31 August 2014

Upcycling: X marks the spot

It is officially the last day of summer and what an end! The sun is shining bright as I sit in my recently re-designed garden (thanks hubby!) with my trusty laptop.

I wanted to go back to the start with this article and give some advice to all the budding up-cyclers out there asking themselves where to get their hands on some great pieces of furniture. 

This was one of the first questions I found myself constantly asking when I started up-cycling, assuming the answer was a simple one.  I trawled through blog after blog in the hopes of finding someone who had tackled the subject. My searches all came up blank, it was as if this was such a taboo, nobody wanted to share their secrets with me! I now understand why.  Finding great pieces is like hunting for secret buried treasure!

If you are just starting out and are having trouble finding great pieces then read on, this article is for you.

What to look for
When you are hunting for your furniture, you need to keep in mind a few points and be ready to check each potential piece for some vital signs. 

1.  Firstly, what equipment do you have that you can use for refurbishing old furniture? Don't commit to buying that old chair that is rotting and needs new legs if you don't have the facilities to build them. 

2.  Always check for woodworm, you need to avoid buying pieces that look like they have been chewed up and spat out as these are difficult to salvage and bring back to life.  

3. Don't worry about items that have missing knobs as these can always be easily replaced.

4. Check for wobbly legs and then find the cause of the wobbliness (is that a word I have just made up?).  If it is just a loose screw, great - easily fixed.  If it is the cause of something more technical, assess whether you think you will be able to fix it.  Wobbly legs and and a few scuffs add to the charm of up-cycled furniture but you don't want to sell a piece that will fall apart in transit or give up after a few days of use.

5. Never buy anything that isn't solid wood. Up-cycling that MDF bedside table just will not look good.  You need quality, sturdy items that will carry on lasting a lifetime once you have laid your hands on them. 

6.  If you are buying online, make sure you see plenty photos and ask plenty of questions!

Recycling centres
Those big ugly household waste and recycling centres that you visit on rainy cold Sundays with your car full of junk actually have some real gems! Visiting these soul-less places has become one of my favourite things to do in my free time....never did I think I would be saying that!

Have you ever gone to your local 'dump' and watched what people are actually throwing away? I've seen perfectly good bikes, lamps and of course furniture being tipped into those huge containers.  I'm all for waste not want not and will give all my unwanted items to charity shops and urge others to do the same. So when I found out my local centre had opened a 're-use' shop on site I was over the moon.  The shop is truly amazing, literally filled to the brim of unwanted 'nuggets of gold'. You just need to be able to see beyond the rust, dust and stains.
If you are lucky enough to have one of these shops near you, you have to check them out.  The best days to go are Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and if you can get down on a bank holiday Monday even better! Springtime is the best time of year as this is when people are motivated to have a 'spring clean', summer is fairly quiet and it picks up again in the autumn months.

Charity shops
I remember back a few years to the first flat my husband (then boyfriend) lived in together on a cute village high street.  Straight across the road from us was this little charity shop. Always one for a bargain I'd often pop in there to have a quick browse and never came away empty handed. One day, I glanced out of our bedroom window and saw the most amazing little TV cabinet sitting out the front of the shop.  I had to have it! I quickly sent the hubby down to seize it and as he shouted up the figure on the little price tag to me I was gobsmacked (£15.00, that is all they were asking for!)
People often think charity shops contain nothing but rails of shabby clothes and shelves full of old books but every now and then you do find that great little TV cabinet or coffee table.  These finds are however, few and far between but it is worth keeping your eyes open next time you are walking down your local high street.  These shops often display their bigger items out the front along the pavement so you shouldn't miss them - we just need to remember to keep our eyes open and away from our mobile phones sometimes! Even more handy is the British Heart Foundation's own branches dedicated to furniture. You are very lucky if you have one of these nearby, however their items are a little more pricey compared to smaller, independent charity shops.

The Internet
Buying secondhand furniture online has never been easier. It seems the rise of eBay is taking the internet by storm, does anyone buy brand new anymore?  I for one try to avoid it as I know you can get some amazing bargains online.  In fact, my whole living room is decked out in eBay and Gumtree finds!  The only problem with these auction sites is that you can get so carried away with your bids that you lose site of the purpose, getting a bargain.  The sense of competition sets in and with each bid you say 'oh a couple more quid won't hurt' until you realise you just spent £50.00 on that little table you could have bought brand new for £25.00. Oops! This is a problem you need to avoid if you plan to sell the pieces you up-cycle.  Set yourself a limit and stick to it.  You need to work out your pricing strategy and use this to calculate how much you can spend on buying secondhand.

These are my favourite sites for finding those little gems:
(there are groups you can join for people selling secondhand, just search for ones in your area)
These are my top fail safe ways of sourcing great furniture but I am sure there are even more, so if you have any more ideas I would love to hear from you! 

Here are a few little gems I have recently found on my treasure hunts..

Happy hunting!


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