally getting the attention it deserves. Maybe it’s even time for a new motto. How about sustainable, sensible — and sexy!

Feature photo courtesy of Rona Inc.

Vicky Sanderson writes Hot Home Products, a widely-read weekly column on home improvement, décor and housewares that appears every Saturday in the Toronto Star. She also keeps readers up to date on new products through her blog, On the House, which can be found on www.yourhome.ca. Having tried and tested just about every new home product, décor item and countertop appliance to hit the market in the last 10 years, Vicky is an expert on all things home-related. She frequently shares tips, tricks and trends on such media outlets as Canada AM, Breakfast Television, CHCH Morning Live, and CBC Radio. Follow her on Twitter @vickysanderson

BEC Green

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