Upcycling — everything old is new again

Combining recycling & refinishing turns design green and groovy

EVERYTHING OLD IS new again this autumn as environmentalism and good, old-fashioned thriftiness continue to thrive, shifting decorating ideas out of the boutiques and into antique stores full of amazing retro furniture, refurbished finds and fixer-uppers for the DIY crowd. The latest trend is “upcycling.”

Coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, upcycling involves taking something discarded or “downcycled” and turning it into something useful and of greater value. Like recycling on steroids.

Now, everyone can’t troll the streets on garbage night for raw materials, but there are stores and designers that offer the next best thing by converting found materials into cool, design items.  Have no fear, we’ve got you covered with some of the best- kept secrets for where to buy used and discover amazing pieces that won’t break the bank.


Urban Tree Salvage’s (19a Malley Rd., 647-438-7516) modus operandi since they opened in January 2005 is turning reclaimed timber into functional works of art oozing local history.

Owners Melissa Neist and Sean Gorham get the materials from a variety of locales, including old barns, an old pier on Lake Ontario, even old materials used to construct subway tunnels in the city and trees that have been taken down as a result of storm damage or insect infestation. Once salvaged, they create interesting pieces of furniture, from vanities and side tables to beds and benches, as well as smaller items such as platters, chopping blocks and candle holders.


Located in the Junction, one of Toronto’s hippest up-’hoods, Smash (2880 Dundas St. W.) offers 4,500 square feet of incredible salvaged items such as vintage kitchen and bath fixtures along with art, old-school maps and statues.

Here you might find a Victorian dining table fit for a queen or a ’50s sink and cabinet just like Grandma used to have. Cabbagetown’s Eclectisaurus is another great place to spend an afternoon of bargain hunting. Boasting a collection “from the ridiculous to the sublime,” here you can find a sleek teak dinette set from Sweden nestled next to a Victorian steamer trunk and Art Deco martini glasses perfect for a retro cocktail party.


Forever Interiors (2903 Dundas St. W.) specializes in imaginative recycling and custom furniture made from reclaimed wood. Here you can find benches fashioned out of old doors and slabs of beam and old mirrors mounted on hundred-year-old floorboards along with a carefully curated selection of traditional antiques like ornate chandeliers, wooden candle holders and even church pews.


Popular consignment showroom Of Things Past (185 Bridgeland Ave.) has 22,000 square feet of both low- and high- end finds. You might just bring home anything from bamboo screens and marble end tables to priced-to-sell walnut cabinets.

The Elegant Garage Sale (1588 Bayview Ave.) is another popular spot to dig for steals and deals. Because of its constantly changing selection, it’s best to come in with an open mind. Be sure to explore the downstairs showroom where some of the best stuff is often overlooked.

Article exclusive to TRNTO