You’ve seen both of those terms around here a lot. Have you ever wondered exactly what each of them means? Are they different? Are they interchangeable?
When I started hearing and reading about upcycling and repurposing, I was confused myself. I was already taking older things and reusing them. Recycling was a catch-all word that gave me an easy definition for what I was doing.
Then I kept bumping into these words that seemed to just be a new way to say “recycle”. What was the deal?
You’ll see both Upcycle and Repurpose a lot in DIY projects all over the web and in magazines, and although the line that separates them is narrow, there is a line. It’s more than just a new way to say recycle.
Let’s take a look at each of them with a few examples.
Upcycle projects take something and simply update it. Whatever is being upcycled still does what it was intended to do.
The key is creating a fresh look. Usually there’s a paint job, maybe some new hardware or decorative additions, but the piece still functions the same.
Here’s some examples of upcycled projects:
Lisa updated a coffee table with a basic whitewash. The table still functions the same, but has a chic new look. I adore how she transformed it with a bit of paint (do click over and see the “before” – you’ll be impressed). This is the perfect way to keep a beloved piece of furniture that’s outdated, or to personalize a thrifted piece.
By the way, if you have one or twenty questions about whitewashing, THIS is your post!
What was once a shadow box from the thrift store is now…a shadow box with a new look. I simply updated and dressed it up with paint and a brand new theme.
This is my very first piece of DIY decor for my beach-themed craft room that looks nothing at all like the beach right now, but more like an attic that’s been ransacked by a three year-old (and I don’t even have one). Stay tuned…
Herbs are always on my radar and cute pots screech in as a close second. The moment I saw Tonya’s Chalk Painted Herb Planters, I was smitten! Something about that bright white wrapped around the rich greens just makes me giddy.
But the distressed paint job and charming stamps sold me. Plain orange terra cotta never looked so good.
I have to say that as much as I appreciate and enjoy upcycles, repurposed projects are what make my heart leap. It’s totally thrilling to me to take random pieces of what some consider to be junk, and turn them into something new and unexpected.
And that’s exactly what a repurpose is – taking items that originally were meant for one thing, and making them into something totally different. Pretty often repurpose projects will involve pieces and parts instead of singular items, although it isn’t always the case.
Check out these repurpose projects:
She probably doesn’t know it, but Gail is one of my power tool mentors. It’s amazing to me what she can do with them. Although she’s got some fantastic furniture projects that I simply swoon over, she also has smaller ones like this pedestal bowl made from thrifted and salvaged materials. I know you’ve seen bowls at thrift stores like the one she used. I certainly have.
Gail’s posts are packed with tips and information. If you’re a bit shy with the power tools like I am, she’ll have you inspired to give it a go before you know it.
Oh, how I love tea! So you can probably imagine why this genius repurpose grabbed my eye. Emily’s challenge project is absolutely brilliant and I’m pretty sure it costs a fraction of what a new tea chest would cost. I’m definitely scanning the thrift store shelves for a wine box now!
I hate to throw away something that looks good – even if it can no longer be useful for its intended purpose. That’s how this bird feeder that hangs outside my kitchen window was born. A ceiling fan with a dead motor – but a pretty light fixture – was easily repurposed into a feeder that makes both me and the birds happy.
And now you know the difference between upcyle and repurpose projects!
Which project style is your favorite?
If you enjoy getting your hands into projects too, I’d love for you to stick around and create with us. Join the newsletter to get notification of each new post, upcoming news and information, and the FREE Upcycle Checklist: 5 Quick Tips for Awesome Projects (which will also be helpful for repurposed projects too! 🙂 ).