Reuse, Recycle and DIY

I have always been a big fan of recycling items that I have around the house, a new look for something old and tired is sometimes all it takes to inspire some of my best styling work.  It can get a little overwhelming trying to post fresh and creative content using the same old things that you have used a thousand times over.  I am always looking for new things for my images so I spend a lot of time on online and in second-hand stores.  It can all get very costly, not to mention the space these items occupy in our house. Thrift stores are a great place to visit if you really have the time to browse and let your imagination run wild as I think this is when you find the best things.  It is pretty satisfying to buy something old and turn it into something awesome again and there’s a good chance you’ll have something totally unique to you – bonus!  So, before you go out and blow your budget on a bunch on new props, I have compiled a list of things to help you get inspired by things you are likely to already have at home. 


This is usually the first port of call for me, especially on shopping day!  The options here are endless and not just for foodie shots but all kinds of styling work.  Fruit and veg are a great place to start as they are bright and vibrant and happily sit as the star item in any image.  Dried and fresh spices are a must, they add beautiful textures and colours and can create their own stunning image without having to add anything else.  If you have followed my Instagram for a while now you may have noticed we eat a lot of cheese so this is definitely a go-to when I am raiding the fridge for props.  Another one of my favourites are lollies. I don’t really even eat sweets but I certainly have a stash for photos as they could be just that last little addition that brings it all together. 

As if that was not enough here are some of my other favourite pantry props, these are things I already have in my pantry and fridge.

  • Lemons
  • Walnuts – whole in the shell
  • Cheese
  • Coffee beans
  • Dried spices – cinnamon sticks, star anise, red chilli flakes
  • Fresh herbs – rosemary, bay leaves and mint, all from our garden
  • Olive oil
  • Also, my most used condiment ever in photos and cooking – flaky sea salt

* From left image 1 and 3 @kowhai_kitchen


Who doesn’t already have a good stash of magazines and books at home?!  There is so much inspiration to be found on the pages of your favourite mag.  My magazine collection is actually out of control, but sometimes a cool mag feature is all I need to inspire a new image.  Fashion and interior mags are my absolute favourite as they are colourful, edgy and give you an instant image story before you have even started.  Aside from finding a cool feature you can also collect your favourite images and use them time and time again.  I have a collection of black and white fashion photography from Vogue magazines that I have used on Instagram over and over again – great value for money from a $10 magazine.  If you’re lucky enough to stumble across a vintage collection of magazines in a thrift store or online, grab them!  If words are more your thing then a selection of fun, inspiring words or quotes are great little additions to take your image to the next level. 

My most used magazines:

  • Vogue Australia
  • Donna Hay Fresh and Light
  • NZ Home and Garden
  • Inside Out
  • Gourmet Traveller
  • Remix
Save your favourite mag pictures to use in your images

Save your favourite mag pictures to use in your images


I am extremely handy with the paint brush and before I discard anything I ask myself if perhaps it would look better with a fresh coat of paint?  Nine times out of ten the answer is YES!  Painting is also something to consider when you are at the second-hand store – it might look average now but could look amazing in hot pink 😊 I have painted items specifically to fit with colours schemes for images that I have created and it’s a great way to get something really unique.  You’ll normally only need only a test pot of paint so it’s super cheap. 

My most used painted items:

  • A wooden bowl that has been numerous colours, currently blush pink
  • A serving tray which was once a horrible dark teal colour and is now fresh and white
  • A selection of concrete diamonds that I have painted in different colours
  • An old soda bottle turned vase with a half coat of paint
  • Milk jugs from second-hand stores, one in white and one in black
  • A selection of boxes that I have painted in different colours and use as “stunt gifts”
An old wicker basket looking fresh with a new coat of paint

An old wicker basket looking fresh with a new coat of paint


Many regular Instagrammers in the Creatively Squared community are out there snipping, foraging and collecting, and why not when nature has so much beauty to offer!  We have a very limited garden at home yet I still manage to find things that are flat lay worthy. Sometimes a collection of leaves, flowers, twigs are all you need to create yourself an image.  My other favourite place to find treasures is the beach, so many textures and you get a stunning view while you forage, win win! It’s autumn in New Zealand and that means a never-ending supply of gorgeous dried and colourful leaves circling the yard, make the most of that!  Drying flowers is also a great way to make the most of your floral purchases.  I have found that roses are the best, both petals and whole flowers are great for texture and finishing touches.   I also love baby’s breath, amazing texture and beautiful natural colour when dried.

My most used foraged items from nature:

  • A collection of twigs – one perfectly shaped one that I once found in a car park
  • Dried baby’s breath – I discovered by accident that this looks great dried and it can be expensive so why just throw it away?!
  • Dried rose petals and whole flowers
  • Shells, rocks, sticks and stones from my beach expeditions


Most of us enjoy a beverage…  it could be wine, beer, soda, coffee or tea, whatever your drink of choice this is an opportunity to make the most of some cool packaging.  There are so many amazing wine bottles out there, I have an empty bottle of Piper Heidsieck Rare 2002 that I was lucky enough to score from my old job – even though I didn’t drink the actual wine ☹ I also have a small collection of Champagne boxes, these are just so pretty!  If you are a takeaway coffee drinker then save your favourite cups, some of these have really cool designs and colours and look great in photos.  More of a tea fan?  Well what about those amazing tea tins and boxes, well worth saving I think.  Glass vessels also make great vases – we love things with double uses!

My most used drinks based props:

  • Takeaway coffee cups
  • An old soda bottle that I painted and turned into a vase
  • Two little vintage medicine bottles that I found buried on my parents’ farm
  • My pink Krug Champagne box
  • My Antipodes sparking water bottles
A small portion of my bottle collection

A small portion of my bottle collection

If that wasn’t enough to get you started, there are always more treasures to consider.  Once you have burnt your expensive candle keep the canister as a vase, I kept a box from an Ecoya candle as it was so pretty and I used it all the time.  Paint swatches are a must for me, they are free from the paint store and are a great little gap filler.  They could also be the jumping off point for the whole image.  Shopping bags are another keeper, the nice cardboard ones in bright colours or with cool designs or branding – bag spill anyone?

By now I’m sure you all think I’m this crazy hoarder whose house it packed to the rafters with stuff… not quite but we may need a bigger house sooner rather than later.  As much as I love to collect pretty things I also love organisation and I have a place for all my essential pieces.  Every few months I have a clean-out and anything that I don’t use goes back to the second-hand store for someone else to enjoy.  So the next time you create an image, have a look around and see what you already have on offer. Challenge yourself to use something that you may have always thought was too difficult to style and always be on the lookout for that perfect piece!

My best ever second-hand store finds:

  • A marble mortar and pestle that cost me $15 (score!)
  • An amazing old music book that is super vintage
  • A little glass decanter that with a cut-glass diamond stopper
  • My most recent purchase of some over sized brass keys that look like they unlock some kind of secret door
  • Some wooden builders rulers that I had wanted for soooo long
Recycle flat lay.jpg

Get creative this weekend with these quick and easy DIY ideas, these items are all easy to find second hand store treasures.  For any wooden items I would give them a quick sand first so the paint has a rough surface to stick to, then use a good masking tape to mark out your pattern or just paint the entire piece. Once the paint has dried then peel off the tape and voila you have yourself a bright new prop to use.   - Also you know how I said above that Lemons were one of my favourite props.....well here's the proof: