Of course, eco home improvements can be achieved in all sorts of ways, from sourcing sustainable fabrics to investing in eco heating, but one of the simplest eco-friendly steps you take is to use up and repurpose unused decorating materials, which often take the form of offcuts. ‘We have to start changing the way we use materials. We’ve got to stop feeling like we have infinite resources when they are finite. We should all be trying to minimize how much cutting we’re doing, because each time we create another smaller bit, we’re effectively minimizing its potential reuse,’ says interior designer Maria Speake. Below, we show you a few of Maria’s and our favorite ways to use up decorating materials that would otherwise go to waste.

1. Rethink where to use stone

If you are looking for sustainable kitchen ideas, you can simply cut down on the stone offcuts created to make upstands for your kitchen countertop ideas, and to replace them with a more renewable source or simply do without them completely. ‘Practical junctions – for example, the little upstands you have in the kitchen to hide the junction between the countertop and the wall – demand small pieces of materials, often a bit of timber or stone,’ says Maria. ‘My favorites to use are architraves, skirtings and kitchen backsplashes. Or, you can make sure that little offcuts of stone or marble are saved to make one of those small shelves by the hob where you can keep your olive oil or salt.’

2. Use up leftover paint cleverly

‘Using eco paints in the first place is your most earth-friendly approach to tackling the paint ideas you have lined up for your decorating projects. But there is always paint leftover, which often goes to waste, and waste is waste’ says Lucy Searle, Editor in Chief, Homes & Gardens.  ‘One way to use it up is to paint it into another room in just one area to create a flash of color that’s both eye-catching and impactful. And if you have a whole house color scheme or a color thread running through the house, you can do so seamlessly.’ Interior designer Suzy Hoodless (opens in new tab) shows how its done in her living room with the door trim in a bright, citric yellow. 

3. Make imaginative use of leftover tiles

When tiling, we are always told to order extra to account for breakages. But what to do with the extras you can’t always return or the broken tiles? There are many clever options, from the stair treatment above to Maria’s favorite option: ‘Leftover tiles or tile offcuts can be easily inserted into joinery pieces – an easy way to jolly up a very boring closet door. They can be slightly inset or routed into wood or plaster. You can also do the same with pieces of mirror or stone, or contrasting timbers,’ she says.

4. Repurpose unused timber flooring or cladding

Laying wood floors? You will inevitably have timber leftover, which can be put to use in clever ways, from making new furniture to cladding or flooring small spaces that don’t require much wood. ‘One of the fun things we’ve been doing with leftover parquet is cutting it up quite thinly to use as almost light marquetry. We make decorative parquet panels to use as insets and the resulting geometrical effect is very interesting to look at,’ says Maria.

5. Use up leftover wallpaper

Your wallpaper ideas are unlikely to be inexpensive and it’s terrible to see any paper going to waste. So, ask yourself, can you use the offcuts or the odd leftover roll or half-roll elsewhere in the house? ‘It’s amazing how little of something you need to make a great impact. Wallpapers are a pretty obvious choice but you can have so much fun using them to line the back of bookcases or drawers.’

6. Repurpose fabrics – new or old

If you are replacing old curtains that you love, but perhaps one has become damaged or they’re worn or faded in places, could you repurpose them elsewhere? Or perhaps you’re looking to shop sustainably for your home by buying pre-loved fabrics that someone else has discarded? Either way, there are plenty of ways to avoid buying new when you can rethink, from creating fresh new headboard ideas to adding a skirt to an open vanity shelving unit to simply making bowl covers. 

What’s the easiest thing to upcycle?

The easiest household item to upcycle is the simple glass jar. Mason jar craft is a good source of inspiration for ways in which glass jars can be reused. Think: rustic flower jars to craft and DIY material containers.