The perks of upcycling: One Kiwi's trash is another's free furniture

There is no downside to upcycling. You save an unloved item from rotting away in landfill, you turn some scraps into something beautiful or functional, and get something new for a bargain-basement price.

Give the Pinterest board pinning a rest and check out what other Kiwis have entered into the Resene Upcycling Awards on Neighbourly.

From turning the roof of an old church into a lush backyard gazebo to making 50-year-old furniture look brand new with some white paint to turning actual rubbish into a toddler’s toy set, there's plenty of inspiration to be found.

READ MORE: * Backyard Banter: Reduce, reuse, recycle, upcycle * DIY wallpapered drawers * The shed that's 'a masterpiece of Kiwi number 8 wire attitude' * A beginner's guide to upcycling * Great furniture looks that don't cost a bomb


Eric Baggett from Onekawa is 91-years-old and still lives in the weatherboard house that he built in Napier in 1956.

“I started using Resene paints when they first came on the market,” he said.

Baggett built his "summer house" gazebo from recycled rimu wood that he took from St Paul’s cathedral when it was dismantled in 2013. The lower panels are made from steel he saved from old refrigerators.


With the hardware stores closed during lockdown, Frith Hansen from Thames chose the most versatile of upcycling materials for a home improvement project – the humble pallet.

“I turned an unwanted pallet into an attractive rubbish/recycling bin station for our kitchen,” she said.

Hansen used aqua clear to finish and some old draw handles she had saved from her caravan renovation.

“I just use an empty beer box (it's a perfect fit) on the left side to collect the recycling in,” she said.


Glyn Allan from Paeroa uses his new outdoor table to display a collection of potted plants.

He made it into a thing of beauty with a fresh mosaic.


Proving someone's trash can be another person's treasure, Lee Morris from Levin spied an abandoned desk on the side of the road and saw a pretty outdoor plant holder waiting to happen.

“My thought was to take it apart, keep the drawers and repurpose it on my deck with plants and a usable drawer at the bottom.

“I had some Bostik wallpaper to give two drawers and the sides depth and I made two drawers a little different by cutting the pattern out from a rubbish basket from the $2 shop.”

Morris used two different shades of yellow for contrast and then added a coat of enamel.

”I made the drawers sturdy, also lining with black polythene to be water/soil tight and finished off with black handles. I then inserted my plants.”


The perks of upcycling: One Kiwi's trash is another's free furniture

One lucky two-year-old in Hei Hei in Christchurch is the proud new owner of a stunning multi-toy car garage, complete with a helicopter lift-off pad and a slide made out of old pipe.

Sarei Hopper entered her mother, Helen McFetrish, in the upcycling awards when she received the gift, made from a pair of plastic reels from a local glass manufacturer. The company was dumping the wheels because they had no immediate use for them.

“My son loves his little cars; they used to be his dad’s."

“For the project, she used the two reels, some 3mm plywood, some plastic water piping, rubber edging, screws, paint test pots and leftover interior paint, and other bits and bobs from around the house.”

McFetrish will be adding old castor wheels to the bottom soon to make it easier to move around.

"A great effort by a great granny, we thought," said Hopper.


Plain old wooden furniture can look brand new with a simple coat of paint, a pattern and a finish.

Lynda Cree from Christchurch’s Halswell painted a simple mandala pattern to freshen up this drawer.

She gave it a surprise pop of bold blue on the inside and then made the whole thing a bright cherry with a wood stain.


“I love old furniture with character, it always makes me wonder, if it could talk, the fascinating stories it might tell!" said Bronwyn Coe from East Invercargill.

“I saw this old, dilapidated Oak Manrobe with missing shelves, broken handles, missing decorative detail and borer damage and decided to ‘rescue’ it.”

She stripped the shelves by soaking them with borer treatment, filled the borer holes, made new shelves and replaced the back as it was too badly damaged.

She decided not to save the decorative detail but instead to give the front a modern twist with a hand-painted geometric pattern. Coe sealed it with two coats of aqua clear.

“The original Bakelite handles were too brittle and damaged to reuse, so I made wooden handles and painted them [to match].

“I fitted magnetic catches to the cupboards. I had lots of fun with this project and will enjoy it in our home for many years to come," Coe said.


Killing two birds with one stone, Lynne Blair from Raumati Beach fashioned some old boxing wood into a beautiful gift for her best friend’s birthday.

”I recently started making projects to learn how to use tools and I made this wine rack for my best friend's birthday. I did the white effect with a test pot and toothbrush,” she said.


The small tables on the left have "good bones”, said Joy Linn from South Taranaki, who has a passion for recreating objects.

She said she has “reloved" them by covering the original wood with two coats of fresh colour. She added wallpaper samples to the front of the draws to give them an extra feature.

If you have an upcycling project that you'd like to show off – whether you’ve given something a fresh coat of paint or entirely changed its use – enter it into Resene's Upcycling Awards on Neighbourly.

Entries close at midnight on August 2, 2020. Four great prizes worth $500 are up for grabs: a $200 Resene voucher and a $300 Prezzy card.