To Upcycle or Not to Upcycle

The hot new buzzword in antiques and vintage is “upcycling.” What does it mean, exactly?

An “upcycled” object is something old that has been re-purposed into something new and functional. An upcycled object can be as simple as an old jar turned into an oil lamp, or it can be as complex as an antique sideboard turned into a dual vanity for the bathroom.

In our recent newsletter, we introduced you to a line of upcycled vintage light fixtures we’re now carrying. They’re made by Nashville artist Robbie Cook, who takes smaller vintage objects like silverplate spoons, electrical insulators, and old door plates and turns them into charming chandeliers. Here’s one example:

This “spoondelier” re-purposes 360 vintage silverplate spoons into a unique chandelier. Those spoons might otherwise have wound up in a landfill. The spoondelier may not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy their antiques with a touch of whimsy, this is a great piece. Not to mention it’s a one-of-a-kind work of art, since each one is handmade and no two are alike.

Here’s another example of Cook’s work:

Blue insulators take on new life in this fun and beautiful chandelier!

And here’s one more example of Cook’s work. This piece represents elaborate upcycling at its finest:

This delightful chandelier is a perfectly amusing piece for any cottage decor or for anyone who takes her tea with a lump of humor.

OK, upcycling small objects is one thing, but would you ever consider cutting holes in an antique server? Some designers would!

Above, interior designer Julie Murray found an antique sideboard to create a two-sink vanity for her bathroom.

And another example. This old dresser not only got its top ripped off, but it got a paint job, as well!

This upcycler did note that this particular dresser was “of no good quality.” Perhaps to ease her conscience?

I take a positive stance on upcycling. If a piece of antique furniture can’t be saved any other way, why not paint it and put a sink in it? And certainly re-purposing old insulators and silverplate spoons into fun light fixtures can’t be a bad thing. But would I ever deliberately cut holes in a fine antique French wardrobe to run cords and cables through the back? Yes, I have done it. But I saved the small hole I cut so that it could be glued back in the future. Living with antiques, I believe, means you should cherish and care for your vintage and antique pieces, but also make them useful and functional for your life today.

What’s your take on upcycling? Where are your boundaries, in terms of re-purposing antique and vintage furniture and objects?

 Aimee owns with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina.  Connect with or sign up to receive this blog in your inbox!

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1 thought on “To Upcycle or Not to Upcycle”

  1. I am writing to let you know that I just shared your amazing blog on my Facebook page. I am in love with the upcycled sideboard into double vanity. BEAUTIFUL! 🙂


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