77 Times People Breathed New Life Into Old Items By Upcycling Them

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! And when it comes to unique furniture pieces, clothing items that don’t fit quite right and literal trash that would otherwise be in the recycling bin, some creative individuals out there are great at seeing the potential these items hold.

If you’re not already familiar, allow us to introduce you to the Upcycling subreddit. Below, you'll find some of our favorite photos from the group featuring incredible transformations that items have undergone, thanks to the innovative minds of the world’s best recyclers, as well as a conversations with Kristen Hubert of Upcycle My Stuff and Judy Rom of Upcycle That. Enjoy getting some inspiration for what that dusty, old chair in your attic could be turned into, and be sure to upvote the pics that you find most impressive!

#1 I Take Plastic Shipping /Bale Straps From Hardware Store Waste, And Make Sturdy, Functional & Fashionable Baskets! (My Cats Also Love Them At Every Stage)

Image credits: lycorisette

#2 Found An Old Piano With Severe Waterdamage. Would‘Ve Been A Pity To Throw It Away

Image credits: Confident_Order_899

#3 My Continued Exploration Of Quilting Methods Through The Use Old Denim Jeans And Corduroy Pants. Which Colours Your Favourite??

Image credits: noah10293

Although you might feel a strong temptation to throw anything that you don’t use often away, you probably also hear a tiny voice in the back of your head urging you to make a different choice. “This piece of furniture can be salvaged! You can patch up the holes in that sweater! You could use some of that fabric to make pillow cases instead!” If you’ve ever heard that tiny little voice, perhaps you’re already thinking with an upcycling mind. And if not, maybe this article will inspire you start viewing your old items in a completely new light!

The Upcycling subreddit has been around since December 2011, and has amassed an impressive 146k members. With a simple explanation of what exactly upcycling is, “reusing waste or unwanted materials without destroying them in order to create something new,” the group welcomes members to share amazing transformations, ask for ideas of what items can be turned into and bond over the love of all things that have been reused. You can find anything and everything in this subreddit, including products for sale that brilliant upcyclers have created. 

#4 Turned A Thrifted Blanket Into These Ridiculous Sweats

Image credits: dopamiineonline

#5 Broken Umbrellas Into A Parkas

Image credits: hero_to_0

#6 Picked Up A Free Cardigan That Looked Much Better In Photo Than In Person, So I Turned It Back Into Yarn And Crocheted A Cat Bed Out Of It

Image credits: couchpotatolady

To learn more about the art of giving old items a new life, we reached out to upcycling expert Kristen Hubert, creator of Upcycle My Stuff. Kristen’s site shares tips and tutorials for sewing, transforming furniture and decor items, crafts, gifts and more, and lucky for us, she was kind enough to bestow some of her upcycling wisdom upon us here at Bored Panda

First, we asked Kristen how she began her upcycling journey. “I have always been a bit crafty and hated anything going to waste, but I really got into upcycling when I moved into my first apartment and wanted to customize secondhand furniture,” she shared. “I couldn’t afford new furniture in the style I liked but with some paint, fabric and imagination I could stamp my style on unloved cheap furniture other folk didn’t want!”

#7 Made These Two Tone Pants Out Of A Pair Of Pants With A Busted Crotch And The Other Pair From The Thrift Store That Didn’t Quite Fit Right. I’m Very Please And Proud Of The Outcome! $6 For The Whole Project! All Of The Pockets Are Functional Too

Image credits: safety_pin_era

#8 Coffee Bag Jacket By Me

Image credits: noah10293

#9 Not Eating With My Fingers, Luckily I Had A Supply Of Charity Shop Cutlery, I Planned To Experiment With Stainless Steel Before Lockdown

Image credits: ioanese

We were also curious what kinds of transformations Kristen finds particularly captivating and inspiring. “The Upcycle projects that amaze me the most are always the ones where an item gets used for a completely different purpose - like turning a door into a dining room table or a mannequin into a lamp!”

And when it comes to why we should all hop on the trend of recycling old items, Kristen says, “Upcycling is important because there is already so much stuff in the world! We don’t need to be constantly using raw materials to make new items. It would be more sustainable and more efficient for everyone to use the materials that are already out there in the world. It might feel faster to mass produce, but then we have to deal with all the items that go to landfill on the other end. So we are just creating problems for ourselves!”

#10 Pulled Out Of A Trash Heap. It Was One Part Of A Military File Cabinet. Thorough Cleaning, Paint And A Little Shining Up Followed By Wrapping It In Wood From My Scrap Pile. Added Some Legs And Bingo Bango!

