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Ready, Steady, Re-use: Upcycling Lessons With Lynne Lambourne

Interiors /


Give old pieces a touch of new magic

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Unsure where find the perfect mid-century dressing table, and what to do with that rickety old bedside table to make it the star piece of your bedroom again? Wonder no more: we’ve asked zero waste interiors master, Lynne Lambourne, to answer all of your questions on upcycling, second hand interiors and thrifting. From sourcing second hand pieces that will reimagine any room (on a budget) to curating a fresh, on-trend and layered aesthetic, read on for her top tips. 

The Best Places to Buy Antiques Online

10 Upcycling Tips With Lynne Lambourne

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Lynne Lambourne upcycling

1. Look at what you already have

The first step to curating a more sustainable interior design scheme is all about seeing things you already have with fresh eyes. Look at furniture or accessories which are already lying around in your home, and think creatively about how they might be reused or repurposed it in a stylish way.

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2. Measure up – and use Pinterest as your starting point

Pinterest is a brilliant resource. Find pictures which really make your heart sing – you’ll notice you’re drawn towards a certain type of furniture or look.

Make sure to also take a measuring tape when you’re hunting for a piece to check it’ll fit where you want it to go. Shopping for the perfect second hand find can be a lengthier project, but you never know what you’ll find along the way. Unlock your inner style first, then take your measurements and go out sourcing.

Unsplash antiques

3. Find your local fairs and markets

I love a good scour of the Henley Decor Fair, which is coming up in September – there are so many brilliant vintage sellers there. My other haunts for potential upcycling projects include Kempton Park Racecourse (which has an antiques market on the second and last Tuesday of every month) and Ardingly Antiques Fair.

The British Heart Foundation (which I’m an ambassador for) is brilliant – it’s the first shop with a truly circular economy. It’ll pick up your old furniture for free, sell it on and if the new owner falls out of love with it, it can be picked up and sold on again for free by the BHF. Also ask your friends, the exact piece you’re looking for might be what they’re trying to get rid of!

Photo: Unsplash / @chantalgarnier

Lynne Lambourne landing

4. Look for features that you love in a second hand piece

I’ll often be at a car boot sale or antiques market and see huge potential in an item with a beautiful shape or style.

A big part of creating something new from a second hand find is looking for potential in something that’s a little down-at-heel. You can create a really beautiful new item with small changes like painting it blue or adding new handles.

Lynne Lambourne dining room

5. Curate your pieces

Curating is key for a fresh look. Your home should be an edit of things that you really love, or which have been passed down through your family. Everything should leave less of a footprint on the world than it does at the moment – and we need to be very careful about the materials we use. But sometimes you just need someone to say ‘have you thought about changing up this item in this way?’ to bring new life to an old piece.

Photo: Unsplash / @anniespratt

Bedside table

6. Start with an easy project

A bedside table or a mirror is a good project to start with – chairs are actually quite tricky because they have spindles and legs. Don’t be scared to make a mistake, it’s a learning curve, at Annie Sloan workshops I always say ‘happy accidents’. Just have a go, you’d be surprised at the outcome.

Photo: Unsplash / @anniespratt

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7. Get your tools together

Luckily you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started! But before you kick off an upcycling project, I’d recommend investing in Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, a tin of wax, a paint brush and of course, some dust sheets.

Photo: Unsplash / @honeypoppet

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8. Keep your eyes peeled

One man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure – my best skip find was the most beautiful swivel chair from the Sixties. I saw its legs sticking out of the top of a skip in High Wickham and stopped straight away to pull it out.

It’s a G-Plan swing chair which I’ve covered in a yellow velvet. Always ask to make sure it’s ok to take something from a skip, but normally you’ll find people are delighted because it gives them more space.

Lynne Lambourne dresser

9. Look for inspiration to shape your projects

Lots of my clients want something simple and timeless, but you can find inspiration everywhere.

Before lockdown I went to LA – I love the Californian aesthetic of long spaces and an indoor/outdoor feel, and I’m very into biophilic design. My own house is a blend of New England-style rocking chairs, decking and lots of calming Scandi neutrals.

Lynne Lambourne corridor

10. Keep your foundations traditional and layer trend-driven pieces on top

Committing to more sustainable interiors but still love a trend?

My advice is always to stick to classic and vintage pieces in your foundations which won’t date – and then to apply more trend-led pieces in your final layer. Rugs, cushions and funky vases are finer details which are good for picking up the threads of a trend.

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