The Art of the Upcycle

"It's always possible to make a beautiful home on a beginners budget"


Inspired by her stunning instagram page, we caught up with local Brighton interior designer, Geena @Brightonhomedeco to discuss her top tips for how to decorate on a budget and how to upcycle old furniture, read on for lockdown project ideas!

Only have 5 minutes? Skip to the break down to review Geena's top tips.

Upcycled Bedside Table
View on Instagram View on Instagram
Upcycled Side Table
View on Instagram View on Instagram

A bit about Geena,

When we caught up with Geena, we were fascinated to hear that her flair for design is something that runs in the family. “I come from a creative family, we are all artists really” she tells us, “I feel that design has so many exciting avenues for me. I have spent the last 18 months building my professional career as a designer, I’m also teaching myself to repurpose furniture and on top of that I am almost ready to launch my own line of wall art that I designed during lockdown - so watch this space!”

Geena’s undeniable passion for design explains why her scrolling through her instagram grid is like flicking through a home-decor magazine, but why interiors? “I have always loved interiors, I actually studied interior architecture at Brighton University, it was such a unique course that equipped me with a lot of skills that I could transfer into my own home”.

Since graduation, Geena credits moving into the professional design industry as a great source of inspiration and fresh perspective “I started off (before becoming an interior designer) by working in a homewares store, which jump-started my enthusiasm for colourful, domestic interiors”. In 2021, her passion for domestic interiors could not be more well timed. With many people working, living and even socialising from home, domestic design is now more important than ever.

The @Brightonhomedeco instagram grid showcases Geena’s signature style of warmth, colour and style in her home. “With being in lockdown and on furlough, we all spend a lot more time in our homes - so creating a beautiful space is important.” But we want to know, how does she do it?

“I started to develop a keen eye for elements of the home during my work, but I have a particular passion for sourcing bargain furniture with potential. When I was first getting started, my budget was very minimal, I collected as much furniture as I could for free and over time I have upcycled my favourite pieces. Since then I have moved into a new flat which is more suitable, it is also much more affordable so I can properly focus my attention onto creating a beautiful home that we love!”

Brighton Home Deco Living Room
View on Instagram View on Instagram

The upcycling guide - for beginners

“The free furniture that I sourced over the past few years is really what inspired me to start upcycling. While it was useful it wasn't necessarily beautiful, so I wondered how I could put my own touch on things. To see how Geena did just that, you need only look at some of her upcycling posts, from her stunning sage bedside tables with gold leaf detailing, to a simple but sophisticated paint job on her favourite pair of dining chairs. Geena makes upcycling look easy!

In fact, Geena insists that upcycling is easy! “I had minimal equipment, and I didn’t want to buy too much, if I was making a list, my staple finds for upcycling beginners would be:

  • Chalk Furniture Paint
    “I am obsessed with this B&Q black chalk paint- it gives a really smooth, matte finish. However, www.rainbowchalk.comreally are the chalk paint specialists.
  • Electric Sander
    “An electric sander turns a day's work into a matter of minutes, but sand paper will do the job just fine if you don’t have the budget to spend!
  • Spray Paint & Furniture Wax
    “I loved this brand of spray paint, and I also love their furniture wax! They are perfect and easy for beginners use
  • Use Pinterest!
    “If you get stuck, or you aren’t sure where to start - use pinterest or wikihow, there is so much info out there. But honestly, it is really easy to get the hang of it - anyone who has ever picked up a paintbrush could do it!”

Upcycling is a creative, sustainable and eco friendly way to decorate your home, like Geena says “Upcycling gives new life to unloved objects and you can also get items with so much character and history when buying second hand. Industries like fashion, and I guess furniture too can be so wasteful, it's nice to make the conscious decision to design the right way”

Upcycled Black Dining Chairs
View on Instagram View on Instagram

A final peek behind the scenes at @brightonhomedeco

All of Geena’s furniture, from her upcycled to her newer pieces, come together to create a colourful and cosy vibe in her home, but which room is the true favourite?

“My favourite room is probably the living room, it is probably my most fulfilling project so far” Geena tells us, “the living room is the heart of the home - the living room is also the home to my favourite upcycling project, a pair of black dining chairs”.

Finally, parting with words of wisdom, we asked Geena, what is your number one tip for people furnishing their homes? “Don’t worry, even if you're first starting, or you have a small budget, or if your home is rented! There is a lot of pressure out there to have the perfect home but the options to help you build a space that makes you happy are endless, buy second-hand furniture, upcycle what you have, get creative with it, just concentrate on creating little touches that make you happy…

Living Room Decor
View on Instagram View on Instagram

The Breakdown: Geena's Top Tips

  1. Upcycling is easy!
    Anyone who has picked up a paintbrush could do it “When I started, I had minimal equipment, and I didn’t want to buy too much, if I had to make a list, my staple finds for upcycling beginners are listed here”
  2. Take your Time!
    “Don't worry if you are first starting out, there can be a lot of pressure to have the perfect home, especially with social media! But take your time with your interior decorating, it will conserve your budget and you can just concentrate on creating little touches that make you happy”
  3. It is possible to make a rented home your own!
    “You can still make a fulfilling, colourful home that feels like your own even when you're renting - there are lots of creative and colourful ways that you can brighten up a space even when you are limited to a neutral palette on the walls” Check out @brightonhomdeco for inspiration
  4. Home Design on a budget - it can be done! If you don't have a lot of money to spend on your dream items thats okay - you can get a lot of great pieces with so much character and history when buying second-hand furniture. You can also upcycle what you already have!”