Image credits: PigwidgeonWeasley

#11 Upcycled These Old Lamps As Vases For My Plants. I Think They Look Cool, Especially The Middle One

Image credits: xJCruz

#12 If It Works, It Ain’t Stupid. Made From Glued Together Delivery Boxes

Image credits: Psychosispersonified

If you’re interested in starting to upcycle items yourself but just aren’t quite sure where to start, Kristen says her top tip is to just give it a go! “Let go of the excuses about needing the right tools or materials or even skills. Use what you have on hand and get creative. You will be surprised what you can achieve. If you are nervous, start small (for example, a side table or a picture frame) and go from there.”

#13 Upcycled Antique Boiler Door Turned Electric Fireplace/Liquor Cabinet

Image credits: OldStuff1909

#14 Boring White Cups, Not So Boring Anymore After They Met Me

Image credits: Julianatalia

#15 Upcycled 3 Old T-Shirts Into 1 New One

Image credits: Bydanielpearce

“You will never learn how to paint, sew, or cut wood if you never take the first step and try,” Kristen told Bored Panda. “Most of the skills needed for upcycling are harder in your head than in reality! I have plenty of beginner friendly tutorials on my site, and I’d love to see you there!”

To find some of Kristen’s brilliant tutorials or learn more about why upcycling is so wonderful, be sure to visit Upcycle My Stuff right here!

#16 Earrings Who Lost Their Mates Turned Into A Charm Bracelet

Image credits: MartoufCarter

#17 I Made A Carpet From Old Clothes And Bedsheets

Image credits: annabellinchen

#18 I Upcycled A Thrifted Men's Polo Into A Two-Piece Set. I Drafted The Pattern Myself, The Mini Skirt Has A Yoke, Box Pleats, And An Elastic Waistband. I Kept The Collar On The Top And Made It Into A Halter With A Lettuce Hem! Everything Is Sewn With An Overlock & Finished With A Double Needle

Image credits: transformedbytracy

We also reached out to Judy Rom, co-founder and curator of Upcycle That, a website dedicated to sharing genius upcycling inspiration and ideas. Judy was kind enough to share her expertise as well, noting that she first got into upcycling in 2012. “I love that it totally changes your mindset around what 'trash' is. Once you start upcycling, you look at the whole world around you differently,” she told Bored Panda.

Judy also shared about some of her favorite pieces that she’s ever made, including an amazing larger-than-life upcycled tennis racket and shoe that she created for the World Trade Centre Mall in Hong Kong and the BACARDI steamer trunk bar. “Upcycled pieces can actually be really premium and high-end. Some of the coolest pieces are Detroit houses turned into guitars, the Boeing 737 chair, Star Wars sculptures,” she noted.

#19 Upcycled An Old Suit Jacket And Curtains For My Daughter. I Love Everything About It

Image credits: KittenSludge

#20 What Do You Think About This Upcycled/Reworked Patagonia Jacket? It Was Completely Destroyed And Falling Apart So We Did Some Patchwork On It!

Image credits: boroboroclothing

#21 I Upcycled Scraps From Wool Blankets Into A Hoodie

Image credits: kozak3

When it comes to why upcycling is so important, Judy urges people to consider, “Where is this 'away' that we think things go to when we throw them 'away'? Fast fashion and fast furniture (items made to last a season) are clogging up our planet. It's essential for us to shift our mindset around the useful life of items. When you upcycle you look at an item and imagine what it could become. Upcycling is another tool in the green arsenal that encourages us to reuse and repurpose, rather than generate trash.”

#22 Before And After: These Were Being Tossed. Knew They Had Potential

Image credits: dieselpuma

#23 My Daughter Has A New Dress. I Made It From An Old One I Found For 50 Cents In A Yard Sale. Not Perfect, But We Really Liked It!

Image credits: RaqlEa

#24 I Made A 3pc Denim Dress Out Of 8 Pairs Of Jeans

Image credits: ktkn0423

And if you’re looking for tips to help you get started upcycling, Judy conveniently just wrote a book on upcycling that will help you along your journey. “It's called Upcycling Furniture & Home Decor for Dummies,” she shared. “This easy, step-by-step guide shows you how to get creative and put your own unique flair on your designs. You'll gain the knowledge and confidence you need to select items that are worth transforming or restoring and learn specific techniques to give old pieces a new lease on life.”

