London - Our homes are full to the brim with junk, but we’re often so busy de-cluttering that there’s a danger something special will get binned.
So, pause before you take it all to the tip because there’s nothing to stop you restoring or upcycling a piece and turning it into a treasure.
Attics, basements, garden sheds and garages are groaning with potential — from discarded Bakelite phones and Fifties kitchen units to old parquet flooring, metal cabinets and even out-of-action engine parts.
The added attraction of a "re-found" piece is its one-off status. And there’s an emerging enthusiasm for reusing well-made pieces, especially those with some family history. But before you start raiding your loft, it pays to know what you are looking for and don’t rule out anything. Brass and copper artefacts, from old Victorian pumps to metal piping, can be reworked into on-trend industrial pieces.
Meanwhile, Fifties and Sixties retro-style items, including kitchen cabinets and dining tables, are back in fashion.
"Look for anything that has a strong design element to it," advises Simon O’Brien, co-presenter of Channel 4’s Find It, Fix It, Flog It, dedicated to repurposing household items for profit. "Recently, we turned a Victorian pesticide sprayer into a cool standard lamp by wiring it and adding a squirrel cage lampshade, surrounding an exposed filament bulb."
The key is to restore items that remain sturdy, despite their age. Shake wooden pieces to check that they’re still intact, and look over metal items to ensure all elements are present and there are no rogue holes.
"Deciding which pieces to repurpose is a bit like choosing art," says Simon. "Don’t opt for what you think will be valuable when reworked — instead plump for what really speaks to you."
Repurposing found pieces can be daunting, so start with something simple such as a wooden shelving unit or chest of drawers, treating the piece for woodworm before bringing it into the house.
If it is varnished or already painted, you’ll need to get it stripped with caustic soda by a specialist before setting to work.
"Then, get sanding using rough, medium and smooth papers in sequence," says Simon. "The results can be very satisfying and then you will be able to move on to larger projects."