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Cheap to Sophisticated

Facelift Upcycling

We here at DMO absolutely love bringing new life to old products. With America generating over 254 million tons of trash per year, and anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of that is building materials (with only 20% of the building materials making it to a recycling facility), it is extremely important for designers to be aware of the waste they create. And more and more homeowners are doing the same. Upcycling products, as a substitute to trashing them, is a great way to do your own little bit of good for our environment; and what a great way to let your creativity soar!

Periodically, when we here at DMO have completed an upcycle project, we will share it with you in a hopes to inspire creativity, and new ideas for your dated, worn out, or unused products. Remember, you can be making any of these items for yourself, as gifts, or to sell; anything to keep usable materials out of our landfills. And we will always say, if you can’t think of something to do with that worn out product (or you don’t have time, money, energy, etc.) then there are always other options, such as donating them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, the ReStore, or other charitable organizations. Be on the lookout for future installments of Facelift Upcycling!


One of DMOs designers was given a used truck to store toys for their growing boy; however, the obnoxious turquoise color was not very well liked by said boy. Additionally, the clasps, hinges and corner casings were done in a shiny chrome metal. The combination of colors, though the styling of the trunk was intended to be that of antiques, made the piece look cheap. So our designer set out to give it a facelift, because the trunk itself was solid, worked well, still had the key and could hold plenty of toys or collectables.

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So first step was choosing a paint. Because the trunk had so many seems, divots, peaks, brackets, rivets and other applications that made the surface anything but smooth, a spray paint was going to be the best choice. With the right amount of patience, this project could have been done in two different colors, painting the case one color, allowing to dry, taping it off and painting the metal another color; however due to time constrains and ease, our designer chose to paint it all one solid color. So because the paint was going to cover metal pieces our designer chose a metal spray paint (one that gave a slight texture as if it were wrought metal). Then for the color, honestly, she just let her 2-year-old daughter choose 🙂

The most important and most tedious step in this facelift was sanding down all the shiny chrome. In order for most paints to adhere to shiny surfaces you must either use a primer that is made for shiny surfaces (very few exist) or you must rough up the surface. Our designer hand sanded all of the pieces of chrome with a 220 grit paper, ensuring coverage of all of the nooks and crannies. Once sanded, our designer inspected the piece for any place in which she would not want to get paint and taped it off. For this particular piece because the interior of the trunk was just particle board, she was not concerned with getting paint on it; however, she did want to make sure that the locking mechanisms were not ruined by the paint, so she folded a piece of painter’s tape over itself several times and stuffed the keyhole with it. Generally, to protect a keyhole, you would place the key into the lock as far as it could go and then tape up the visible portion of the key; however, with this project the key was too loose and would not stay in the keyhole if done in this manner. She also used painters tape to cover the black plastic handle; places where constant motion or friction take place may become worn down quickly depending upon the paint chosen.

Now it was ready to paint. Our designer laid out large pieces of cardboard and started with the trunk open and face down in order to cover as many surfaces as possible in the first run. Then after following the spray paint’s instructions she let the coast dry before flipping the trunk over and painting the sides that were missed. It took a total of 3 coats to cover this piece.

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The resulting product is exactly what she was hoping for, and her son loves it too! The spray paint took on two different textures due to the materials that it was being spraying on, where the metal pieces look similar to wrought iron and the trunk surface looks like expensive leather. Something as simple as a can of spray paint turned this trunk from looking cheap to looking sophisticated!

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