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Can you really upcycle if you aren’t Kirstie Allsopp?

Kirstie Allsopp Britmumslive
Kirstie Allsopp Britmumslive
Kirstie Allsopp Britmumslive

Yay, the summer holidays are over, so I was back over with the gorgeous Danny Smith on Radio Verulam today.  Listen again here.

I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing all summer – embracing the Kirstie Allsopp revolution!

I love the whole crafting/upcycling revolution that has been birthed by the recession.  I believe that creativity is good for the soul, even if you aren’t a natural at it.  Plus it SAVES MONEY!  Money which can be spent on other stuff, or that can keep us out of debt.  So it’s a good plan!

The question is, how to go about it if you don’t have a natural eye or lots of experience?

Rather than start small, I decided to ‘go for it’ and see wether it is possible to create a vintage inspired Hairdressing salon/spa in Hertfordshire in 4 months, from as much upcycled stuff as possible.  I think seeing Kirstie at Britmumslive, may have meant I got a little carried away!

I can’t tell you wether I succeeded or not yet, as it’s 2 weeks to opening – OMG!  But I reckon we could have pulled it off, so here are my tips …

(I’ll add the audio in a couple of days)



Create a plan …

1) Pinterest

I started out on Pinterest and started pinning things that I liked the look of to do with vintage, hair and beauty.  This means that you don’t lose things and that you start to get a feel for what you are creating.

2) Mood board

I’m not sure if my ‘mood board’ could really be called one, because it doesn’t look cool like the professionals.  However, whenever I produced it at a meeting people seemed to make ‘impressed’ faces, so maybe it wasn’t so bad.  Basically it is a big piece of card with lots of pictures stuck on it in the different areas.

3) Theme

Eventually you will come up with a theme; mine was vintage glamour.  Yours might be ‘princess’ for a bedroom, you see what I mean?  Don’t worry about sticking to only one era – you can definitely mix and match.  It’s more to do with the feel of things (I asked professionals and they agreed with me about this).  I still love Ikea, especially the cupboards or shelving systems where they are all movable or modular.


Places to buy

There are lots of places to go and buy lovely second hand pieces now a days:
  • Freecycle
  • Facebook groups
  • Charity shops
  • Furniture charity shops
  • Antiques Fairs
  • Auctions
  • Vintage shops
  • Homesense!
Yes, Homesense isn’t old or second hand, but the cost of buying a chair and refurbishing it was beyond my budget.  This is where you will sometimes need to be practical!
Sometimes a vintage shop might help you out if you give them a buying list.  Or my local vintage shop Hertfordshire Collective, offered to take me to auctions and show me how they worked.
Remember to give back – don’t hold onto stuff you don’t need for the next 10yrs.  Hand it over to someone else on freecycle or in a charity shop and spread the love!
Paint can cover a thousand sins and make things match, so don’t worry about something looking a little rough.  We bought the roughest looking playhouse in the summer (I thought it was beyond saving) and with a bit of care and paint it looks amazing.
Plus new material or cushions can make pieces of furniture look extra special; check out my review of Homespun Living’s courses and my gorgeous cushion.

eBay Tips

  1. The buzz from winning is addictive, be warned!
  2. Check sellers for their listings to see if they have something else that works for you too.
  3. Check sellers for their reviews/ratings
  4. Don’t buy everything at once, it creates chaos when trying to manage collection – I had a week of chaos trying to work out the collection plan!
  5. Use the mobile app as it’s much better than the site (Little dimples still naps on my lap every other day, so that was my eBay time)
  6. Watch things you are interested in that might work, but don’t bid or panic straight away
  7. Check to see how many people have bid or are watching – that will decide how carefully you will need to play your strategy
  8. When you bid, put a bid in of an unusual amount e.g. £76.78
  9. Look for the location – expensive items can be sent by shipley, otherwise look for 25 miles for big stuff and 10 miles for small stuff
  10. If it’s a big item that needs shipping, look in a cheaper part of the country e.g. Scotland or devon
  11. Be warned there are professionals on there – that won’t save you any money, especially when it comes to furniture
  12. Second hand is where it is at!
  13. Paint can fix a thousand problems
  14. You can do a lot with a simple cushion design
  15. Ask about wood worm if you are buying something wooden, and spray anything if it looks suspect


  1. Extra work of painting and fixing
  2. It takes longer to research
  3. It takes more imagination than going into a shop and buying their range
  4. No guarantees
  5. Hitting deadlines when things go wrong
I might be a bit quiet on social media for the next couple of weeks as we have our pre-launch at Folkstock Festival, then our Open Day on Sat 28th (come and have a look if you are local! and then we open on Mon 30th.  But as soon as I can I will share photos so that you can see for yourself wether we pulled it off.
Personally I’m inspired and rather addicted.  I will always check the second hand option now before jumping on the ‘new’ bandwagon.  It’s taken a lot of work, but it’s saved thousands and thousands of pounds and feels really satisfying.  I could have done more if I’d had more time, but there were some things that we just had to be practical with.
Right, off to do some more preparation work!

12 thoughts on “Can you really upcycle if you aren’t Kirstie Allsopp?

    1. Oh it would be lovely to get you up here lovely. Looks like half-term is a bit packed. But maybe a long weekend or over Christmas?

  1. Wow, this is pretty awesome Lisa, just goes to show what a little creativity and elbow grease can accomplish. Best of luck to you 🙂

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