Katie Piper discusses her newest passion for upcycling family heirlooms and offers advice on how to get started.


The first lockdown was simply boring, according to philanthropist, TV host, and author Katie Piper OBE. “I just began painting things throughout the house,” you say.

The Katie Piper Foundation, which Piper founded and for which she often presents on Loose Women, provides rehabilitation for burn survivors.

Belle, 8, and Penelope, 4, live with her and her husband, a carpenter named Richard.

Oh Mum, why are you painting stuff, may we help?, my children asked. I reasoned, “Well, honestly, maybe there’s something here that we could all do together and that would foster creativity while also bringing us closer.”

Katie Piper discovered a love of upcycling during lockdown

“We began with a bench.” My husband is a carpenter, therefore he advised us that before painting something, you must first sand it down. There was nothing in our house or garden that hadn’t been recycled by the time lockdown ended.

According to Katie, her kids are now very interested in upcycling and enjoy helping her with her projects.

‘They know how important they are to you’

A memory box that Katie recycled for her girls and painted with ballerinas is the upcycling item that her daughters cherish the most.

My daughters appreciate everything I do for them, adds Katie. When you do something for someone, whether it’s your girls or friends, it has importance.

She claims that the memory box is a favorite among her daughters, who also appreciate the work that went into making it.

They are aware that effort was put into it, she claims. They are aware of your importance to them since you set out that time for them.

‘I used an electric sander and sanded down the box,’ says Katie.
Katie used chalk paint after sanding down the box

I used chalk paint because it’s the easiest type to deal with, especially if you’re painting with kids and don’t want any paint on your clothes. Due to the fact that both of my children are very interested in ballet, I used a stencil and brush to add ballerinas to it.

‘I actually get a sense of satisfaction and achievement, because having this kind of creative outlet, it’s an act of mindfulness,’ she explains.

Upcycling, according to Piper, gives her an opportunity to take a break from the pressures of a job that frequently “seems to go at 700mph.”

With this kind of creative expression, she says, “I actually feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, since it’s an act of awareness.”

Today, according to Piper, her family takes days off to visit jumble sales and car boot sales before spending the next day working on fresh upcycling projects.

In fact, she now upcycles everything from bird tables to radiator coverings, making it a part of their daily lives (and a whole kitchen).

She claims that by giving used items a second chance, her kids in particular appreciate doing their part to reduce trash.

‘When you’re doing the upcycling, you don’t think about the unread work emails or tricky conversations, you just concentrate,’ she says.

Because they are so much more advanced than we are, she says, it is fantastic to talk to children about sustainability. They yell at me if I don’t recycle something. Upcycling is therefore obvious to them.

It’s nice to use things that were going to be thrown away because we have so much trash to throw away these days.

But Katie enjoys an upcycling project most for the way it takes her out of herself.

“When you’re doing the upcycling, you just concentrate,” she explains, “you don’t think about the unread work emails or tough discussions.” “Upcycling requires me to slow down. I place a high value on time, especially the time I spend with my children, the attention we give one another, the memories we create, and the activities we engage in during that time. Probably more important than number is quality. That’s priceless to me.

Take inspiration from Katie and start your own upcycling project

Everything doesn’t have to be perfect

‘You’re trying to produce something that looks handmade. So don’t get hung up on perfectionism. Think more about the authenticity of the finished product.’

Use Instagram to get inspiration

‘Instagram is a great place to find inspiration, there’s some great hashtags like #upcycling where you can see what different people are doing.’

There’s lots of places to find materials

‘You can find things on eBay or Freecycle or on local Facebook groups and charity shops, jumble sales and car boots are great too.’

Take time at the start to plan

‘When you get something, check it for damage and see whether it can be restored or upcycled – are there chips or dents? Does anything need filling in?’

Don’t feel you have to change everything

‘When I did the memory box, there were some really nice original features which I left on there – it can be a great way to keep the character.’

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