Nikki & Ian’s Quirky, Upcycled & Nature-Inspired Home

published Mar 6, 2016
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Name: Ian and Nikki Fotheringham and their dog, BangBang
Location: Ontario, Canada
Size: 100 square meters (1,069 square feet)
Years Lived In: 1 year; Rented

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It might be hard to imagine decorating your home solely with furniture that has a past life—upcycled, secondhand or DIY-ed into something new entirely. However, for Nikki and Ian, it comes easily, and this is exactly how they have approached designing their space. They have primarily embraced this way of decorating in order to live as sustainably as possible, having a minimal impact on the environment. Instead of purchasing new furniture, over the years Nikki and Ian have collected items from travels, local markets, thrift stores and auctions.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

They also love taking on the challenge of DIY projects, especially repurposing old items, such as transforming a cast iron bathtub into a love seat for the living room reading nook!

Nikki grew up in South Africa and spent most of her childhood outdoors, which allowed her to build a strong connection to nature and the environment from an early age. As an author and green living blogger at the Greenmoxie, Nikki uses her way with words to educate and inspire toward a greener lifestyle. Both Nikki and Ian share a great love for the outdoors and have an eager sense for adventure and experiencing the world. One of their favorite pastimes is camping, and they recently wrote a book called The Flaming Marshmallow, which is a collection of recipes to inspire eating well while camping!

The couple recently purchased a piece of land just outside the small town of Warkworth, Ontario, where they currently reside in an apartment on Main Street. Ian is in the process of building a tiny house that they will use on the property. Among the many ideas and dreams that Nikki and Ian have for their land, sharing it with others is a main priority. They want to create a place where people can come for the simple pleasures of nature and reprieve.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: My focus is sustainability, so most of the items in our home are upcycled country chic

Inspiration: We own a piece of Wildwoods nearby, and all our inspiration comes from there. You will see parts of the forest everywhere in our home, and we love the natural materials and colors.

Favorite Element: Wood is our bread and butter. Having a husband who is handy is a real asset, and many of the pieces in our home were made by him. Our oak dining table is made from repurposed pews, our bed is made from repurposed barn-board, and our spare bed from a fallen birch tree.

Biggest Challenge: For me the biggest challenge is always treading lightly on the earth. Just about everything is filled with chemicals or damages the environment in some way. Finding items which we can repurpose and save from the landfill takes time, but we feel it’s really worth it. Each piece has a story and a history that makes it far more valuable to us than something we picked up from IKEA.

What Friends Say: I think friends get a kick out of knowing that almost everything in our apartment is upcycled. Since we have always lived in an apartment, we haven’t had a workshop. That meant that we repurposed items at the Tool Library; a wonderful resource in Toronto. What friends realized is that they can also repurpose things for their own apartments. We are really tickled pink when they ask for help with their own projects and we’ve even given some workshops at the Tool Library to spread the upcycle love.

Biggest Embarrassment: I really hate the bathroom. The apartment is really old and didn’t originally come with indoor plumbing, so the bathroom is in what used to be a pantry. It’s dark and pokey and the bath was stained until we re-enameled it recently, so I would have to explain to guests that it wasn’t actually dirty, just old.

Proudest DIY: There are so many! I love my pew dining table set and my barn-board bed, but my favorite items at the moment are a corner shelf made from an old door we found behind the garage, my bathtub couch and a chandelier my husband made for Christmas.

Biggest Indulgence: Our sofa set is not upcycled; it’s tough to find a way to upcycle materials with comfort in mind. We got our antique set from a local resident who was downsizing her home. While it’s a big indulgence, at least we didn’t buy a new set!

Best Advice: I think people want to fill their homes instantly and often settle for cheaper items that are poor quality. You don’t want to buy new furniture every couple of years because the old items are out of date or broken. Instead, take your time to find timeless, classic pieces that will last you for decades, or even the rest of your life. Rely on accessories to give your home a modern feel or when you need a change. Disposable furniture costs you more in the long run and is really bad for the environment. It often contains chemicals that off-gas into your home and compromise the safety of your family.

Dream Sources: Vintage stores and auctions are our favorite haunts. We also love Serendipitous Old Stuff and Camp Ho-Ba-Chee; both vintage stores in Warkworth as well as Metaphorhome – a wonderful upmarket home store.



  • Most walls: Benjamin Moore Simply White
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • French Provincial wooden sofa set with red velvet: purchased from a local resident who was downsizing her home
  • Upcycled bathtub sofa: DIY
  • Skulls: bought on a recent trip to Mexico—Ian hung them as lights using pendants lights.
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Table and chairs: DIY from upcycled oak pews
  • Vintage suitcases: collected from various thrift/antique stores
  • Birch candleholders: DIY
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Corner shelf: DIY by Ian using old door found in the recycling
  • Blue kettle: Camp Ho-Ba-Chee
  • Periodic spice rack: DIY made from an old frame
  • Lamp: repurposed dentist lamp
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Bed: DIY made from barn boards
  • Vintage Art Deco dresser: thrifted
  • Forest wall tapestry: gift from a friend
  • Clothes hamper: antique
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Toothbrush holder: upcycled plastic dinosaur
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Upcycled barn board was transformed into a bed frame. (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

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Thanks, Nikki & Ian!