#25 Used Grandma's Old Wool Coat To Make A New One

Image credits: lucernalnight

#26 I Find Discarded/Broken Wicker Furniture And Weave Over The Broken Areas To Give It New Life

Image credits: weavemealone

#27 Shower Shelf Made From Collected Takeout Chopsticks (We Have A Reusable Set) And Raffia That Came With Valentine’s Day Flowers!

Image credits: ncharles3

“The book is for anyone who wants to: learn the process of upcycling dressers, tables, chairs, and other furniture; enjoy the fun of sourcing items and increasing their value with their creativity; update their decor with gorgeous, upcycled furniture; express themselves and find out how to flip their creations for a profit!” Judy says.

And if you want to start upcycling today, be sure to visit Upcycle That and check out some of their brilliant tips and tricks right here!

#28 A Retro Tea Trolley From Facebook Marketplace Given A Colourful Makeover With Paint And Fabric

Image credits: knittedowl88

#29 IKEA Bags Into Windbreaker

Image credits: bitanica

I don’t know about you, pandas, but I’m suddenly feeling the urge to go dumpster diving and find something with incredible potential that I can repurpose! We hope you’re enjoying these pics of amazing upcycling transformations. Keep upvoting the ones you find most creative and impressive, and let us know in the comments if you have plans to upcycle anything you own soon. Then, if you’re interested in checking out even more pieces who have been given second chances at life, you can find another Bored Panda article featuring amazing upcycling pics right here!  

#30 I Turned An Old Microwave Cart Into A Rolling LEGO Stand For My Daughters For Christmas

Image credits: SweetHeidiJo

#31 Found A Little Table On Fb Marketplace With So Much Potential. As A First Furniture Painting Project I’m Pretty Happy With The Result!

Image credits: chol-xoxo

#32 Scored Some Gold Curtains (With Some Slight Wine Damage) And Turned Them Into The Belle Gown!!

Image credits: stephmiche

#33 My Grandpa's Refrigerator Died. My Grandma Got New Shelves For Her Sewing Threads

Image credits: Hauser747

#34 I Do Custom Wooden Furniture Re-Finishes

Image credits: OhOkThatsDope

#35 Upcycled A Thrifted Suit By Painting On It ! It Took Me About 30 Hours, But I Love The Result

Image credits: Incarnam

#36 Goodwill Find Given New Life And Reupholstered By Me!

Image credits: redsam86

#37 My Sister Upcycled This Stove Top That I Caught Magnet Fishing A Few Months Back

Image credits: gaz_de_la_raz

#38 I Upcycle Bulbs, Vacuum Tubes And Watch Parts To Make Steampunk Inspired Insect Brooches And Sculptures

Image credits: Spankyspanglerdesign

#39 Not Perfect But I Am Pretty Pleased With My First Upcycling Project

Image credits: Keggs123

#40 Before And After Refreshing My Worn Office Chair Using Old Clothes/Textiles That Were Destined For Donation. Also Added Some Nice Roller Blade-Style Wheels For Extra Weeeeeee

Image credits: xiakpr

#41 A Bit Of A Silly One But I Love Them. 1960s Folding Stools That Have Been Reupholstered And Painted With Dixie Belle Chalk Paint With A Cheeky Fried Egg Theme

Image credits: knittedowl88

#42 Found In A Charity Shop (Ended Up Paying £30) - Sanded, Painted And New Handles To Put In Our Kitchen. I've Always Wanted A Dresser But Couldn't Afford It - Hope Someone Likes The Results!

Image credits: emmoney27

#43 IKEA Backpack

Image credits: bitanica

#44 Swater Not Won Since 1996 And A Zipper From An Old Bag = Wool Overall For My Kid

Image credits: InsanitySuitsMe

#45 Used Denim Scraps From Shortening Jeans To Make A Dog Toy

Image credits: BodyLotionInTheOcean

#46 Old Handmade Writing Desk Turned Into A Changing Table For The New Nursery

Image credits: stooshie45

#47 Face-Lift For Two Rugs

Image credits: masters_of_disasters

#48 I Upcycled A Thrifted Blouse & Lace Scraps Into A Silk Lace Cami. I Drafted The Pattern Myself. The Cami Has Adjustable Straps & Lace Applique. I Hand Dyed The Lace With Botanical Dyes (Coffee And Charcoal). I Love The Final Product

Image credits: transformedbytracy

#49 I Make Pots For Plants From Old Paper And Cardboard

Image credits: yokoszwengier

#50 Hello! I Turned Bifold Doors Being Given Away On My Local Free Site Into Holiday Decor For My Front Porch (Hand Painted)

Image credits: swanli4

#51 I Turned An Old Dresser Into A Microwave Stand!

