Sarah Ashby-Bassett, Creative Designer of ReVamp Boutique, the husband and wife Furniture Upcycling business in Tiptree, Essex who specialise in Upcycling using skills of upholstery, painting and decoupaging says “We are constantly being offered pieces of furniture that are not only desirable but sometimes can be transformed with a very small budget. A few years ago pre sustainability phase, the choice was always to replace an item but now with the availability of modern products and creative knowledge now available, it is relatively easy for a beginner to tackle their own project.

If you are just starting out and are keen to upcycle on a budget then here are some of ReVamp Boutique’s top tips on how to tackle your own upcycling projects in your home

Creating Cost Effective Quirky Furniture By Upcycling

Upcycle, in very simple terms, is taking something and making it better. It’s the reuse of an item that will still be used in the same way – but it looks new and improved.

A top tip from Sarah, “ For creative upcycling take a look high street stores, top designers and see what furniture is out there. Look at leg shapes, colours that designers are using and techniques that have been used.” Sarah always takes a photo of her piece of furniture to practice different looks by using overlays.

She says “look at the possibility of changing the leg style or adding longer/shorter legs. Often by changing the little things like the handles, legs or feet the piece of furniture can take on a whole new fresh look”

Getting creative doesn’t have to be expensive!

RePurposing

Repurpose, quite simply, is taking one thing and reusing it as something else for a new purpose which can not only be fun but also environmentally friendly by reducing waste to landfill. Repurposing is slightly different to upcycling for example you could add castors to drawers to create under bed storage or attach legs on a vintage suitcase to create a unique side table or nightstand.

Here is a First Simple RePurposed Upcycle (see her blog) that Sarah made earlier this year from a dining room chair or below that is something a little more challenging, a practical upholstered Hallway bench made from a Georgian Chest Of Drawers all by ReVamp Boutique.

Simple Dining Room Chair RePurpose
RePurposing half of a Georgian Chest Of Drawers by ReVamp Boutique

Textiles

Queen of Fabric Decoupage, Sarah has some clever budget tips on how to use fabrics to creatively upcycle a piece of furniture into a designer piece without breaking the bank.

Fabric can be used to cover furniture, Sarah says “People just can’t believe the smooth finish that can be obtained once covered and varnished! It gives piece such a Bespoke look! “She says “I love using vintage fabric but this can be very expensive if you buy it by the meter, some of the best buys are again at charity shops and car boot sales where you often find off cuts. My best buy so far was a GP Baker fabric bought for £3 which went on to upholstering a chair!.”

Recycling old clothes, like jeans or scarves are perfect materials you can use for your upcycling projects to cover a piece of furniture or to make cushions or bags. Vintage curtains, bedspreads or throws are a fantastic way to get more material for a fraction of the price.

A Before & After of Creative Decoupage using Fabric on a Sideboard

Wallpaper

Wallpaper is so very versatile and sometimes under estimated so here is one of our most popular pins on @pinterest ! Sarah has even this very large fridge freezer was being thrown out for landfill, nothing wrong with it and Sarah couldn’t resist using her Wallpaper Decoupage skills in lockdown!

Using only a small amount of this gorgeous bold wallpaper from I Love Wallpaper has transformed this elephant in the room and once varnished is very durable. Maybe not the easiest to tackle for your first upcycle but once you have learnt the decoupage technique anything is possible!

A before & After of Creative technique on this Fridge Freezer using Wallpaper

What tools do I need for the job?

Before undertaking an upcycling project, it’s a good idea to figure out which tools you will need. Sarah says second hand tools will do the job just as well as brand new ones.’ Try asking around to see if friends or family have tools you could borrow.

Consider picking up pre-loved items from car boot sales and Facebook marketplace is an excellent option to source second hand tools. A Basic screw driver with interchangeable heads and various screws and fixings. If you feel you want to buy new, try a reuse one first and do some research on the best for your money from new.

I have never been a paint brush make snob, but once I find a make and shape I like I stick with them and look after them. Always wash immediately after use and wrap in a damp cloth between usage to stop from drying out.

Borrow or buy tools second hand until you are sure what you need

Get Creative with Paint

By adding a splash of colour to a tired piece of furniture can be a wonderful way to revitalise your project. Sarah says “There are many paints to choose from but her favourite paints that are used at her Upcycling Workshops is Sophie James Décor paint are not only budget friendly but sustainable too and a small pot goes a long way.

These fast-drying and versatile paints don’t need a primer or wax as they contain their own. Sarah recommends using tester size pots of paint when working on smaller items and making it more cost effective its worth knowing that Sophie James Décor paint can all be mixed to create other colour ways so you won’t have any left over tins of paint lying around!

Sophie James Decor paint comes in a wide range of colours

Re Love it ! Don’t throw it!

When working on projects Sarah says” To keep costs down when I’m upcycling I hang on to disregarded handles, hinges, furniture legs and any particularly beautiful fabric scraps until the right project comes along, you never know how you can incorporate them to create that ‘quirky’ piece!

“Knowing Sarah for such a long time, I’m always amazed at what she hangs on to and how she pulls its out of here stores to reuse to create a masterpiece!” Says Sarah’s design assistant Kim.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

Simon, Sarah’s husband and work partner is definitely the timber and upholstery genius of the team! Saying its crucial to having a design plan. Together they recommend you draw a sketch of how you see the piece practically and aesthetically to get a strong image of what is to be altered or upholstered. This is now the stage to workout timber amounts, thicknesses and fabrics to save product wastage and time.

Double check those measurements! Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

What are you waiting for?!

Have confidence! Sarah says it’s not unusual to query your ability especially when initially painting a piece as it can look dreadful halfway through, Persevere and have fun with it, but if you are still unsure about your skill level then Sarah runs upcycling workshops to lead you through your project


Sarah Ashby-Bassett
Sarah Ashby-Bassett

They call me crazy! Maybe?? A Riot of eclectic, colourful pattern, bling and embellishment inspired by vintage fashion and historical design. Looking for a statement piece? We invite commissions, sell online and offer "How To" Workshops.