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Hints & Tips

How to Start Your Journey in Furniture Restoration

To celebrate Preloved’s Restoration Day, here is a post that should help you source projects to restore, supplies to use, and classes to help you if you need some pointers!

Finding Restoration Projects

If you are looking for a project to restore, be it a piece of furniture, or even an old car, here are some suggestions for places to look:

  • Auction Houses

Find out where your local auction house and when the auctions are running, and pop along for a good old nosey. They often have larger pieces of solid period furniture, ideal for restoring, at bargain prices. I used to be a bit intimidated by auctions, but our local one is very friendly, and you can place bids on paper in advance so you don’t even have to do the whole actual auction bidding thing if you’d rather not!
You can search for your local auction house here, or just Google “Auction houses in x”.

  • Reclamation Yards

Another great place for a pleasant afternoon of rummagaing! You will be amazed what you can find, and the owners are often open to a spot of haggling if something catches your eye. Search for your local reclamation yard on Salvo Web. For an online salvage yard, check out Remade in Britain in the “Salvage” section. It is recently launched, but is filling up fast with all kinds of salvage, from car parts to fabric!

  • Flea Markets

This is one of my very favourite ways to spend a day! I reckon you can find pretty much anything you want, from sofas to wardrobes, and even things like car seats. Equally, you can also find loads of things you didn’t know you wanted, from taxidermy, to gramophones!

flea market finds

  • Charity Shops and Car Boots

Both are good places to have a browse. The furniture might not be as good quality/sturdy as you would find at the auction houses, but you are certain to find something just waiting to be transformed with a little TLC.

  • Furniture Restoration Projects

These great places to go and be inspired by what can be achieved, but they will also often have shop areas where you can buy items that they haven’t yet restored. There are lots of projects dotted around the country, that buy up furniture to do it up, and that work with disadvantaged sectors of the community, teaching them new skills. The Restoration Station in Shoreditch is a great example, as is Jay&Co in Wolverhampton.

  • Preloved

It would be rude to write a post about Preloved’s Restoration Day and not include Preloved as a great place to look for projects to restore! Download the new iOS app, and you can be really specific about what you are looking for, and how far you want to travel to pick something up!

  • Freeloved

With hundreds of items being given away for free on Preloved, you needn’t buy something second hand to start your restoration journey! Browse through to find great pieces of furniture in you local area, and you can also post a wanted ad if you are looking for something specific. And the best things about it, is that everything is FREE!

Finding Restoration Supplies

Gathering together all the supplies you need to restore your project can bump up the costs. Here are some ideas for sourcing the things you need and saving yourself some cash:

  • Freeloved

You will be amazed at some of the stuff that people are looking to get rid of. You can often find half used tins of paint, but also things like sanders and paintbrushes etc.

  • Streetbank

If you need ‘non-disposable’ items like a sander, or a ladder, it is well worth joiningStreetbank, to see if anyone in your local community has one they are happy to lend you. This is a fab project that facilitates sharing between neighbours – the argument being that when we only use our electric drill twice a year, why not just have one per street, instead of one each!

  • Share Shops

I am lucky enough to live in the next door town to the UK’s very first Share shop in Frome. This is such an awesome idea – it’s like a Library of Things! You pay a voluntary donation to join the scheme, and then rent out items by the week. They have all kinds of things in there, from DIY equipment, to sewing machines and preserving pans.

For those of you not lucky enough to live near Frome, The Library of Things has just run a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign to find similar projects in London, with the aim of rolling them out across the country-so keep your eyes peeled!

  • Community Re-Paint

Community Re-paint is a project that allows people to donate part used tins of paint, and then re-distributes them to people who need/want them in the local community.  There are 82 schemes up and down the country, and an interactive map to help you find your local one.

  • Chalk Paint Powder

You can now buy sachets of powder that you can add to any ordinary paint, to turn it into chalk paint, to transform tired old furniture into something much more lovely! This is great if you don’t want to splash out on a whole tin of chalk paint for a smaller project, and if you have part used tins of paint hanging around, and want to turn them into chalk paint. Check outWebster’s Chalk Paint Powder or Max McMurdo’s Magic Chalk!

Finding Workshops and Classes

There are loads of workshops and classes all over the country to start you on your restoration journey. Check out your local college – they will often have courses in sewing (a fabulously versatile restoration skill), as well as furniture upcycling.

The Goodlife Centre in London has an amazing range of classes, from woodwork, to furniture restoration, and upholstery. The Ministry of Upholstery in Manchester does what it says on the tin, and teaches everything you need to know to re-upholster furniture. They also run furniture painting classes, and have a country wide tour planned, so have a look and see if they are coming to a town near you!

The Make Do and Mend-able Directory launched earlier on this Summer, and you can search there for classes and workshops near you. There is everything on there from furniture upcycling, and upholstery, through to knitting and sewing classes. It is filling up fast with classes up and down the country, so do keep checking back!

I hope that’s enough to help get you started on your Restoration journey! Make Do and Mend-able is jam packed with inspiration and resources to help you Make Do and Mend, and re-use and restore, including the A-Z of Upcycling, so do pop by and have a look

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Jen Gale

Jen Gale

Community User

Jen writes for her successful blog Make Do and Mendable. Jen is an expert in frugal living and loves all things thrifty!