Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Fabulous Furniture Made of Unusual Upcycled Objects

What vintage suitcases have to do with funeral homes and bowling alleys.

In the ideology of sustainability, reusing is always better than recycling. But upcycling — the act of salvaging a product that has run its course and repurposing it into something new — doesn’t have to conjure images of scrappy hand-me-down sweaters stitched together into sad-looking patchwork quilts.

Lately, we’ve become particularly obsessed with beautifully designed, meticulously crafted furniture made out of unusual upcycled objects, from coffins to skateboards. Here are five of our favorites. (And a big hat tip to studiomate Tina, a.k.a. Swiss Miss, for nudging us to put this together.)


Canadian artist and designer Adrian Johnson combines vintage fridges with vintage leather seats from junk yard cars into beautiful retrotastic couches.

There are currently three Fridgecouch designs, one of which even features built-in speakers and is iPod-compatible.


Serious skating comes with serious collateral damage. Besides the mandatory broken arms and cracked skulls, there’s also a perpetual graveyard of broken skateboards. Deckstool salvages these from skateparks and skateshops across the U.S. to turn them into wonderful upcycled stools and benches.

The collection currently features several stool designs and one bench, but you can also send them your deck and have them create a custom design for you.

via design milk


Counterevolution takes reclaimed bowling alley hardwood and turns it into beautifully handcrafted tables, benches, chairs, stools and various interior design accessories.

More than three years ago, when I first cleaned some old bowling alley wood to make a countertop, I was struck by the beauty of the heartpine that lay beneath layers of dirt and polyurethane. It was love at first sight. [Our] mission was born in those early days, and it remains the same today: To design, build and sell furniture that realizes the highest potential of reclaimed materials.” ~ Jim Malone

via Swiss Miss


You may recall Coffin Couches from pickings past — a morbidly fabulous collection of corpse carriers repurposed into living room furniture. And if you aren’t sufficiently creeped out yet, you need only look to the the six cast iron heavy duty legs on each couch, embossed with the universal biohazard insignia to wink at federal health and safety regulations.

Still, the couches are absolutely beautiful, in that Adams Family kind of way. The collection currently features 24 couches, including a couple of team fan varieties.


From South African designer Katie Thompson comes REcreate — a fabulous line of furniture made from upcycled objects, upholstered with beautiful locally designed fabric prints. From vintage suitcase chairs to hat box ottomans to whisky casket side tables, the collection is pure retrostalgic charisma.

REcreate also has a lovely line of home accessories featuring treats like bucket lid clocks and teacup herb gardens.

Published January 4, 2011




Filed Under

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated