Challenge Accepted: Unpainted Upcycled Projects

Challenge Accepted: Unpainted Upcycled Projects

When most people think about upcycling items from the thrift store, they usually envision painting as the main part of the process. And while paint is involved in a lot of thrift store makeovers, it’s not the only avenue to take. So, in honor of Earth Month, I thought it’d be fun to put together a collection of upcycle ideas that are unpainted. From home decor to garden whimsy and fashionable accessories, there are a lot of ways to repurpose those thrift store finds without the help of paint.

Magazine Rack Planter

unpainted magazine rack

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Depending on the shape, a magazine rack can be easily transformed into a planter. This one, made of metal, just needed some coco liner to keep the soil and flowers in place. And it looks FABULOUS on the front porch all summer long- all while staying unpainted.

Unpainted Wall Decor

wall decor from a thrifted picture frame

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

A collage picture frame in the right design can almost look like Brutalist-style mid-century modern wall decor. At least, that’s what this one looked like to me when I spotted it at the thrift store. It just needed a little upcycling TLC to make it shine- without involving paint. Not too shabby for a $2 thrifted frame that was originally purchased from Walmart (based on the tag), eh?

Decorative Bee Hive

glass shade as a bee hive

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

 As summer draws closer, perhaps a decorative bee hive might be a fun addition to your warm weather decor. And you can make one like this by covering a glass shade with rope. No paint needed AND it’s a fun way to upcycle a cheap thrift store item.

Upcycled Clutch Bag

upcycle idea for a table runner

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Believe it or not, but this clutch handbag started out as a wine-stained table runner at a thrift shop! Stitching it up as an envelope-style clutch was surprisingly simple and straightforward, even for a sewing novice like myself.

Paint-Free Loom

standing loom from a casserole dish holder

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Once upon a time, glass casserole dishes came with wooden racks that made them easy to carry from the kitchen to the table for family style dinners. But those wooden racks are mostly obsolete in today’s home, so why not turn one into a standing loom for a modern weaving project like thisNot only was paint not used, but it wasn’t needed at all.

DIY Hanging Bird Bath

diy hanging bird bath

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Bird baths are a wonderful thing…until you have to clean them. But this one, made from a casserole dish lid, is shallow and SO easy to disinfect to keep the birds happy and healthy. (Adding a few pebbles to the middle of it helps smaller birds keep their footing, too.)

Unpainted Cloche

brass and glass cloche

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

A geometric brass-and-glass pendant light is perfect for upcycling into a DIY cloche like this. You can display anything you’d like within it and even change it out seasonally. Big name decor shops sell similar versions for a much higher cost than the full light fixtures run at thrift shops, too.

Boho Basket Wall

unpainted wall decor for a boho home

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Wall galleries made from flat baskets are a wonderfully thrifty way to fill a LOT of vertical real estate. Plus, they’re lightweight and easy to hang- and with the addition of vintage woven trivets, they take on a whole new boho look.

And look at all that color that you don’t have to paint yourself..!

Removing Paint

diy mini library card catalog

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Authentic card catalogs salvaged from libraries have been a staple (and favorite) of vintage and farmhouse decorating for a while now. What is it about those little drawers that bewitch us so much? But this one started out as a painted jewelry box from the thrift store- and got a makeunder more than a makeover to look like this.

Upcycled Cross-Stitch

reusable grocery bag from thrift store finds

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

You see a lot of vintage or retro pieces of cross stitch in the thrift store art section. But what if hanging it on your wall isn’t ideal, style-wise? Well, you can always upcycle it into a tote bag like this– and in this case, the bag came from the thrift store, as well!

Unpainted Bird Feeder

diy suet feeder

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Feeding your backyard birds in the winter is as easy as a suet feeder. And this version is made in a thrifted coffee mug, no paint or decorating needed. All the birds care about is the yummy goodness inside it anyway.

Pizza Pan Weaving

metal loom for a woven wall hanging

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

This woven wall hanging started out as a pizza pan on a thrift store shelf, believe it or not. But, the results are contemporary and surprisingly stylish for a Boho or eclectically-styled home.

Admittedly, it helped that the pizza pan was already a muted gold color and I didn’t have to paint it first…

Garden Tool Trellis

diy trellis from old garden tools

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

There are probably some old garden tools- spades, rakes, pitchforks, and hoes- leaning up in the corner of your garage or shed right now. Or in the corner of your local thrift store. Either way, you can piece them together into a decorative and functional garden trellis for plants that like to climb or could use a little help standing up.

Pillow Covers from Sweaters

boho pillow covers

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Unique and fun, these boho pillow covers started as sweaters hanging on a thrift store rack. Even the pillow inserts came from the thrift store, which makes these boho throw pillows an extremely thrifty way to add pops of color on furniture.

An Unpainted Classic

milk glass vases that have been decorated without paint

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Maybe St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a holiday that needs a lot of decorating. Which is perfectly fine because these embellishments are completely temporary. But specific milk glass vases from my collection were ideal for this short-term decorating idea and I can swap things out throughout the year.

Thrift Store Art Reimagined

upcycle idea for thrift store art

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

A cool frame at the thrift store might be holding some very unappealing “art”, which was the case with this unusual frame. And getting the ugly prints out of the frame ended up being a nightmare. So, the bad art was simply covered up with some peel-and-stick wallpaper samples– no painting or stenciling needed.

Wooden Pendant Necklaces

tennis racket pendants

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

The inside of a tennis racket is quite a lovely surprise. Thin layers of different wood are pressed together to create them, and when sliced like this, the cross section becomes a gorgeous necklace pendant.

Upcycled and Unpainted

craft projects that do not use paint

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

Moral of the story? Paint doesn’t need to be involved in a LOT of different kinds of repurposed projects. And sometimes, it’s a fun challenge to reimagine or reuse a piece without reaching for a bottle or can of paint. Either way, hopefully these unpainted projects give you all sorts of upcycling inspiration before your next thrifting trip.

Craft on!


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thrift store upcycles that are unpainted

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.


repurposed projects that don't use paint

Image credit: Sadie Seasongoods.

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Sarah Ramberg is the owner of Sadie Seasongoods, a website that celebrates all things secondhand. From upcycling ideas and thrifted decor to vintage-centric travel itineraries, Sadie Seasongoods is a one-stop shop for anyone who loves thrifting and approachable repurposing ideas. Sarah is also the author of “Crafting with Flannel” and has been featured in numerous media outlets and magazines.

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