Summertime is made for relax, journeys, and exploring the world, isn’t it? When you feel a subtle vibe of summer everywhere — why won’t you channel it into creative work? These two small fittings came back to life during my expeditions at those warm days.
Refreshed by recycling
How to handle old furniture, when it’s clearly not as beautiful and functional as it was at the beginning of its use? First thing that comes to many minds nowadays is simply to get rid of something broken and replace it with fresh, costful new thing.
How it does to our sustainability as a consumer culture — well, not very good. A lots of materials that could be easily re-used for future purpose are wasted this way.
Luckily, there is a way to give new life to your favourite tables, chairs, cupboards. Recycling.
Recycled materials for the first glance may seem like just a trash for someone who can’t see through the possibilities that this kind of stuff brings. Refreshing something like an old school chair or stand made of shipping pallets isn’t easy work, but it’s also not as complicated and time-taking as it is to design something totally from the scratch.
In my eyes, here lies the best economical and practical reason for making old things anew — it is definitely one of the cheapest ways of creating something, and that something already has proven to be working. It is also good-looking hand-made craft, individual in every aspect. So, you don’t have to pay horrendous money for mass produced things that by definition will use up as soon as your warranty is over.
With recycling things like furniture you support rather someone who will make highly customized product in good quality just for you or… you can simply do it yourself, with most care for the environment, your budget and your space. Recycled materials tend to be found anywhere, often at low costs. They are surprisingly durable, and universal in their use. And when you add a touch of honesty in design to them, the effects can be unexpectedly… artful.
Rust&Sand — for Project: Chair
Project: Chair was a small event organized lately by teachers and students of my alma mater, Silesian University of Technology. The workshops had one simple goal: to give new look (and life) for a few old chairs, touched by the hand of time, dirty, forgotten. And all of this in just few hours!
Rust&Sand is one fine example of the quick recycle refresh. I’m sure all of you have access to some old chairs, waiting for their new chance to serve us and make our space functional and beautiful. You like the idea to revive them instead of throwing them away? Well, here’s what you need to make an old school chair look crisp again:
Step one: Idea
Of course, you should start with a quick glance at both of what materials you’d like to use, and what would your furniture require. Every old chair has its unique story, specific texture, colour. When I looked at my old school chair — with hard surface, rusted, scratched and entirely covered in black — I decided:
‘OK, let’s not change much in its look.
If it’s hard and still resists the touch of time with its hardness, then let it be.
Let’s make it look like it’s been taken straight from some post-apocalyptic school in the middle of a dry, sandy desert!’
My art weapons of choice became: sandpaper, dark and quick drying wood varnish, and matte spray paint in colours of rust and… sand.
Step two: Sanding
I guess it’s the most important part of work, requiring the most of effort. You have to plainly clean the wood and metal elements, covered with dirt, rust and old paint. Why? Because it’ll make the rest of your work easier and give you the required results. If you want your renewed fitting to serve you for the next few years — then you have to make sure you renovate it with enough care. For someone with even little passion for putting things in order and with minimum sculptor talents — this should be an easy task.
Still, you have to remember before you start — prepare your tools well! Sandpaper with good grammature depending on how hard wood you’d need to clean, comfy working gloves, soft brush to swipe the dust away, and dust mask — would be essential. Fitting tools always save you a lot of time and stress during work.
Step three: Varnish
This is the part that requires some manual skills with a lots of precision — especially when you’re working with some demanding materials.
I had a chance to test italian quick-drying, dark base varnish. You have just few seconds for properly placing the varnish on a wood with a paintbrush, so that your skill in painting and focus will definitely make big impact on final outlook of the furniture.
In my case this was no problem, as my idea for the post-apocalyptic schoolchair ideally fitted dark, toxic base colour. I purposedly placed it in a rush, using firm strokes of brush, making the chair looking even more raw than it has originally been.
Step four: Spray paint and polishing
After some short time when your varnish dries out a little — it’s time for finishing touches. I used just a few sprinkles of my matte-rusty-sandy spray-paint on foots and top of the chair. Then I took some soft grammature sand paper and gently sanded the painted areas — especially at the edges, where the effect of ‘used up chair’ can be seen best.
The effect: hard, rusty chair that looks precisely like… hard rusty chair, but clean, with more colours and interesting illusion of being desert survivor.
Its esthetics may seem a bit harsh as for use in school’s interior. Still, it’s pretty exact realisation of my idea and its quality is highly satysfying as for just few hours of work.
Table with a Twist
Another example of fast, yet effective recycling. Bunch of wooden table-tops that had to be just intensely cleaned and painted with natural oak coloured varnish.
This time the idea phase was kind of tricky to perform, as when I dismounted some of the steel racks before cleaning the tabletops’ wood, it appeared that immovable parts of the broken screws were left inside boards. Exactly in the places where I had to put new screws at the end of renovation to get the parts together…
‘What now?’ — I asked myself. The solution was either to throw away the broken tabletops, or to find some way to attach a steel rack at a middle of the table, but somehow placing the holding screws at else points of the boards than those occupied by scraps of metal.
Fortunately, the solution came up quickly. By turning the racks around the main axis by a small angle, I managed to leave the table’s functionality basically untouched. Only focused eye could see that fully joined table was a bit twisted in compare to its standard ‘cousins’.
Even with the small twist bringing something unorthodox to the renewed furniture’s construction, the tables were made clean, fresh and ready to be used in just few days.
Much better way of treating broken things than simply throwing them away, if you ask me.
How about you?
Do you have some ideas for smart revival of old furniture, or use of recycled materials in renewing things the sustainable way?
Try it out, you won’t regret it.
At least you can get some creatively spent time, while the environment and economy will definitely get slighltly better. And all of this thanks to your ideas.