It’s All About Potential: 5 Tips on How to Upcycle Like a Pro
Interior designer Jamie Banfield shares his expert tips on the best ways to upcycle.
Jamie Banfield, interior designer and upcycling expert, once made an entire wall unit out of wire spools. “We cut them so they were half-rounds,” he explains—perfect for storing vinyl records. He’s also created shelving from industrial pallets, galvanized pipes and mason blocks, plus a headboard out of an old door. These one of a kind pieces don’t just save money for his clients—they’re key to creating Banfield’s relaxed west coast aesthetic. And since the designer often scores his materials from the ReStore, his upcycles are also a way to pay it forward: shopping here helps to fund Habitat for Humanity.
Still, it’s not always easy to spot a diamond in the rough. “I compare it to shopping at a Winners or Off the Rack,” Banfield explains—you need to flexible with your wish list. “If you’re looking for a new suit, for example, are you focused on just that new suit? Or can you see that there’s a good deal on ties right now?”
If you want to upcycle like a pro, you need to keep an open mind about a piece’s potential. Below, Banfield talks through how to do just that.
Shop Talk. A successful end result begins with your starting materials. “Think of the look you want,” Banfield urges. “If you want to create a distressed finish and start with a wood laminate, you’re not going to be able to bash it up and ‘age’ it—you’ll damage it instead.”
Outside Inspiration. Set yourself up for success by doing research beforehand. “Sometimes I’m handy, sometimes I’m not,” Banfield laughs. “The best thing for me is YouTube. Or I’ll get some tips from people on Instagram or Pinterest that have done the project before.”
Function First. “We used barbecue spray paint to make an old brass light fixture black,” Banfield says. “It’s heat resistant, so when that lamp warms up, it’s not going to catch on fire, burn or discolour.” The result is a fixture that’s beautiful and functional—long term.
Love ‘Em (and Leave ‘Em!). Banfield’s all-time favourite find at the ReStore? A massive sorting table from Canada Post. It might have made the perfect crafting station, but Banfield left it behind—the table was just a touch too big for the space he was working on. “Understand the needs of the piece and have those requirements in your head,” he recommends—otherwise you’ll end up unhappy with your upcycle, no matter how well it turns out.
Fresh Eyes. This is the time to step way, way outside of the box. “You’ve got to be able to look at something and think beyond how it is actually designed to be used,” Banfield says. Set aside any preconceived notions to consider how a piece could work, not how it’s supposed to.