Image credits: shasha_neequa

#52 First Time Restoration

Image credits: D1994H

#53 Ready To Be Made Into A Bag :)

Image credits: Educational_Target56

#54 First Upcycling Project And First Reddit Post! Really Pleased With How The Furniture Has Turned Out

Image credits: NSpicer698

#55 Turned A Broken Lamp (Base) And A Non-Functional Telescope (Lenses) Into This Nice Addition To Our Living Room

Image credits: OtterState

#56 My Mom Was Throwing Out These Curtains So I Made A Dress Out Of Them

Image credits: RezraRoze

#57 Thought You Might Like Upcycling NY College Cd Rack Into A Adultish Plant Hanger

Image credits: KaliBadBad

#58 The Drink Tray I Got From A Cafe Is A Reused Milk Carton

Image credits: myfacelookslikeafoot

#59 Handpainted Them. Love How These Turned Out!

Image credits: Cocktailforbreakfast

#60 I Made A Bridgerton Inspired Bustier From A Vintage Silk Blouse. The Corset Top Has Cups And Is Boned With Spiral Steel Boning. I Added Fusible To The Silk Fabric To Give It More Structure. I Loved How It Turned Out!

Image credits: transformedbytracy

#61 A Little Effort Can Save A Lot Of Money! Got This Stool For Free And Used One Can Of Spray Paint, Discounted Remnant Fabric, And New Rubber Feet!

Image credits: derekzimm

#62 Went Dumpster Diving At Olta, Found A Huge Box Of These Reflective Mirror Strips (Parts From A Makeup Display They Didn’t End Up Using?). Took The Back Of An Old Canvas, Some Hot Glue, A Dash Of Tedious Arranging, And Presto! An Accent Wall Mirror.. Thingy!

Image credits: TACKYTUESDAY

#63 Not The Usual Post Here But I Love Kitschy Art Avant Garde Clothes, As I Can't Afford My Own I Made My Own Version Of A Runway Piece

Image credits: RadicalFaces

#64 I Upcycled This Plain, Dated Jewelry Box I Thrifted Into Something More Fun! I Themed It With Stitch Because It Includes A Music Box Mechanism That Plays “Teddy Bear” By Elvis

Image credits: 360inMotion

#65 A Neighbor Was Giving Away This Kid Size Chest Of Drawers For Free, So I Snagged It And Made It Into A Quarantine Bar

Image credits: caphoto88

#66 Commissioned Paintings On Old Hand Mirrors

Image credits: N-loc

#67 Got This Side Table From The Curb. It's Top Was Broken, So I Spend A Little Over 3 Hours And €4 Worth Of Rope And Glue To Upcycle It To This!

Image credits: anon

#68 First Time Posting Here, But I'm Pretty Proud Of What I Did With This Old Thing. First Picture Is From Aunt's Room (Sadly I Live With People Who Doesn't Care About How Bad It Looks)...but I Took This Thing For Myself And Painted It. My Room Looks Messy, So I Apologize

Image credits: CatladiesRunderated

#69 I Upcycled Vintage Crochet Into This Set, Hope Y’all Like It

Image credits: dopamiineonline

#70 Roadside Trash = LEGO Play Table :)

Image credits: kippycats

#71 Got An Old Kitchen Cupboard From My Grandparents. We Didn't Need A Cupboard But Really Needed A Closet!

Image credits: Eilox

#72 Hand Painted Ornaments On Salvaged Burnt Out Light Bulbs--Meme Theme

Image credits: TheGnarledBranch

#73 Found This Old Rocking Chair In The Trash. Fixed The Springs And Gave It Some Fresh Paint And Fabric

Image credits: princessartichoke

#74 Upcycled My In Laws Grandmas Chair. First Upcycling Project!

Image credits: fluffysheepie

#75 Couldn’t Leave This Adorable Cabinet On The Curb On Garbage Day. So It Came Home For A Makeover!

Image credits: chol-xoxo

#76 I Upcycled A Thrifted Cotton Eyelet Shirt Into A Milkmaid Top. I Drafted The Pattern Myself, The Top Has Adjustable Straps And Gathered Cups. I Added Thrifted Vintage Pearl Buttons For The Center Closure!

Image credits: transformedbytracy

#77 First Up-Cycle Project. An Old Sherry Cabinet Into An All Drinks Inclusive Cabinet

Image credits: atom1516

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