WORDS: ANNE SCHAUFFER | IMAGES: SUPPLIED & SHUTTERSTOCK

Recycling encompasses a range of concepts, from buying second-hand, repurposing furniture, to giving existing favourites a new lease on life. As Beverley Burne of Fat Flower Upholstery says, “Recycling gives a home a unique quality. There isn’t another person on the planet who will find an old piece and recycle it the same way you do. It’s the total opposite of waltzing into a chain store and picking up four chairs out of 100 identical rowed up in the showroom.” She adds, “Recycling is not only an amazingly rewarding, often emotional journey, but it’s also brilliant for nature and Planet Earth.”

Emotional

Recycling can be an emotional trip, as artist and owner of retail outlet Anthology, Terry Angelos, explains, “My favourite item is my grandmother’s wingback chair… it was faded and outdated, so I recovered it, but patchwork-style with mismatched fabrics. I was able to use some of her original fabric that was still good, and added other sentimental fabric pieces. It’s not only preserved some sentimental fabrics, but it’s a real statement piece now.”

Burne says she’s often asked to rework a piece which has sentimental value. “My clients are often given pieces by parents or grandparents due to downsizing, so we take care to keep the original shape and energy of the piece, while simultaneously transforming it into a bespoke item that fits into a usually more modern environment.

Can recycled look chic?

“Absolutely,” says Burne, “In my opinion, brand-new, contemporary furniture and art – or one composed of 100% recycled decor items, art and furniture – doesn’t have the correct energy. It’s all about the art of blending and combining old and new. It’s critical to include in a room – like a bold statement wall and fresh contemporary frames wrapped around old ‘found’ paintings. Using a bold print on a Biedermeier sofa creates a magical energy in one’s home. By the same token, taking gran’s collection of velvet and transforming it into a pair of soft ottomans for the playroom works wonders too.”

Second-hand shops

Angelos grins, “My husband jokes that when I take things to donate to charity shops I probably bought it there in the first place!” For her, “Recycled and found objects are very much part of my art work, such as the art plates I do with illustration and collage on vintage plates. I think we are drawn to things that have a sense of story and history.” As always, paint is a cost-effective way to update second-hand furniture. “Do something unexpected like painting an old chair bright yellow. If you paint unmatched items the same colour, they start to look like they belong together,” says Angelos.

Recycling fabrics

Putting together unrelated fabrics on a chair or couch can look sensational – like an artwork. “We transform old fabrics into teddy bears, fabric off cuts into rope to weave lampshades, sentimental clothing and fabric into quilts and throws. Each piece is unique. Who wants their home to look like everybody else’s?” shrugs Burne.

Money-savers?

Burne says, “Unless you are committed to using Christian La Croix fabric to recover your found object, recycling always ends up being economically worthwhile. Having said that, many of my regular clients use the money they have saved buying good secondhand pieces, and spend more on the fabric. The results are gorgeous!” Angelos suggests, “If you don’t feel creative but want to decorate with recycled items, there are so many talented artists, craftsmen and empowerment groups making incredible things. Support them and buy something with heart and soul, and that will make a difference.”