Monday, 28 October 2013

How to get started in furniture upcycling

How to upcycle and paint vintage furniture

This is a feature we wrote for a local magazine, encouraging readers to have a go at painting their own furniture

Laura Harvey, from Rutland-based Reloved Vintage, shares a few tricks of the trade to help you give old furniture a new lease of life

Upcycling – or simply putting old stuff to a new use – has gone big. TV shows, such as Kirstie’s Fill Your House for Free have brought the idea into the mainstream – and the Government recently encouraged us all to ‘make do and mend’ instead of contributing to the throwaway society.
Here’s how you can begin your own upcycling adventure.

What you’ll need
Paint. There are specialist furniture paints, but any paint will do. We prefer to use eggshell, for a smooth, matt finish.
A paint brush
A screwdriver (for removing any handles etc)
Furniture wax or varnish (if using matt paint, choose a clear matt varnish, too)
Masking tape (a professional decorators’ tape, such as Frogtape will prevent bleeding
Sandpaper – the coarser the better
A piece of wooden furniture – choose a clean, solid piece for your first attempt

Preparing the wood
If your piece of wood is varnished, you’ll need to sand it. If you try putting the paint onto a varnished surface, it’ll just chip right off when dry. (Note, some specialist paints will adhere to varnished surfaces). For tidy edges, use your masking tape to ‘mask-off’ areas just inside any drawers, doors, glass panels etc.
Unscrew any handles and put them to one side – it’s easier than painting around them.

Get painting!
Don’t just slap it on! For the best finish you’ll want several thin coats of paint – big drips and splodges are ugly! Try to brush with the grain of the wood. Once you’ve covered the whole piece, wait for it to dry and do it again. With each coat you’ll see less and less bare wood showing through.
After three coats you should be done – now you just need to let it dry (it won’t take long)

If you want to, you can distress your furniture to give it a bit more character. For light distressing, use sandpaper, for heavy stuff, you can use a knife or wallpaper scraper. For a more natural look, focus on edges and areas that would get the most natural use, such as handles and keyholes.

If you don’t protect your furniture, your paint will scratch, chip and stain. Wax can offer a nice finish and feel, but if it’s an item that is likely to get a lot of use – or come into contact with water, varnish is a better option. Apply the varnish as you did the paint – thin coats. 
The next step
If you get the bug, you’ll want to play around with new ideas. Try using a different paint colour for the first couple of coats, which can be revealed at the distressing stage, of paint the inside of a drawer or cupboard in a bright colour for a little bit of happiness every time you open it.

Like the sound of it but don’t have the time or confidence to do it yourself? Reloved Vintage can give your furniture a whole new look.
Laura Harvey is the founder of Reloved Vintage, specialists in painted furniture and vintage accessories. Based just outside Stamford, Reloved Vintage offers free delivery in the Peterborough area.
You can find out more at, follow them on Twitter: @RelovedVintage, or like them at