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Renew, re-use, re-decorate? Why not! Recycling old furniture is all the rage. It’s the perfect way to turn discards into desirables. Doing it yourself saves money, and you don’t have to be an artist to achieve the looks found in expensive boutiques.

The transformation begins at home. Take an inventory to see what pieces you need, and then set a realistic budget for each room. Then, arm yourself with some cash and a sturdy pair of walking shoes, and head for the nearest flea market. Scour the place from beginning to end and keep an open mind. You never know what treasures you’ll discover.

Hunt for the unusual. Look for odd-shaped pieces and those with a lot of detail. Ornate moldings, unconventional handles and hand-carved legs add character. Keep your eyes open for items that lend themselves to uses other than the original intention. For example, a flat-topped cedar chest covered with a quilted cushion creates a cozy love seat, or a checkerboard hand painted on the top of a nightstand transforms it into a cheerful game table. Use your imagination!

Go beyond the surface. Don’t worry if the item looks tired. A coat of paint, some sanding, or stripping and re-staining the wood will breathe new life into the furniture and hide imperfections. Slipcovers are perfect for a slightly worn sofa. And, a few nicks and scratches give you an edge when you negotiate the price.

Keep costs down. Comparison-shop from booth to booth. Remember that your crafting materials must also fit into your budget. Unless it’s a must-have, one-of-a-kind antique, you can probably find a similar item two rows ahead for less. Be sure you can transport the item to your home. Borrow a friend’s van or truck to avoid paying a mover.

Flea markets aren’t the only place to unearth a diamond in the rough. Visit garage sales, yard sales and even estate sales for great bargains. One very resourceful crafter saw an advertisement for a restaurant that was going out of business. She came home with four wooden chairs that she promptly painted with bright-colored designs. The result: new companions for her kitchen table, and she didn’t pay a cent!

After purchasing the furniture, determine how you can most creatively transform it. Strip the stain off the wood and try a new shade of stain. Or, cover it with bright-colored paint. Try big, bold shapes, or mix smaller, intricate designs like dots and checkerboards, florals and stripes. Attach marbles with strong adhesive for a three-dimensional look, or glue a collage of photographs on the surface of a coffee table and seal it with decoupage. The resurgence of mosaic art has made tiles and other supplies readily available. Check your local craft store for materials or scout out china manufacturers and ask for broken pieces. Strategically placed on the top of a table or stool, tiles and china are good options for completely covering surfaces.

Whatever medium you choose, recycling old furniture turns discards into desirables. It’s a great way to express yourself artistically, it’s fun, and it’s economical, too. And, chances are, your creation will be a unique conversation piece.