How to upcycle furniture

Upcycling means taking something old or a little unloved, and giving it a new lease of life. From simple paint ideas to more creative projects, here are a few ideas and the tools you need to get going.

How to upcycle furniture.

Handy tools for upcycling

Easy upcycling ideas

Paint a piece of furniture

Probably the easiest entry route into upcycling as it doesn't require much equipment or DIY know-how, and can be tailored to your creativity and painting ability. Here're some simple step-by-steps and the tools to get you started...

Prepare your surface

If you're working with wood use sandpaper or a sander to remove layers of paint, varnish or dirt and wipe down the surface. Chalk furniture paints don't usually require primer, but check the tin of the specific paint you're using before moving on.

Mask out a pattern

Use masking tape to cover areas that you don't want painted, or that you want filled with a different colour later - it's great for getting a sharp straight line. You could create a stencil or hand draw in pencil a more intricate design.

Paint by hand

Paint onto your prepped piece with furniture paint and paint brushes. Keep your brush strokes in one direction, horizontal or vertical, for a smooth finish. Usually two coats is enough, but if you might need three if you are painting over dark woods.

Or spray larger areas

If you're working with larger furniture or just want a single block colour, a paint sprayer could be quicker and easier than a paint brush, and creates a really smooth finish. You'll need to protect the surrounding area with a dust sheet (or any old fabric sheet you have).

Try these arty effects

Surprise inside

Add oodles of character to your piece by painting the inside of a drawer, topside of a shelf or inside panel of a cupboard door with a contrasting colour or pattern.

Distressed finish

After that shabby, vintage look? Once your paint has dried, use some fine grit sandpaper to scuff up the paint, focusing on corners and edges.

Chalk board finish

Chalkboard paint can be applied to a range of surfaces, turning the table top or cupboard door into a blackboard. We love this idea for playrooms or kitchens.

Add a wallpaper panel

As an alternative to paint, you could try adding wallpaper panels to furniture. These work really well at the back of shelving and the insides of wardrobes or drawers - but there's no real limit to what you cover.

Prepare your surface

If you are applying to wood or plastic you first need to rough the surface to help the glue stick. Use a sander or sandpaper, and then a brush or cloth to clean off the dust.

Choose & cut your wallpaper

Using a measuring tape, measure the area you want to cover, and cut a piece of paper to that size. Choose a wallpaper that fits with the furniture, either in the same or contrasting colour scheme.

Apply the wallpaper paste

Mix the appropriate amount of wallpaper paste (you won't need much) and apply to the back of the cut wallpaper (follow the wallpaper paste instructions as you may need to leave it to soak in).

Fix in place

Align the wallpaper with your surface, and use a roller and smoothing brush to bleed out any air bubbles. Focus on the corners to make sure the wallpaper doesn't lift here.

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