Archives for category: Upcycling in the home

I went along to one of the RCA Sustain talks yesterday ‘Designing out waste’ and left feeling truly inspired!

RCA graduate Alkesh Parmar kicked the evening off with a great presentation of his award winning MA project ‘Apeel’ which turned inedible food waste into a new material!

‘Apeel’ is based on the wonderful design concept of ‘cradle to cradle’ – that there is no waste produced (whereas traditional product design is referred to as ‘cradle to grave’ – it is accepted that there is an end to a products life).

Alkesh collected orange peel from friends, family and also industry, he dried the orange peel, then blended it up and added a natural binder to form a workable material. The tools that he used were reused items that he modified according to his needs.

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When I see discarded umbrellas in bins or left on the street, I always think what can I do with them?! and should I rescue them from abandonment?! I have had to resist the urge to collect them all up (I am a self-confessed hoarder) and store them until I can do something useful with them.

broken umbrella by cormac70

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When browsing the internet I discovered Phoenix-based Upcycle Living, who design and build prefabricated living and work spaces. They take used shipping containers and transform them into high quality, affordable, green buildings.

The containers can be designed for residential, commercial/ industrial and emergency relief use.

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My friend  Sam sent me a link to this cool American artist Boris Bally who upcycles street signs into furniture.

Here is one awesome example (though not sure how comfortable it would be):

They are really colourful and no two would be exactly the same!

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Everyday I throw away (or recycle) a pile of stuff which has reached the end of its useful life.  Or so I think.  There are so many things which can be given a new lease on life.  Here are just a few links from around the www with some ideas:

Siobhan from Hello Flower has a tutorial on how to make a crochet cover for a food can which can then be used for storing pens, chopsticks, knitting needles or whatever else takes your fancy.   I imagine if your skill lies in knitting rather than crocheting you could knit something up.

Source: Siobhan | Hello Flower

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This Vintage Fair is going to be held at the Southbank Centre, London 29-31 July 2011 and looks like it will be awesome!

There will be an Upcycled Market which will have stalls selling items made from vintage and reclaimed materials.

Hope to see you there!

We went to Clerkenwell Design Week 2011 and discovered DesignMarketo, a platform showcasing up-and-coming designers’ small and limited productions. One of these designers’ on display was items from User Development Organisation, an open and multidisciplinary collective, interested in sociology, from supermarket tourism to Google image search and public behaviour. Its production ranges from publications, prints and illustrations to videos, products and public interventions.

One of their very special projects is simple: to upcycle old, unwanted, mismatched decorated cutlery and drinking glasses by coating the handle with a thin rubber layer, so that the decoration shows through. By doing this, and by using the same rubber colour, the pieces match, creating a new set.

Upcycled cutlery

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My good friend and fellow upcycyle collective and irippleidance blogger Michelle has sent me some ideas for upcycling corks as she knows I have quite a lot of them and am in the process of upcycling them into cork placemats.

Here goes…

No. 1 – Upcycled cork bathmat

This looks really cool and is mega practical. However, I would have reservations about using this as a bathmat as would worry it would go mouldy, even if using a sealant. Instead I would use it as a doormat – it would look so welcoming and would be a great talking point! …possibly leading to questions about my drinking habits.

Looking down on this mat would make me smile lots:)

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My colleague Steph sent me a link to this really interesting article in the Ecologist about “Upcycling: 2011’s greenest decorating trend” which showcases some UK furniture boutiques that are doing excellent stuff! This just further spreads the word about upcycling!

The article highlights Cafe Direct (the UK’s largest 100% fairtrade hot drinks company) alongside UK designer Wayne Hemmingway last summer created a pop-up eco-home which toured UK festivals and events. The container house was created using entirely sustainable materials.

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When moving house last year, I thought it would be a great opportunity to wash bed pillows and duvet in the nearby laundrette. Such an error, the pillows went totally lumpy. No matter how much stretching and shaking, the lumps just did not break up!

Then a thought came to me to combine them and turn them into a floor cushion, as we needed extra seating space in the house.


I did a search on the internet to try to find some patterns and tutorials for making a floor cushion and came across these gorgeous children’s floor cushions from Living with Punks. I chose a fabric to match the sofa throw and adjusted the measurements so that the cushions would be deeper to sit on.

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