Book Review: Upcycling Outdoors by Max McMurdo

Upcycle: to reuse discarded objects or material in such a way as to
create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.

I didn’t really stop to consider that ‘upcycling outdoors’ is a thing, but Max McMurdo explains the concept and inspires you to try it yourself. In his explanation, McMurdo notes that “traditionally speaking, products for the garden have been less design-led and more functional and practical.” I would tend to agree, which is why I love his follow-up thought: “Placing items in the garden usually used exclusively inside our homes has also become popular, and this can create a very magical, fairytale look to our outdoor space.” In my initial blog, I noted that I’m “creating my own little patch of happiness.” And in last week’s post I noted that I’m going for whimsical and fun, so McMurdo’s mention of magical/fairytale kept me reading.


McMurdo’s approach to upcycling for the garden has encouraged me to think beyond the obvious. I’ve already gathered a variety of flower pots and baskets that I hope to rehab in the coming months and place in my garden. I even have my eye on an outdoor metal table and chairs that I would like to revitalize with a coat of paint and maybe a mosaic table top. But instead of re-establishing an existing garden item as a new and improved version of itself, the upcycling concept here is to take an item and give it a new purpose.

Think about building a planter out of a suitcase; a firepit from a bicycle wheel; a lawn version of dominos from scaffolding boards; a light from a birdcage. McMurdo walks you through creating each one. I was particularly inspired by the three-door potting shed. It is my favorite project in the book simply because that’s the item my garden is currently missing. Potting tables can be expensive; potting sheds even more so. Using vintage doors is a brilliant idea because it allows protection from the rain & wind but allows for natural light. The corrugated tin is the perfect roof material.

Potting Shed

Each project is supported by a series of pictures and instructions. Overall, the photography is gorgeous. Frame-by-frame, you get to see each project come together in logical fashion. The written instructions are also logical and easy to follow. For several projects, McMurdo even suggests where you might find the materials (architectural salvage yards, building sites or scaffold companies).

If you have a craving for inspiring ways to elevate the look of your garden, I highly recommend you take a look at this book.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. All photos by Brent Darby and appear in the book Upcycling Outdoors by Max McMurdo.

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