Everyone has stuff that’s just taking up space around the house. If we were going to clean out all that junk, we would need a massive dumpster. But instead of throwing things away, there are those whose creative abilities allow them to beautifully repurpose old stuff, turning it into amazing ‘new’ items through the magic of upcycling.
When Brooke Norsworthy found an old, beaten-up cooler in her garage, she could have thrown it away. But instead, she saw potential. And just wait until you see what she did with it!
With so much extra clutter lying around most of our homes, it is often all too easy to justify pitching something that once was very useful simply because there isn’t much room left for it in the garage.
Though extremely tempting, why not upcycle that object into something that can find a new purpose for yourself instead? Better yet, make it into something the whole family—plus a few friends—can enjoy! Brooke realized exactly this. She decided that, since it wasn’t broken, it would make a lot more sense to turn that cooler into something new than it would to discard it.
The key to a great, unique DIY is vision. Luckily, Brooke and her friends had that in spades. The cooler already functioned perfectly fine, it just lacked presence. She wanted to make something useful but also turn that old cooler into an item that none of her friends had ever owned, or maybe even seen before.
She was ready to start brainstorming, but the first thing she had to do was set a budget. Sure, they could turn that old piece of insulated plastic into a time machine if they had the cash flow, but Brooke wanted to be economical about the project.
For less than $50, Brooke and her friends had to refurbish or completely rework the exterior and possibly the interior of the cooler, depending on the project they chose. Since it didn’t make much sense to change the inside of the cooler, which would make it little more than a plastic box, they decided to spice up the outside and make it a fancy box that still functioned as a cooler.
She decided that the most cost-effective way to spruce up the cooler was by using materials that were relatively cheap. Wood was the obvious choice, since it would be easy enough to work with, readily available, and versatile enough that they could paint it or leave it unfinished if they wanted.
The first thing that came to mind here was ease of use. If you’re going to upgrade a simple item with a single use, why not make it as convenient as possible? While Brooke embarked on a journey to create the Rolls Royce of coolers, her friends applauded the decision to make it tall.
If you’re going for a good first impression, adding some height to an item that typically requires you bend all the way to the ground in order to access its contents is the way to seal that deal. Not to mention the “wow” factor the additional vertical space would provide to any guest that walked into the party. Brooke was excited by this thought.
Building the frame to the exact measurements of the cooler was paramount. It wasn’t easy, but spending the extra time to triple-check the specs would pay off in the end once the frame fit flush against the outside of the cooler.
It might not have seemed like much, but these were the little details that took this do-it-yourself project from looking like it was taken on by an amateur to one that had been elevated to the skill level of a true professional. Extra wiggle room would be a clear sign of shoddy workmanship, so it was definitely worth the additional time!
Not only was this DIY an upcycle for Brooke’s cooler, but the wood she used to create the beautiful paneling was reclaimed, meaning it was taken from an original source. Reusing the wood helped Brooke and her friends keep the cost of their project down and would give the cooler a unique appearance.
Once they decided to use reclaimed wood, all they had to do was find some that fit the aesthetic they were going for. If you are going to try something similar for your own project, you might be able to use wood that you’ve had stored in the garage, or even some you find while out wandering!
The trick to creating a flush profile on the cooler was the built-in space for the panels on the opposite sides. A DIY project as simple as this one still required diligent attention to specifics and lots of patience.
Even though all of the renovations were mainly cosmetic, Brooke still needed to make sure the cooler functioned as well as it ever had. While this was definitely a project that could be done on the cheap, the one thing she couldn’t skimp on was making sure she preserved the cooler’s original purpose. Thankfully, its functionality shouldn’t need to be compromised when transforming its look.
A vital detail was the hole that would be used to distribute the liquid inside it. This was the one change to the cooler’s design that was going to take it from a typical drink dispenser to an unusual—but irreplaceable—backyard party staple.
Brooke simply took the time to measure and select the appropriate power tools to create this hole. Now that the most challenging aspects of the project were complete, it was on to the fun stuff!
At this point in the project, it was entirely up to Brooke how she would like to personalize her fabulous new cooler. She ended up choosing a basic beveled edge, which lent a rustic yet finished appeal to the cooler’s entire look.
