Lighten your impact on the Earth, boost your wellbeing and revamp your home all at once
Redecorating your home can be costly, not least for your wallet, but for the environment, too. In fact, it’s estimated that every year in the UK we throw out around 1.6 million tonnes of furniture and bulky waste, most of which is then buried in landfill or burnt in an incinerator, according to the RSA Great Recovery: Rearranging the Furniture report. But perhaps the old saying – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – provides a solution to this growing waste problem. Why throw something away, when you could just revamp it? Enter upcycling – the practise of transforming an item with new materials for better environmental value. Unlike recycling, upcycling does not break down the materials, but refashions them to make a new product. Plus, you’ll be surprised by the wellbeing benefits that come as a bonus. Here are six ways to try it for yourself.
If you have excess wallpaper left over from a recent decorating project, refrain from chucking it out, as there is an abundance of crafty projects that you can undertake to spruce up your home decor. “One of the easiest ways to upcycle with wallpaper is by creating your own framed artwork,” advises Calum Henderson from I Love Wallpaper (ilovewallpaper.co.uk). “If you have empty photo frames lying around, why not create a chic piece of wall decor with the remaining pieces. You could also transform a boring set of shelves with leftover wallpaper too. Simply attach strips of wallpaper to the backs of the shelves to give this furniture a fun makeover. This project works really well with bold, cartoon-style wallpaper and bright, block colours.” Plus, research suggests that colours can trigger neurological responses in the brain, releasing dopamine, the feelgood hormone, which can improve mood and heighten your attention span.
Furnish your home with reclaimed wooden furniture. This refers to wood that comes from any source besides that of a newly felled tree. For example, a discarded pallet could be transformed into a table or bookcase. And don’t worry if you’re not confident enough to go into DIY mode yourself, as many places sell reclaimed wooden furnishings. Not only will this stop the timber going to waste but according to studies carried out in Norway, Japan, Canada and Austria, wood seems to have a positive effect on our emotional states. Research shows that environments with wooden structures can cause a drop in blood pressure and pulse and have a calming effect. Talk about two birds, one stone.
Colour scheme no longer matching? No worries. “One of the most popular ways to transform a piece of much-loved furniture, is to give it a fresh lick of paint,” says Jane Crick, owner and designer of Blue Jigsaw (bluejigsaw.com) and Portobello Interiors (portobellointeriors.co.uk). “It’s easy to do yourself, and can completely transform the look and style.” But, make sure you opt for the toxin-free kind. The World Health Organisation says that professional decorators are 40 percent more likely to contract lung cancer as conventional paints can contain formaldehyde, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (chemicals that easily become vapours or gases). Look out for plant-based, water-borne paints and avoid those using titanium dioxide. Notable brands include Aglaia (aglaiapaint.co.uk), Biofa (biofa.co.uk) and Ecos (ecosorganicpaints.co.uk) for a more natural option.
“If you’re bored of your interiors and fancy a change of style, you can give a room an instant update by re-upholstering some furniture,” advises Jane. “It’s the perfect way to revive a much loved piece without compromising on the comfort and style of the original design. You can re-upholster pretty much any soft furnishings – cushions, foot stools or headboards – the list is endless!” You’re essentially keeping the bones of the furniture, but updating the appearance with fresh fabric. There are plenty of DIY guides online that take you through the entire process of re-upholstering and always remember to photograph the chair before starting as this acts as a handy reference when you’re redecorating it. “Remember that, if you have any intentions of selling your re-upholstered piece, you have to ensure that it complies with fire regulations set down by the British standard,” adds Jane. Repetitive creative tasks like the aforementioned create a result and when you succeed at finishing something, no matter what it is, your brain is flooded once again with the chemical dopamine, which helps energise and motivate.
It’s time to get smart with your belongings; some can be more useful than you think. “Don’t throw your old curtain rods to the curb as there are a lot of practical ways to repurpose unnecessary window treatments for almost every room in your home,” explains Demi Stanley, who is part of the handyman crew at Fantastic Services in Manchester (fantasticservices.com). “These clever DIY solutions start in the kitchen – hang a pot rack to a kitchen backsplash from an old rod and brackets. Then add hooks to store your kitchenware away from the countertop. Alternatively, you could get creative in the garden by cutting the wood rod into several pieces and attaching hooks to hold the weight of small watering cans or buckets. Finally, you could re-use the rods in your bedroom by creating a storage solution for your hats, scarves, bags, or clothes in a simillar way.” By tidying away old items with these clever hacks, you’re working to the principles of feng shui which is the flow and movement of energy within a space. Living in a cluttered environment can prevent this energy from flowing freely, stop clarity of thought, and weigh you down emotionally. By re-using items as storage, you’re creating a happy and healthy living area!
We love a house plant here at NH! Not only are they great for your physical and mental wellbeing – with improved mood, better indoor air quality and reduced blood pressure among their credentials – but they can be planted in pretty much anything that isn’t a pot. Cans, old crockery, mason jars, wine crates and even corks can all experience a new lease of life by housing succulents and flowers alike. Not only will you save an old item from being thrown out, but you’ll also prevent the need to purchase new pots, all while giving your home a unique touch, too.
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