Upcycling - Two Easy Budget Projects

I am not the most creative of people.  In fact, I would actually have said (and my sister Annabel, who is a super creative fashion stylist, will back me up on this) that I have spent most of my life being particularly uncreative.  My creativity has been limited to making a gin and tonic look good which let's face it, isn't that difficult.  However, over the last ten years, I've developed a passion for upcycling and producing things that look fab on a budget.  Well, I think so anyway.  Realistically, to plan any sort of business around my upcycling projects would be economic suicide.  As previously stated in my blog, I am a poor craftsman and err towards speed rather than perfection.  But if your aim is to update and improve on a budget, feel a bit arty and environmentally smug, then read on.

So, over the last two weeks I've braved two creative upcycling projects.  

Project Number 1 - Upcycled Sideboard

 Total cost:  £25

 Total time taken:  one and half hours

I've had this sideboard for almost two years.  Purchased from Gumtree for a fiver, I collected it from the previous owner through a haze of Marlboro Lights and it's been sitting in my garage since we moved into this house, defumigating.  I stripped it right back - it had some horrible plastic runners on the edges of the glass and one of the handles had fallen off - and Flash Bleach sprayed it to within an inch of it's life.  In my opinion, Flash Bleach spray is the King of cleaners when it comes to second hand furniture with a dodgy history.

 It really was disgusting.

It really was disgusting.

One of my favourite ever wallpapers is Cole & Son Palm Jungle which I am absolutely desperate to put on a wall.  It's such a happy, vibrant print.  If you want to see it in the flesh, have a look at @nicholnaranjo and @chezdazzle_p Instagram feeds, they've used it to amazing effect and I am always super jell.  However, at £75 a roll, it didn't fall into my upcycling on a budget idea and I simply couldn't justify it on the grotty sideboard.  So I went to B&Q and was amazed at their wallpaper selection - I found a Julian MacDonald for Graham & Brown palm leaf for £18 a roll.  Still not cheap but there's loads left over and I'll be wrapping my Christmas presents in it.  Incidentally, they also had tin tiles, blue moroccan tiles and bamboo photography paper for around the same price.  I bought a sachet of their cheapest wallpaper paste for under £2.

 Wallpapered back and sides

Wallpapered back and sides

This is what I did.

I started by measuring the width and height of each area of the unit and cut it to size, working down the roll of paper block by block.  After I'd done the back, I was spurred on by success so decided to do the sides as well.  The texture of the paper meant that it was easy to apply and squish into shape on the sideboard.   It immediately transformed it and I now want to wallpaper everything that moves.  

 Looking much improved and as fresh as a Flash Bleach spray.

Looking much improved and as fresh as a Flash Bleach spray.

 Project Number 2 - DIY Artwork

 Total time taken:  one hour (not including drying time, I left it overnight)

Total cost:  £18

When we went on our Insta Outing to the Abigail Ahern Design Masterclass a few weeks ago, I was hooked by a huge black and white Keep Calm & Carry On canvas in the hallway.  I'm not sure who the artist was but it was quite a simple idea yet massively effective.  Never one to turn down a challenge, I decided to give it a go and see if I could produce something similar.  NB:  At this point can I say that Buddy, my dog, is more of an artist than I am.  It was purely an experiment to see what it would look like.  My artistic endeavours to date are limited to signing my own name so I knew I wouldn't be in line for the Turner Prize.  My main objective was to make something that would take up as much space as possible on my hall stairs to cover up the grubby hand prints and not cost me much money.

 Apologies to John Barker, the artist.  It's not that bad really.

Apologies to John Barker, the artist.  It's not that bad really.

This is what I did.

I bought a huge canvas from B&Q in the sale reduced from £40 to £7.  It was a terrible picture so I had no qualms at using the black spray paint I also purchased from B&Q to cover it for good.  I did this in the garden as years ago, I attempted something similar and sprayed in the conservatory with terrible consequences for the internal decor.  I did two coats.  I bought gloss spray but they had a couple of different ones.  Since it was a very budget project, I didn't splash out on the expensive sprays of which there were loads (different colours too, including neon) -  mine were around £4.50 a can.  Then I left it overnight to dry.  This was hard because I am massively impatient and always want to do everything immediately, usually to the detriment of whatever I'm working on. The amount of times I've thought, sod it, and jumped in early only to bollocks it up are many.

 B&Q own value brand spray paint.

B&Q own value brand spray paint.

 Ready to go.  Excuse the dog wee grass stains.

Ready to go.  Excuse the dog wee grass stains.

The next day I took pieces of card and cut out letters roughly by hand as that's the look that I wanted.  You know, that done by a five year old look.  Again, when I've done similar previously I've used proper stencils which look a lot smarter.  I used masking tape to put the templates into position and then sprayed white spray paint on the canvas.  It wasn't exact - some letters ran a bit and there were some shaded outlines but I quite liked that.  Then I left it to dry, peeled them off and voila.

 Template stuck with masking tape.

Template stuck with masking tape.

 I really am very busy.

I really am very busy.

I have to say that I am pretty happy with both of these projects.  The sideboard is quite frankly transformed and is a perfect magazine storage unit.  Even the kids managed to tear themselves away from Snapchat and FaceTime for more than five minutes to comment on the improvement.  I love the artwork.  It possibly isn't everyone's cup of tea - but isn't that the point about art?  And I am ALWAYS very busy, obvs.  

Also, most importantly, I absolutely had a ball doing these.  It wasn't a chore, I really enjoyed it and I felt totally self satisfied at the end of it.  Transforming something from shit to super is absolutely worthwhile and it's a great feeling giving a new lease of life to something that has lost it's oomph.