At the same time, the monotone nature of a master-planned community can lack character, leaving homeowners looking for ways to infuse their spaces with personality. One great way to do this is through creative upcycling.
What is upcycling?
Upcycling is essentially turning someone else’s trash into your treasure. It means using found items – often from the demolition of another home – to complete partial remodels or to build additional structures that are anything but ordinary. Popular upcycling projects include sheds, greenhouses, and tree forts for the kids, but the sky is virtually the limit: in my house, the entire design is influenced by the fact that all the windows were found in demolitions of turn-of-the-century homes, so no window is standard, and no two windows are the same size or shape.
The upcycling concept is often applied to furniture as well as building projects: a garden table can be made from an old window; a desk can be made from discarded cabinets and a door. Again, the possibilities are as endless as your creativity.
Gathering the raw materials
If you want to start building unique items to add personality to your home, the first step is to begin to curate a collection of junk. (As you build this collection, storage can be an issue, so be sure to think ahead.)
Perhaps the best source for raw materials is the demolition of all or part of another home. Currently, the fix-and-flip business model is hot, so there are plenty of demos going on – if you know where to look. Start by networking with local real estate investors, contractors, real estate agents, and others. Just let them know that you’re interested in picking up bits and pieces from their junk piles, and many of them will be glad to have you stop by the site. After all, the more you take, the less they have to throw away.
The Internet is also a good source of raw materials. Websites like Craigslist generally have a “free” section, as does your local newspaper’s online classified section. Just remember that, while these ads can be a good source of building materials, the best stuff tends to be snapped up early. The best way to go about it is to set some time aside each day to “watch” these ads – and then call on anything you find interesting right away. You need to get in line fast if you’re going to get something good for nothing.
Your local landfill may also be a good source, depending on the limits of your creativity and your willingness to put in some effort to treasurize trash. Many landfills have a designated space for building materials and other debris that is not household garbage, and these piles can sometimes provide the most interesting raw materials.
When it comes to figuring out what to do with the items you’ve curated, you’ll be amazed at how many ideas you can find online. Let’s say for example that you’ve picked up a cool old door from the demolition of a hundred-year-old bar. Just type “old door upcycling ideas” into your search engine of choice, and you’ll find pages of links to ideas, many of which include complete project instructions.
If you’d rather start with the idea and then go look for the materials, the same process works. Let’s say you want to add a shed, but rather than spending a few thousand dollars on a cookie-cutter installed shed, you want to do something unique with free materials. Just search for “sheds from upcycled materials,” and again you’ll find yourself with a panoply of choices, designs, instructions, and inspirations.
Before you start building
It is important to remember that many master-planned communities have strict rules about what you can and cannot build on your property (designed to preserve that value-supporting continuity of environment), so before you start be sure to find out whether those restrictions will impede your plans.
Regardless, no neighborhood restricts what you can do inside your home, and building your own furniture can be as effective a way to add character to your property as building a shed or greenhouse.