Where old becomes gold: 10 places to find cool things upcycled from waste in Chennai

Old thingies are finding their way in to flea bazaars, upcycled stores, Facebook groups and forums in a new avatar of trash to treasure in Chennai.

Trendy coffee tables repurposed from dingy storage boxes, colourful retro bowls from old vinyl records, and sometimes unbelievable deals like getting Italian furniture for a third its actual price—these are the treasures that you stumble upon when you hit upcycling markets or shop for second hand items. Old goods are no longer considered down market in Chennai as they are finding their way in to flea bazaars, upcycle stores, and Facebook groups in a new avatar.

Chennai has always been open towards pre-owned stuff, and the legendary Moore Market with its colourful second hand wares, rare artefacts, and books is a testimony to this culture. So if you are on the lookout for pre-owned or upcycled goods then here is a list of go-to places and groups:

1. Madras Mambalam – Quirky and colourful

madras mambalan

Cutting chai sets, colourful garden kettles, creative animal badges of Silly Billy, quirky collection of coasters, scribbling pads, and more are featured at Madras Mambalam. You will never guess that most of the items are repurposed from old glasses, aluminium kettles, bottles, etc.

This online kitsch store – started by Adeela Abdul Razak, who has her roots deeply connected to Chennai – is quite popular for those looking for colourful and funky upcycled merchandise. The store features many products like tote bags, storage boxes, wall hangings, and their latest merchandise: Rajini series of Bags and Coasters. Prices range from as low as Rs. 40/- for products like magnets to Rs. 500/- for tote bags, and Rs. 950/- for a set of six Chai glasses at this store.

2. Re-Use Sandhai – Freecycle and recycle

reuse sandhai

This is an online Chennai community that actively promotes the usage of used products. The Facebook page was launched in February 2012 and was inspired by the Bangalore group “Second To None”. The content is strictly moderated here, rules are outlined clearly, and advertisements of any kind are not allowed. The group sees a lot of people putting up their baby gears and furniture for sale here.

3. Goli Soda – Eco-friendly is cool

goli soda

Stylish coasters from motherboards, colourful accessories from upcycled fabrics, note books and tags created from elephant dung, pet bottle jewellery; all these vie for attention at the Goli Soda store. Started by Sruti Harihara Subramanian the store stocks many brands that repurpose old stuff while rating high in innovative design. Some of the products featured here are from WorkshopQ, Silver Nut Tree, Kyra, Eco Femme,Haathi Chaap etc that are upcycled and sustainable. The store located in Besant Nagar, Chennai, and also features products like clothes, home accessories, gifts, and organic products like soaps, detergents, composters, and seeds.

4. Thrift Bazaar offering great bargains

thrift bazaar

Started by Shwetha Balasubramanian and her husband KP Balakumar, this online group features products like electronics, books, baby products, furniture, etc. Boasting of more than 7,000 members Thrift Bazaar is wholly a non-profit venture with the sole idea of promoting second hand goods. Things like furniture, electronics and books gets quickly sold here. This is also the place where you can get hold of antique pieces/heirlooms and even Ravi Verma prints. With a bidding system in place you are sure to find a deal matching your budget.

5. The online Moore Market 


The name reminds you of the traditional Moore market of Chennai that was the go to place to buy items at bargain prices. The online version of such a market exists wherein you can buy, sell, and donate pre-owned stuff. The Moore Market, started in 2012 by Santhosh Kumar Subramanian, an MBA graduate, is a closed group boasting of more than 35,000 members. Items like mobiles, sports gear, electronic gadgets, and academic books sell like hot cakes here.

6. Anjali Venkat’s Design Studio -Artistic yet functional works of glass


Jhumkas in turquoise blue, amber and green, funky necklaces from fused glass, signature glass vases, tinkling wind chimes; you won’t believe that these are created from used, discarded pieces of glass. In the hands of glass artist Anjali Venkat, old glass transforms in to artistic pieces. She works with all forms of glass, sometimes with wood and paper too manipulating them to function as trays, planters, diyas, dishes etc. She regularly holds exhibition of her works in the country. Her products can be viewed at her Design studio in Chennai and also at her website and Facebook page.

7. Palmyra interior store – Home furniture with a twist


This is the place to be if you are hunting for modern furniture pieces repurposed from castoffs. The Palmyra interior store at Kotturpuram, started by designer Sara Vetteth, boasts of a varied collection of items. There are chairs made from antique rosewood pieces, tables carved out of vintage doors, mirrors made from Rajasthan Jalis, furniture made from spice drawers, etc. You could get inspired just seeing the candle stands made from stairway spindles and column capitals. Outdoor and kids furniture too are featured here. Prices are varied, starting from Rs. 1,850/- for candle stands to Rs. 37,000/- for coffee tables repurposed from wood.

8. Chitra Mandanna – Nothing is waste


She is an artist who recreates new products from discarded pieces. At her hands artefacts get a new lease of life; tyres and engine oil cans turn in to planters, soda bottles become a beautiful garden border, egg cartons become a part of kid’s board games, old fabric, and cans transform in to lamp shades. This talented artist feels strongly about upcycling and can create customized products for customers from their favourite jeans, t-shirts, old furniture etc. All her customized works can be glimpsed at her Facebook page.

9. PaperMelon – funky jewellery from discarded paper


Devi Chad a designer makes innovative paper jewellery from recycled paper. Recycled magazines, newspapers, cardboards, brochures, greeting cards are all turned in to quirky jewellery at her hands. Prices vary starting from $16 for some of her earrings to $175 for her neckpieces. Her products are featured at her site PaperMelon and also in Etsy.

10. Bala Darshan – where waste is useful


Bala Darshan is an NGO that works with socially marginalized women, promoting their handcrafts. These women are trained by the NGO Speed Trust who have taught them to make useful products from waste. Discarded banners turn in to useful bags and pencil cases, boxes and baskets are made from recycled plastic, and jewellery is made from recycled magazines. Buying these upcycled products means that you create more opportunities for these small scale producers. The products are featured in the website along with their prices. Some of the products can also be purchased at Varnajalam, a showroom in Chennai that markets the recycled crafts.

Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer. She is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writes about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. more


  Top Stories on TA

  Top Stories in LIFESTYLE

   Get stories like this in your inbox

Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer. She is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writes about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. more

Discuss this article on Facebook