How to Upcycle (Almost) Anything!

Jun 2, 2023 | 0 comments

As an artist and a mom, I am always trying to come up with new ideas for how to upcycle just about everything. I was raised to believe that “new” doesn’t always mean “better” and that all we need is equal parts effort and creativity to have nice things in our lives. So, whenever I start wondering if it’s time to buy a new skirt or redecorate the living room, I usually just find myself reaching for DIY Paint! 

How to Upcycle (Almost) Anything With DIY Paint

image of a hand painted buffet with The Turquoise Iris logo across the very top of the image and the words "how to upcycle almost anything" directly below.

There are so many things I look for in a paint because of my role as a mom/artist with a home studio. I need something versatile, affordable, and free of harsh chemicals so it’s safe to use around my boys. DIY Paint is all of those things! Made of just a handful of ingredients and ZERO harsh chemicals, this clay-based paint is packed with pigment which makes it perfect for beginners who want a forgiving, economical paint. Plus, you never have to worry about it drying out and going to waste because it can always be reactivated with a little bit of water! I’ve used it to paint just about everything, so I thought I’d share all the ways I’ve learned how to upcycle (almost) anything with a some paint and some creativity.

Upcycling Furniture & Art

Painted Wood Furniture

blog image for "how to upcycle almost anything" featuring a buffet painted with a black background and pink flowers with greenery across the front. the turquoise iris logo is featured at the top of the image and the words "furniture makeover" are directly beneath the logo.

When I learned how to upcycle furniture, I realized that I had somehow unlocked the “artist” part of my brain forever. I’d never seen myself as an artist, so getting my start with an unconventional canvas relieved a lot of the pressure I felt to make my pieces perfect. There is nothing more rewarding than taking an old piece of furniture that may have been destined for the dumpster and turning it into a functional work of art! While a furniture makeover might seem like a big task, I think it’s perfect for a beginner who is ready to begin their upcycling and DIY journey! 

Enhanced Hardware

If you’re not ready to commit to an entire furniture makeover, what about starting with a few key highlights? You could paint the legs of an upholstered piece of furniture to give it a totally fresh look. Or, you could use some copper liquid patina (I use Pennies from Heaven) or a verdigris wax on hardware, like hinges and handles, to add some depth and drama to just about anything from your kitchen cabinets to your bedside table.

Upcycled Frames

Looking to take your art from “that’s nice” to “where did you get that!?” Paint the frame! I’m personally obsessed with Golden Ticket liquid patina from DIY Paint. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a piece of art or furniture in my home that hasn’t had a little bit of sparkle added to it somewhere. DIY Paint has amazing coverage so a little goes a long way. You can cover TONS of DIY or budget frames with just one small jar. Experiment with different colors and finishes to really make your paintings pop!

Embellished Art 

Add a little something “extra” to your art for added dimension. Literally! I love including 3D elements, like silk flowers or vintage brooches, to old canvas art for a totally unique and eye-catching statement piece. If you don’t have those available try a thickening agent (like an acrylic medium or Paint Frosting for DIY Paint), which will make your paint thicker and add texture to your art. 

Another great idea is adding hand-painted details to your art prints! Whether you’re creating more highlights or making a flower really pop, this is an easy way to add unique character to a simple print. You can try this with second-hand art for your own home or embellish and elevate your own art prints to sell!

Ways to Upcycle Clothing & Accessories

No one ever believes me, but I never get paint on my clothes when I’m painting… Unless it’s on purpose! I’ve been experimenting more and more with how I can try to upcycle clothing without breaking out a sewing machine. It’s amazing to me that there are people in this world who can use a needle and thread to completely alter their clothes… Because I am not one of them. These upcycled clothing ideas only require your hands, some paint (a few brushes if you’re fancy!), and maybe some old scraps in order to create wearable art. 

Painted Clothing

When I think of fashion, I always think of one of my role models: Iris Apfel. Iris is a businesswoman and interior designer who became a fashion icon for cultivating a sense of style completely unique to herself. Is there anything more stylish than wearing exactly what you love? Very few of us have “designer wardrobe” in our budgets, which is why I love the idea of upcycling clothing for one-of-a-kind outfits that no one else can recreate.

My favorite clothing items to paint are wedding dresses! I love imagining the bride who is bold enough to wear a completely unique, hand-painted design on her special day. It’s hard not to picture her bright, beautiful wedding filled with color and flowers and big smiles all around. 

However… My favorite painted clothes to wear are my tulle skirts! I’ve worn them everywhere and every which way, dressed up with heels or dressed down with a tee shirt and sneakers, and they never fail to make my whole day better. Want to get your hands on a gown? Check out my merchandise to see what’s available!

Is there anything I wouldn’t paint? So far, no! I’ve painted formal dresses (remember that )dress your friend swore you would totally wear again?, a denim jacket for the Junk-O-Rama Prom, and even my shoes

Upcycled Accessories

My most popular painted accessories to date have been my hand-painted hats! Living in Oklahoma — where the weather can go from hot and humid 80 degrees to a literal tornado — hats are a MUST for me and my bad hair days. I was inspired to hand-paint my hat when DIY Paint came out with their making powders. They are such vivid, vibrant pigments that I really wanted to see how they would interact with some paint and water on some felt hats… and my hand-painted hat line was born!!! These are NOT your average hats; filled with color and personality, they’re the kind of accessory that looks just as stylish with a ball gown as they do at a ball game. 

Recently, I upcycled some wooden bangle bracelets using some scraps of painted drop cloth! These sold out almost as soon as I announced them so I’m really excited to make some more and experiment with other ways to upcycle old jewelry.

What other accessories do you have in your life that could benefit from a little bit of paint? Imagine taking a simple, second-hand purse and covering the old leather with vibrant foliage and flowers! Maybe you could take an old baseball cap and give it new life? A wallet? The case for your sunglasses? The clutch that’s been stuffed in the back of your closet since senior prom? The possibilities are endless!!!

Other Upcycling Ideas

DIY Accent Walls

I bet you didn’t think I was going to suggest upcycling a whole WALL, did you? That’s the thing about artists: around us, everything becomes a potential canvas! When our family first moved into our home, I knew that I wanted to paint a big staging wall that I could use for my furniture and art. I already had an idea of the kind of old-world finish I wanted, so I grabbed my DIY Paint and a few other tools and created an incredible accent wall! Even if you don’t want to use every color of the rainbow like me, my DIY Staging Wall Makeover will teach you how to “upcycle” a boring wall in order to create an accent wall for displaying all your projects!

Painted Heirloom Journals

I started painting the covers of art journals because I wanted to encourage a daily art practice for my coaching clients. I know how hard it is to make time for practice every day, especially if you don’t fully buy into the belief that you’re a “real” artist! But a painted heirloom journal just screams, “Fill my pages with your beautiful art!”

Upcycled Canvas Art

I have turned old canvases into tablecloths, gift bows, and more! You can read all about these fun holiday projects on my blog. 

How to Upcycle (Almost) Anything

Most of us can’t (and don’t want to) spend tons of money to buy new things every time we feel like redecorating or updating our personal style, but we do still deserve to have a home that reflects who we are and what we love! That’s where upcycling comes in. The key to upcycling is putting your heart into the project so you get something that is an extension of you, not whatever some big company has declared the latest trend. Upcycling, with a little effort and creativity, allows us to find the beauty in what’s already around us in order to transform it into something even better. 

Don’t you wish we had a little more of that in the world?

Get your DIY Paint and start upcycling today!

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