in with the old

The Upgrade: Doing up your home on a shoestring with 'upcycling' spoke to an upcycling expert to pick up some tips on on how to reuse items around the home.

HOME OWNERSHIP CAN be an expensive business. Once you’ve paid the mortgage, utilities, the bins and any number of other expenses, decorating can feel like an afterthought.

A number of people across Ireland have been embracing the ‘upcycle’ movement. This involves the repurposing and reworking of old items around the home.

To get a better idea of exactly what people have been getting up to, spoke to Lynn Haughton, one of the founders of The Upcycle Movement.

What exactly is upcycling? Isn’t this just recycled… well, recycling? 

LH: It is where you take something and give it a whole new lease of life. You could be repurposing it completely or you could be bringing it back to its old state.

To differentiate it from recycling, where you traditionally break components down, upcycling is where you try and improve the value of something as it is or turn it into something new. That’s where the ‘up’ bit comes from because you are upping its value.

upcycled 1 Lynn Haughton Lynn Haughton

And how do you go about doing this exactly? 

LH: An example could be if you had a few old tires, you stack them on top of each other, reupholster the top and you could then have it as a garden seat. An old tyre doesn’t have a huge amount of uses; it is really just thinking about what you can try to do with it.

Old tyres? Really?

LH: Well I use textiles a lot, I reupholster chairs out of old jumpers, in a collection I have called ‘Sit on This’. It’s kind of whatever I get my hands on really.

upcycled 2 Lynn Haughton Lynn Haughton

Isn’t that a bit tricky for the layperson? If people want to do this themselves what do you recommend? 

LH: I think the first thing to do is to look at what you have in your attic or in your garden that you aren’t already using. You might have an old chair, but if you take off the legs and hang it from a tree, it could be a swing. It’s about looking at what you have in a different way.

If you think you don’t have the skills to do it yourself there are plenty of organisations around that would be more than happy to give you tips. Busybees Furniture would be one. The internet is a fantastic resource with all this. If you put into Pinterest that you have an old chair you can get a huge amount of ideas. It is a great resource.

It all seems very clever. But isn’t there a chance your house could end up resembling a scrapyard? 

LH: Like anything you could go a bit overboard with it. But if you do your research and decide what suits your own home and your own rooms you can’t go too wrong.

I think it is very much your own taste anyway. I would probably just say not to go overboard with it. A couple of nice items in the interior just give it so much character I think.

upcycled 3 Lynn Haughton Lynn Haughton

And does all this unwanted stuff just magically appear? Where are you supposed to get it from?

LH: Wherever you can get your hands on it! I suppose it would start with what you have in the home. There are great markets out there for picking up furniture, particularly the Merchants Market, that is near the 3Arena. There are also a lot of charity shops that do furniture as well like Oxfam. Then there are great car-boot sales that are on.

Then there is a website called which tells you when car boot sales are on.

Are car-boot sales any good? 

LH: Car-boot sales can be very hit and miss. A lot of the time there is a lot of smaller stuff. So it might not be furniture you find there but you might find something there you could turn into a lamp, for instance. With furniture though you’re better off going to the markets or to the charity shops.

And with everyone watching the pennies these days has upcycling become more popular? 

LH: Absolutely. I think people look to what they already have in terms of improving their own homes. Also in terms of making a bit of extra cash. Some people have started because they have been following the likes of and companies that offer free resources.

People have been taking these free items, doing them up, and selling them at market for a bit of extra cash. There is a huge community of upcyclers out there and it is growing. It is becoming more on trend. People are realising the benefits of it.

Lynn Haughton’s tips for improving your home with upcycling

  • Use what you have around the home and be creative.
  • Pinterest is a great resource for ideas.
  • You can find items for upcycling in charity shops, car boot sales and outdoor markets.
  • Have a few nice pieces around the home but be careful not to go overboard with it. 
  • If you become a skilled upcycler you can sell your items for bit of extra cash.

Find out more about how to upgrade your home here. 

Related: 10 things you’re better off buying used