Old books repurposed to create the base of a shelf fastened to the wall by wooden brackets holding a variety of decor items.

10 Upcycling Project Ideas

Originally contributed by Stacey Nash • last updated 1/10/2021

Upcycling is about more than thriftiness and reducing waste. The saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” still applies. However, it’s also about looking at the world through a creative lens. 

You may have old or worn-out items that you’d love to turn into a newfound treasure but haven’t found the right inspiration. 

We’ve nabbed a few fantastic upcycling project ideas to light a fire under your creativity and turn that junk into prized jewels.

1. Pallet Board World Map

Wood pallets have their place in almost every major industry, leaving behind a lot of used up pallets. Discarded pallets are an inexpensive way to update any number of furniture pieces, or in this case, decor items. The crew at the Merrythought upcycled an old pallet into a world of art. A little deconstruction and reconstruction go into this project. Don’t worry if you’re not an artist; tracing is allowed. 

One of the best things about pallets is that they can be upcycled to fit a number of different styles. You can keep it rustic with a simple stain or paint the wood for a monochromatic, contrasting, or any other color scheme to work with your style.

2. Rolling Cart

Book storage and side tables go hand in hand. This fun rolling cart functions as both. The casters really take this project from pretty to amazing. Rolling carts let you change the layout of your room without breaking a sweat.  If you’re a DIYer with extra plywood and 2x4’s lying around, this cart can use up a few scraps and open some space in your garage or shop.

Becky at Beyond the Picket Fence not only offers step-by-step instructions but pictures featuring her inspiration. Maybe you’ll be inspired to put a different twist on this project based on the materials you already have on hand.

3. Upcycled Backpack Vintage Door

Raise your hand if you’ve got an extra door lying around. Great! Now check out how you can turn it into a backpack door. The numbers, the knobs, there are so many things to love about this project. 

This door upcycling project doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to backpacks. Line the door with cork boards, transforming it into a display for artwork, family messages, or a family communication station that includes hanging storage. 

Of course, every door is different. This is an easy upcycling project to twist and turn into your own unique creation. Think of the possibilities with chalkboard paint, chalk paint, vintage or themed knobs, and colors that accentuate your home. 

4. Nightstand Upcycle

So many pieces of IKEA furniture are like an empty canvas just waiting for you to harness the potential. Ashley at Cherished Bliss turned an IKEA Tarva Nightstand into a one-of-a-kind upcycle. If you happen to have this exact piece at home, perfect. Now you know what you can do with it. 

However, if your old nightstand doesn’t quite look or function like this one, that’s okay. There are so many easy takeaways from this project. It inspires with the mix of color and stains, unusual drawer pulls, and turning an otherwise boring piece into a showstopper. 

5. Books To Shelves

There are so many household objects that can transform from ordinary to extra storage space. However, books to shelves add a whimsical appeal to almost any home. This is a great upcycling project for someone who can’t help but collect books and doesn’t want to donate ones they know they won’t read again. 

This shelf starts with vintage books and wood corbels. If you don’t have any vintage books lying around, there are ideas in the tutorial to work around that particular problem. The end result has a very cottage feel, but you can upcycle something similar in any number of styles. Vintage corbels matched with out-of-date medical books, encyclopedias, or other reference books could bring charm and sophistication to a more formal setting. 

6. Drawers To Shelves

Extra vertical storage can come from almost anywhere. That old dresser you’ve meant to refinish for ages, skip the refinishing and part it out. Even an old 70s dresser drawer can get new life with this project. 

Turn that old drawer into a display shelf. This project definitely belongs on the easy upcycle projects list because there’s no refinishing or deconstructing involved. Some good cleaning and a few supplies transform something that otherwise might find its way to the dump into a piece that adds character and storage space. 

7. Metal Tray To Menu Chalkboard

If you’ve got kids (or even if you don’t), your kitchen can feel like a revolving restaurant where the cute patrons keep asking what’s for dinner. Nancy at  ArtsyChicksRule offers an inexpensive and creative solution. 

Whether the tray comes from the second-hand store or your own garage, this particular project doesn’t take much time but looks cute and stops the nightly questions about your menu. Trays come in different shapes with design features that will change the final appearance. You can also use different chalk paint colors to accent your existing kitchen design. 

8. Spoon and Pallet Hook Rack

Pallets make an appearance again in this spoon and pallet rack. The upcycling project ideas feel almost endless with this one. From the spoons to the paint colors, there are so many ways to make this project your own. Local thrift stores can’t help but get inundated with mismatched flatware that’s perfect for upcycling. 

No pallet around? No, problem. Other woods will work, too, though you may have to bang them up a bit to get the same rustic appeal of a pallet. Plus, added bonus, you get to do some hammering on metal, which is a great stress reliever when you’re DIYing.

9. Dog Bowl Chairs

Dog furniture doesn’t exactly blend in with the rest of your home decor. This fun project takes advantage of old kitchen chairs, which you’re likely to find at any garage sale, and turns them into raised feeding and drinking bowls for your dog. 

Of course, these bowls can’t double as chairs but bring a playfulness to the kitchen that guests won’t forget. Chair style doesn’t matter as long as you like it. Consider cutting off the chair back to open vertical space. They could even sit below a floating shelf or hooks with your dog’s toys, treats, leash, and any other dog accessories. 

10. Chair To Wall Shelf

If you do happen to cut off the chair back in your previous project, here’s a complementary project for you. Shelves come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes those shapes and sizes look mysteriously like a chair back. 

Christy at kept a broken chair from becoming landfill fodder. You might need to add the shelf top, but the frame is already there and waiting for hooks and any other additions that give it your personal stamp of approval.