Designing Natural: Upcycling Is Up

Designing Natural: Upcycling Is Up

Natural Interiors® Designers’ Forum spotlights new look for old furniture from Sterling Interiors

By now, everyone has seen artwork and other creations made from trash, or worn out objects that were about to become trash. But when was the last time you saw one and seriously considered it useful?

Can’t remember? Then it’s time to take a closer look at a growing interior design trend called “upcycling.” It’s not quite the same thing as “restoring,” or “refinishing” as upcycling usually gives a worn out piece of furniture a different look than it had before, along with a whole new, useful life.

While this helps the planet by reducing waste, concern for the planet is not the top force driving demand for upcycled products.

Vintage Nesting Tables by Sterling Interiors

“I started upcycling because I was seeing that more and more of my clients had a need for it,” says Sidney Sterling, owner of Sterling Interiors in Dayton, OH. “When a client is looking for a change but is on a tight budget, it is always best to try to use their existing furniture. A lot of the time, clients have beautiful pieces hidden behind the normal wear and tear they may be showing.”

Budget is often the driving motivation. But an increasing number of clients are voicing concern for reducing landfill mass, in addition to improving indoor-air quality in their homes, Sterling says. Sterling’s upcycles are likely to involve decorative painting of the old piece of furniture, and she says she uses Annie Sloan Chalk paint, not only because it is low-VOC (volatile organic compound), but because of its visual performance.

This paint is similar to limewash, and can also be used to replicate the look of old painted furniture. On a piece that is upholstered, a simple change of fabric also can be dramatic, Sterling says.

Just as today’s choices include many natural fiber rugs and carpets that emit few or no chemicals, there also are numerous natural fiber upholstery fabrics to choose from, she says.

Vintage Vanity by Sterling Interiors

For clients who want, but don’t have old pieces to work with, Sterling looks for great deals at antique and consignment shops, many of which have become more visible in the downed economy.

“The furniture that usually catches my eye and that I see the most potential in are pieces that have small details, carvings, dings and curves,” she says. “The classic styles are the most fun to work with. French Neoclassic with the fluted legs and rosette details, and Queen Anne with the cabriole legs, and so much more.”©


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