Upcycled furniture

Sidebar:  Robert’s furniture 

While recycling processes waste for reuse, upcyling improves on this by turning the waste into a better product.

There’s a word being used on the international design scene that is now finding a place in Cayman’s vocabulary: upcyling.

This is a process that involves converting old or disused items and materials into new products such as furniture.

Instead of buying furniture straight from the production line, many people are turning to upcycling for unique and cost-saving ways to adorn their interiors with one-of-a-kind pieces and to add an eco-friendly touch to their abode.

While upcycling may be easier in countries that are awash with vintage, antique or thrift stores, it can be done here in Cayman, as well, with pieces that have fallen out of style.

Another method of upcycling is to use off-cuts of larger materials, which would usually be destined for the scrap heap.

Grand Cayman-based architect and furniture-maker Robert Johnson designs pieces in this way.


“It’s almost found-material,” he says. “It’s waste from the construction industry which has allowed me to reuse these materials for little or no cost.”

Producing his upcycled furniture locally also lowers the cost and minimizes the environmental ramifications of shipping products to the island.

While recycling processes waste for reuse, upcyling improves on this by turning the waste into a better product. Both methods extend the life-cycle of products, lessening the need for both the disposal of products and the manufacturing of new materials. 

“It is imperative that Cayman starts closing the loops on our material chains,” says Robert.

“It makes sense that we reduce the size of our future landfill and reduce the extra costs of shipping materials onto the island by reusing materials that have come to the end of their first life by upcycling them into new products or uses for better quality and environmental value.”

As well as being environmentally friendly, all of Robert’s furniture is well-designed for ergonomics and dimensioned for each of their specific uses, and it is this functionality, combined with their aesthetics, that pleases him most.

“I like the utilitarian nature of them and their vibrant colors which represent Cayman’s inherent beautiful natural surroundings of water and foliage,” he says.