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Check Out the New Wave in Home Design with “Renovate Innovate,” A Study in Upcycling

Upcycling is sweeping the globe with its limitless possibilities for reimagining domestic architecture and home design.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen
Photo: [RECLAIMED] #TELEGRAPH POLE HOUSE. Designed by © WHBC Architects | Langkawi, Malaysia. Photo Credit: © Tian Xing and Ken Soh

From Tribeca to Texas, Milan to Saigon, upcycling is the hottest trend in architecture and home design. Upcycling is when renovation meets recycling, taking what has been disregarded or abandoned and breathing new life into it. In addition to being a glorious reimagining of historical trends in modern parlance, upcycling is also a highly ecological approach, for it salvages and upgrades what already exists, avoiding adding to the constant flow of detritus that surrounds us.

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422_8309_177115_xxlAuthor Antonia Edwards showcases some of the best examples in the form in her new book Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes (Prestel). The book takes us on a wondrous trip around the world into one-of-a-kind dwellings that are marvelous feats of human imagination.

[REIMAGINED] # LE MOULIN ET LE FOUR Designed by © Piet Hein Eek | Mavaleix, France. Photo Credit: © Thomas Mayer

[REIMAGINED] #LE MOULIN ET LE FOUR Designed by © Piet Hein Eek | Mavaleix, France. Photo Credit: © Thomas Mayer

From environmentalist Peter Bahouth’s highly coveted three-unit tree house nestled in the Atlanta woods to La Fracrica, architect Ricardo Bofill’s famed studio and living space on the site of a former cement factory in Barcelona, the possibilities for fantastical redesigns are endless. Renovate Innovate is a breathtaking guide to what happens when aesthetics and ingenuity meet in service of preservation of the environment.

“Each design tells a story of how a beautiful and timeless home can emerge out of doing something unpredictable with materials and buildings that others might consider unrecoverable or redundant,” Edwards writes.

Renovate Innovate is organized into three sections, Reclaimed, Revived, and Reimagined, each of which presents a distinctive approach to upcycling pre-existing buildings for domestic use. The Reclaimed section showcases homes that have been built using upcycled materials such as shipping containers, telegraph poles, railway sleepers, and even a Boeing 747, in place of traditional building materials, creating one of the most inspiring approaches to recycling in contemporary architecture today.

Revived features existing residential properties given a breath of fresh life, often times using reclaimed materials and vintage pieces to create a modern aesthetic that bridges the old and the new, like The White House on the Isle of Coll in Scotland, which was constructed back in the mid-1700s, and decayed over time. It’s now beautifully updated interiors take into account the fact that the winter days are extremely short with a series of glass windows and walls that maximize sunlight during the darkest of months.

The final section, Reimagined, takes reconfigures non-residential buildings such as a Methodist chapel, an old chocolate factory, and a cattle barn for home life. This is perhaps the most charming section of all, as it reveals that the only limits of imagination are self-imposed. Few would consider a garage fit for human life, yet interior designer James Van der Velden did just this in Amsterdam. The conversion took just one year to complete, and it is simply exquisite in the way it embraces the raw energy of the space and reconceptualizes it in a dynamic new way.

Renovate Innovate is a dream volume of work that will inspire anyone who has ever walked into a church and thought, “I could live here!” or wanted to live an a palatial treehouse nestled deep in the woods. Whatever your fantasy, Renovate Innovate assures you: it is possible.


Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.