I don’t know about you but I’m a bit over the word “upcycling” in interior design. It probably began with good intentions but it’s gotten bumped and bruised along the way with some really heinous examples in the DIY department. Surely there is a better way to indicate the greater good, in the process.
Let’s consider the true definition:
“Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.”
We all can agree anything providing for a better environmental value is a wonderful thing. I wish more folks who “upcycled” did it for that valiant reason.
Apartment Therapy posted a great article, (click here to read), on why you may want to rethink the whole “wood pallet furniture is a cool thing”. E Coli and Listeria? No thanks! (Moms – Have you ever NOT found something your kids will put in their mouths?) Why use no VOC paints on your walls and then bring in something which off-gases Formaldehyde? (Insert head scratch for allergy sufferers.) I’m not just having a “pick on pallets” day. Mold gets into old upholstery and pieces stored in a barn, well, we know they have had many “visitors”.
(What the DC said! I can’t wait to catch the premier of Downton Abbey. I need my inner countess fix.)
On the other hand, if what you’re considering really brings new life to furnishings or collections - which have a good pedigree and are not fit for the burn pile – then by all means consider it!
(A dressing table is a wonderfully functional piece to place between twin beds or to anchor a corner in a bedroom. I couldn’t pass this one up so it’s waiting for a new finish and a new home. Clients, message me if you’re interested! First dibs before I make the final selection.)
(In some instances, a patina is already intact and it requires no tweaking. Just a sealer and then adding a custom embellishment like this hand-painted monogram to the fabric.)
When I’m sourcing for one-of-a-kind, legacy pieces, they have to undergo a strict inspection for many different criteria. Once they’ve passed muster, the next decision will be how they’ll be finished. In the instance of casegoods, it will be determined if a stained finish or a painted finish is to be applied and by which skilled finisher. Slapping on paint, with runs, splatters or streaks from a bad brushing technique, does not a fine furniture piece make. And why on earth go through the process for something that will “make do”? It will eventually end up in the landfill as a disposable object and then the whole pretense of “upcycling” will be revealed.
If the intent is to get out cheap, then that’s usually what you’ll have as your end result. I don’t choose existing pieces with the idea of designing on a dime, even though in today’s market, some of the earlier renditions would be more costly to recreate.
For example. I just priced out redoing some wing chairs for a client who had been gifted them from a stately home. They are needing to be reupholstered and the inner workings will need some assistance but overall, they are fabulous! We’ll be using a Thibaut fabric and the total of each finished chair will be in the neighborhood of $1,400 per chairs. No, not $200 each, but if I had to source the same chair through the original maker and COM the same fabric, we would probably be at $1,800 to $2,400 each, easily. And then there would be shipping and handling, etc. to add to that. The chairs are going to be placed in a room she uses daily, so function and beauty, without a doubt, are going to have meet our criteria.
Back to the word I so long to change. There has to be a shorter way to describe all of this. I guess repurposing is a bit better; although, I long for something different. Something with panache!
I wonder . . . . what would the Dowager Countess say?
All my best! ~ Wanda
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