The first ever National Upcycling Day!

If you’re not an upcycler it’s probably escaped your notice that today is the first ever National Upcycling Day! (#NationalUpcyclingDay for Twitter users among you.)

Launched by Gumtree to recognise the artistry and ingenuity of upcyclers, today is for celebrating all things upcycled. Whether it’s about saving money, saving the environment, or just about creating something beautiful, upcycling is becoming more and more popular. Unfortunately my spell check hasn’t caught on and is convinced that the word I’m looking for is ‘epicycle’ – no I’m not trying to define planetary orbits!

Anyway, what better time to share my latest project.

Right back when Preloved challenged me to use their site to find a piece of furniture to upcycle and blog about I spotted a pine toy chest / blanket box. It was being given away for free but I missed out and ended up taking on the momentous task of upcycling a wardrobe instead – as you do! I guess that’s the joy of upcycling, you never quite know what furniture will cross your path and inspire you next.

The trouble was, I’d already started to visualise what I could do with a toy box so I was on a mission to find one that wasn’t already painted or ridiculously over priced. Another thing about upcycling; I am sure sellers get wise to the trends and some items can get quite costly. Perseverance pays off though and future projects can turn up in the most unlikely places – I’m referring to the small chest of drawers I found at the local tip, which is currently waiting for a paint job and something to do with wallpaper.

Eventually eBay came up trumps and the fun began.


Upcycled toy box - before
Upcycled toy box - before


I’d already decided to design the toy box for my John Deere tractor loving nephew and good old Google provided a stylised tractor image that I could reproduce freehand.

After washing the box with sugar soap and removing the hinges I painted it with 2 coats of Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish Furniture Paint in Chalk White, a handy leftover from the Make It March Challenge.

I copied my design on to the toy box and added my nephew’s name by drawing round some magnetic letters, then spent a happy afternoon with my brushes and paints.


Copying John Deere tractor design


It’s been a long time since I painted anything intricate and I loved it. I used tester pots from the Colours Feature Wall range at B&Q (which tends to become a second home during any DIY). I can’t believe people would put some of the colours on the wall but for painting farmyard scenes they were perfect – and easy to mix as it turned out.


Painting John Deere tractor design


John Deere tractor design


Concerned that anything made for a 3 year old would be prone to damage, I discovered Polyvine wax finish varnish, which promised to be more durable than wax but still offered a completely matt finish. I’d read that it was easiest to apply with a roller, which turned out to be true.

Whether it will stand up to a child, I guess time will tell. I have my reservations but anything painted chips if you knock it hard enough, and when it comes to furniture it’s ok to call it shabby chic!

Thinking that its most likely destination would be a living room I wanted to make the toy box practical for more than just storage. The addition of a seat pad means it can also be a window seat – it’s all about making furniture work better for you after all.


Cutting harlequin material


I found the fabulous harlequin material in Abakhan in the Northern Quarter. It was more good luck than good judgement that it matched perfectly.


Seat pad with box corners


The cushion is held in place by heavy duty velcro, which is sewn in to the material and stuck to the box lid.

And here it is, a toy box that I hope will be treasured for many years to come.


Upcycled toy box - after
Upcycled toy box - after


Shopping list

Chalk Paint: Rust-Oleum in Chalk White. Available at B&Q

Paint colours: Colours Feature Wall Range at B&Q

Varnish: Polyvine Wax Finish Varnish – Dead Flat Finish

Foam seat pad: Dunelm

Harlequin fabric: Abakhan

Velcro: Amazon


6 Comments On This Topic
  1. Margaret Brown
    5 years ago

    And when he grows older you can always upcycle it again with different pictures.

    • Becci Johnson
      5 years ago


  2. Carol Johnson
    5 years ago

    It looked really great and was well received.

    • Becci Johnson
      5 years ago

      Thanks. First time I’ve given one of my creations away!

  3. Claire
    5 years ago

    We absolutely love it. It’s one of the most perfect presents ever. You should def take commissions! X x

    • Becci Johnson
      5 years ago

      Glad to hear it. If someone had a project in mind, I’d definitely consider it!

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