Interior Design: How to Use Upcycled Home Decor

Upcycled wooden crates as wall decor

Aug 11, 2021

Interior Design: How to Use Upcycled Home Decor

It’s clear that the future of design is sustainable and upcycled home decor. The latest Nielsen Global Sustainability report found that around 66% of consumers were willing to pay a little more to use sustainable elements in their homes.

Gone are the days of ugly recycled furniture. Instead, tons of people have gone all-in on sustainable decor, making it a viable alternative that you can take advantage of.

Now’s a great time to grab hold of the trend and make it your own. Read on for our definitive guide to getting started.

What Is Sustainable Home Decor?

Despite the fancy-sounding name, this really isn’t a difficult concept. At its heart, we’re just talking about reducing your eco-footprint by using materials, items, and practices that reduce environmental impact – WWF has a great guide for other things you can do.

As we mentioned earlier, many of the top brands are jumping on this trend. For some, that means switching to more sustainable materials like organic cotton, rattan, linen, wood, wool, and recycled items. Others take a longer view and have worked to redesign their manufacturing processes to be environmentally friendly as well.

Using sustainable materials in your interior decorating doesn’t have to be hard, and it can lead to some great benefits, including:

  • More efficient heating and cooling
  • Better comfort and health
  • Lower carbon footprint

It may seem obvious to you, but for many people, considering the impact of the dyes and stains isn’t something they think about. Going out of your way to make sure your furniture and other decor are using sustainable materials means your family is safer and healthier.

As with all things in life, everyone is a little bit different. As a result, there’s no one single approach or design. Instead, you need to embrace your own particular style and incorporate it into the overall plan.

Use and Reuse

Reupholster furniture with new fabric

If you’re serious about going to a sustainable route, the first thing you should look at is what you already have in your home. Having zero additional footprint is better than having a small footprint.

Take a look at your existing items and build on them. Using locally sourced, secondhand, vintage and/or upcycled items to round out the first stage of your decor project is a great way to start.

People have almost perfected the process of upcycling furniture and other everyday items. You don’t have to put up with ugly furniture any longer – there are some amazingly attractive pieces, and if you are into the DIY scene, you can get some great ideas.

Sustainable Design

Sustainable design fits into the whole sustainability movement but is its own thing. Again, this isn’t anything special or complicated; it’s just a way of thinking.

Really, sustainable design talks to the idea of designing everything around you while thinking about social, economic, and ecological principles. That sounds complex, but it just means taking a holistic approach to your designs.

Consider your architecture and how your interior design ideas will fit in with the overall look you’re going for. Remember to consider things like where the sunlight comes into your home, how to make the best use of natural light, and how you’ll use water in a sustainable way.

Furniture From Anything

Furniture is one of the easiest sustainability categories to work with. There’s a lot of room to experiment, and there’s no such thing as a design that shouldn’t be tried.

With the wealth of organic materials available to you and your imagination, you can repurpose almost anything into something beautiful. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun. After all, this is an expression of you!

Repurposed Chairs

Repurposing old chairs

One of the simplest projects lets you change your old dining room chairs into a comfortable bench, complete with cushions made from upcycled material. This project should take you less than a weekend to complete and is fun for everyone.

Reclaimed and Found Wood

Reclaimed wood can be used for many different home decor projects

Reclaimed wood is a popular choice for its ease of use and general availability. Every city has at least one used timber/reclaimed wood storage facility. In addition, you can find wood yourself all around if you just look. In most cases, people are more than happy to get rid of the wood they have lying around. Their loss is your gain.

Explore the use of wooden pallets to create interesting furniture. Pallets are strong, durable, and easy to paint or stain. They make a great project for beginners as well as the more experienced DIY enthusiast.

You can also work at putting together a bespoke piece of furniture from reclaimed barn wood or timber that’s been weathered. These are often used as accent pieces or focus points in rooms.

A distinct advantage of using reclaimed wood is the character that each piece gives to your home. Each unique curve tells a story, and each knothole serves a purpose in the final design.

Keep in mind that you could also use driftwood, logs, and even larger twigs to create your furniture. Don’t be afraid to combine materials to bring your vision to life. Here are a few ideas for your next project:

  • Wooden Mantel
  • Rocking Chair
  • Coffee Table
  • End Table
  • Mirror Frames

These are just a few of the countless possibilities for reclaimed wood. Your imagination really is the only limit. Pinterest often has superb ideas for every level of complexity. Remember that finding the wood can be half the fun. We encourage you to go out and explore your area to see what you can find.


Bamboo provides a quick and easily accessible material for furniture that has a rustic feel to it. So whether you’re creating a comfortable chair, couch, or a frame for paintings, it’s simple to work with bamboo.

Bamboo typically costs a lot less than timber, so you can get a lot done for less. Check out your local farmer’s market or plantation – you can usually put in a request for specific lengths if you’ve got a design you’re working to.

Food and Beverage Upcycling

Before you throw out your old plastic containers and leftover packaging, take a look to see what can be reused. Most trips to the supermarket end with 5 to 10 single-use plastic containers being added to your kitchen. If you’re a wine drinker, you probably have hundreds of corks that you have no idea what to do with.

You can learn to use these to your advantage. Upcycling can be a fun alternative to buying premade items.

Is It Safe?

When you’re considering using your old containers, the question of safety always comes up. If you want to use your old containers for non-food items, you’re probably in the clear. However, some materials and containers aren’t safe to use, so be sure to check them before you use them.

Glass is generally the safest to use as it’s easy to clean and sterilize. It also doesn’t keep any scents or food particles due to its smooth surface.

Some plastics are safe to use for food storage, depending on their rating. You can look this up by checking the recycling number (usually located on the bottom of the container). Keep in mind, when a plastic container becomes scratched, warped, or loses its colour, it’s time to use it for something other than food.


Use old wine corks for a mat

Have an abundance of corks lying around and no idea what to do with them? Take your ever-handy glue gun and use it to make mats for either your bathroom or your front door.

Cork is hard-wearing, easy to wash and simple to get hold of. If you don’t have your own collection, local restaurants and bars are probably more than willing to give you theirs.

Glass Jars

You can easily repurpose glass jars into chandeliers with the addition of a little wiring and some bulbs. Use some caution when drilling or cutting into the glass; the liberal use of masking tape will help to prevent cracking and splintering.


We’ll talk more about cans and how you can use them to create storage below. Before we get there, you’ve likely got more than you can use lying around the house.

Sanding your cans and giving them a fresh coat of paint will make them a perfect addition to any dinner table. Use them to hold knives, forks and spoons or small items you use while eating.


Building storage containers using upcycled materials is a quick and easy way to get some great-looking decor into your home. Again, these projects range from the very simple to the more complex, but as we’re only talking storage, there’s nothing too complicated for the avid DIYer.

Possibly the simplest project is upcycling all those cardboard boxes you have lying around. To start, find some boxes that will fit on your shelves – try to choose something relatively sturdy. You’ll inevitably put in more than you should, so it pays to have a strong base.

Boxes can be covered in fabric, paper or simply painted to match the aesthetic of your home. A little decorative rope can create a pleasing accent for your new containers.

Refinish wooden crates for home storage

Old crates from apple orchards or other fruit producers can make a great addition to your kitchen as well. They rarely require anything more complicated than a little sanding and painting. You can also create comfortable seating by flipping apple crates upside down and putting on your own cushion.

Children’s Furniture

There’s nothing quite like seeing the smiles on their faces as you give something you’ve made to a child. It may not be perfect but they know it’s made with love.

Upcycling your existing furniture into something for the kids is also a nice family project. Perhaps take some time out during vacations and see what you can find.


What do you do when your kids have grown out of their crib? A super simple project is to turn it into a learning centre complete with a built-in chalkboard.

If you don’t fancy the idea of a learning center, cribs can also be repurposed into an easel for art or a simple playhouse. Either way, your old crib gets a new life.

Utensils and Dinnerware

These can be quite versatile when it comes to upcycled/recycled items. For example, not only can you use old knives, forks and spoons for some lovely decor, but you can also use upcycled material to make dinnerware and utensils.

If you’re tired of running out of counter space in your kitchen, consider building a tiered serving tray using old baking dishes or tins. This is a relatively simple project but gives a vintage look to your kitchen.

An old pair of denim jeans can work wonders as a new set of napkins for your table. Likewise, a discarded storm shutter can be used as a dining room table once you’ve attached sturdy legs and a sheet of glass. Take inspiration from this 1885 Coastal Cottage.

If you’d like some help finding quality sustainable items to use in your everyday life, check out this buyer’s guide. You’ll find items for every budget and you may get some great ideas.

The Future Is Sustainable

Now that you’ve seen that it’s relatively simple to embrace sustainable home decor by upcycling items, it’s time to go out and start making a difference. After that, you can have a great deal of fun redecorating your home and clearing out things you no longer need.

Part of getting your green home going is effectively recycling everything you can. So give us a visit to recycle your empty beverage containers – bring the kids, have some coffee and make a little extra pocket money in the process.

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