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Swapping With Colin & Justin?

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Could swapping unwanted furniture items with your neighbours be the solution to an unstylish home? Colin and Justin's Street Swap, a design special on HGTV, investigates...

Upcycling: the magical art, decoratively speaking, that turns chicken poo into delicious chicken pie. OK, that's the moderated in print version of our oft' espoused saying (we normally shriek "chicken sh** into chicken salad") though, however it's chopped, upcycling is a wonderful way to amplify the style quotient in even the most style deprived home... by reworking that which you already have.

T'is fair to report we love the craft of transformation; a good before and after, you see, is wildly appealing. And our fascination, if we're honest, goes way back; we first learned to upcycle while hosting a BBC show called Trading Up In The Sun, a media juggernaut which helped British homeowners shift hard to sell Spanish properties. Back then, with Aunty Beeb's budgets tighter than a gnats derriere, we certainly didn't have budget to furnish anew so we'd tweak and preen existing kit via auspicious painting and re-versioning.

Our TUITS premise was simple -- lacklustre 'stuff' could hinder real estate transactions. Blimey, who knew the skittish Spanish property market could be fixed with a roll of faux fur, some mustard latex and a staple gun?

But of course that was then, more than 15 years past. Spool forward to the present day and you'll find we've despatched our titillation tactics in favour of an eminently more subdued approach. That said, we stand by our affection for up cycled furniture, potentially gorgeous pieces which, properly tricked up, will propel you into an eminently more glamorous world.

Which brings us neatly on to Colin and Justin's Street Swap, a decorating special which premiers this Sunday at 10 p.m. on HGTV Canada. And the premise? Here goes...

Across a half hour of high impact telly, we attempt to prove that second hand doesn't mean second best by undertaking a TV experiment to show that a seriously stylish home can be created on a seriously shoestring budget. And can it? In a word: yes. But only if you play by the rules.

At the top of our jaunty 'special', we spout our triple T maxim -- Trash! Treasure! Trade! -- as we encourage our subjects to 'edit' their space. Following our lead, all you have to do - should you wish to effect change -- is look around and create three piles of 'stuff' -- the first being for items you'd like to get rid of, the second for kit you'd like to keep and the third for pieces to 'swap', as the show's title suggests, with neighbours.

With a nod to the economy -- and a bow to the environment -- we trawl the local 'hood searching for discarded items to upcycle. First up is a black corduroy sofa, which we retrieve from its flat lined state using a Gustavian paint job and gorgeous upholstery. Next, we revive a mid-century sideboard by lopping off its legs and adding dreamy Lucite sides. Also featured is a dining table which, sawn in half, becomes a pair of doglegged consoles and a rickety baby change station which is dramatically reborn as a Las Vegas inspired cocktail cabinet. Elvis would have been so proud...

Our Upcycling tips

  • Trade with pals. 'Swishing', where clothing is exchanged with girlfriends during frock swap parties, has become big news and we reckon furniture swapping parties will be next. So jump on the bandwagon to capture the best deals. The early bird and all that...
  • Search online auctions, sale rooms, consignment stores and charity outlets for 'junktiques' to revamp. Mightn't that twenty buck credenza from Habitat For Humanity become so darned pretty with a coat of varnish and some sexy new Lee Valley hard wares?
  • Learn to look at things differently -- perhaps the dining table that's been consuming much needed space in your garage could be cropped to become a low slung coffee table? Or could the deathly dull wing backed chair (the one in your neighbours sun room that looks like it smells of cat wee) be reborn with a sequence of new fabrics?
  • Switch furniture from room to room. Sometimes all it takes to give your home a fresh feel is to jiggle everything around. A paint job, for example, on a redundant hall console, could radically brighten its future, especially if dragged into your bedroom and positioned with a mirror above. Hey presto; it's a dressing table. Remember -- it's not WHAT you've got but how you USE it that makes the biggest difference.
  • Preparation is key. There's no point planning a reversion if you don't have the bottle to do the job properly. So sand woodwork to within an inch of its life and apply paint or varnish using light coats. One overly lavish gloopy coat will create a drippy 'house of wax' effect. And nobody cares for that.
  • Only tackle reupholstery if you're properly clued up. We'll be honest; anything beyond recovering a foot stool can be tricky without the relevant skill set. So call in the pro's (our favourite upholstery company is N'Shape Design: 416-742-7323) rather than find yourself locked into a face off with a staple gun and an angry bale of fabric.
  • Our message, if we're entirely honest, is actually staggeringly simple -- you don't have to send your bank manager into cardiac free fall to achieve drop dead gorgeous designer aesthetics. All you have to do is sweet talk your neighbours... and then 'SWAP' your way to a supremely stylish home. One person's trash, after all, is another person's treasure!

'Colin and Justin's Street Swap', airs 10 p.m. on HGTV Canada, Sunday 14 July

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