It wouldn’t be long before her friends were wowed by the ingenuity of her design and the distinctive function of the cooler itself.
Coolers have been used for all sorts of things over the years, but Brooke wanted to maintain the integrity of her cooler, and she was excited to use it for its original purpose (except with a little twist, of course)!
She was nearing the end of her project and it was almost time to reveal the finished product to everyone.
Before her moment of glory could arrive, Brooke needed to finish what she started. She took the cooler’s lid off of its base and replaced it with one she’d created from the rest of the wood.
It was completely custom-made and certainly an integral piece of the project. The lid was really going to give Brooke’s refurbished cooler a look all its own!
When searching for reclaimed wood to use in your DIY project, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough to cover all sides. That’s what Brooke did to give the cooler its signature style.
Not only will that make finishing your project easier, but you can rest assured that if you mess up, there will be enough spare wood to do it again.
Again, the key to making the cooler look professional, and work well, was proper measurement. The placement of the hinges was crucial; when the box closed, none of the edges were crooked. Following the measurements was the most effective way to make sure the finished cooler would turn out the way it was supposed to.
Brooke was so close to being finished with her awesome DIY that a little bit of extra work here would surely pay off.
Finally! Brooke had done her job correctly and followed her calculations and measurements regarding the placement of the hinges, the size of the cooler’s top, and more.
Brooke could have used any hinges that she thought fit, but the ones she chose reflected the look and style of the wooden box she built around the cooler.
Here is where she really went wild! Brooke decided to spring for a little bit of flare by adding a spigot that had personality. It really made the cooler inviting. She knew people would see that lever and think, “Now, that’s a handle I want to pull.”
Better still was how functional the bottle opener was. It worked perfectly!
Couldn’t you imagine this at your own party? Guests don’t have to fish around in a tub full of ice water for their drinks, nor do they have to break their backs doing it! This elevated cooler definitely took the backyard barbecue game up a notch or two.
We know we’re going to have to try this DIY pretty soon!
Summer is surely the perfect time to debut this cheap but exciting addition to your backyard, so why not get started in the spring? There’s no end to the variations and looks you can create, and the budget is your own to set.
What a cool project to get working on! What’s better, there are myriad designs you can try…
This cooler is similar to the one Brooke built from scratch, but with a more detailed “insert” and some weathering on the frame. It also features some nifty hardware, like a handle for easier lifting and even a bottle opener on the corner. These finishing touches are easy to install—just drill a few holes and screw in the pieces—and they’re super affordable, too. A simple handmade addition makes all the difference!
There are any number of items other than wood that you could use to make your DIY cooler look a little worn and rugged. This sheet metal is just one of the many creative ways that your cooler can look great and be original at the same time. Another nice detail? The cooler is off-center, leaving a space on the table top for lining up glasses, bottles, or a tray.
Affixing vintage signs to the front of your cooler, like this Coca Cola one, is a great way to make an otherwise average-looking cooler exude a more retro feel. Classic brands of soda pop, beer, or even non-beverages—like ice cream—are all great ideas. Signs that indicate what might be hiding inside are really clever (not to mention, your friends and guests will appreciate the heads up).
Not only are the bottle opener, bucket, and spigot all nice touches, but the wheels are great, as well. Nothing like a mobile cooler!
Some people just think of everything, don’t they? Truly inspiring creativity, here, folks.
When it comes to the outdoors, having a cooler with storage makes it the ultimate activity center. Just think of how handy it would be for barbecues!
What more could you ever want from a backyard cooler? Nothing! That’s what!
Even better, this barrel cooler is perfect for chilling wine and champagne, if you’re planning to have a little bit of a classier affair.
It also wouldn’t be hard to store, and it has a completely one-of-a-kind look that is sure to stand out!
Those wash tubs, especially with the weathered paint look, are so lovely! They would look great at virtually any get together.
That sort of stylish versatility isn’t easy to come by. Who else wants to make a pair of these for their own backyard?
The little bucket underneath for empty beer bottles is also a really adorable touch for this cooler. Again, we’re amazed by the creativity of people!
All this one needs is a little bucket under the bottle opener, and it would be totally perfect!
It’s incredible to think that these people have made something so awesome for so little money. They are truly talented!