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Hints & Tips

Top 10 Upcycling Tips

Top 10 Tips on Upcycling Second Hand Furniture

table top

Old and second hand furniture may need a little TLC and a facelift but it’s often of a much better quality and design than cheap modern flat-pack furniture. Here are my top 10 tips for upcycling second hand furniture.

1.    Finding Second Hand Furniture

There are many places where you can find second hand furniture such as local charity shops, car boot sales and auctions.  Online sites such as Preloved are great for cutting out all the leg work and seeing what’s out there!

2.    What furniture to look for

Curves, carved or raised moulding are features that many upcyclers look out for. I personally can’t resist a set of Queen Anne legs!

If you want a more modern look, go for simple and clean lines – straight legs and flat-front drawers.
Look out for solidly built pieces and make sure that the furniture you’re putting your time into painting, is worth upcycling.

3.    How to learn to paint furniture

table painted

There are a variety of paints and techniques for painting second hand furniture.  Chalk, Milk and Egg Shell paints are popular with upcyclers.

You can learn the techniques for using the paints by attending courses, watching YouTube videos and reading blog articles.  You can master the techniques by practicing!

4.    Where to find inspiration

If need inspiration for upcycling your second hand piece of furniture check out Pinterest.  It’s an amazing source of inspiration and a great place to create mood boards for the various furniture painting styles.

Google image searches and a search for furniture painting bloggers might give you some style ideas. Annie Sloan has published a number of furniture painting source books that are worth a look.

5.    Find your own style

blue table transformed

There are many different styles of painting and decorating furniture. Practice and experiment with a few pieces to help you find your own style preference.

When working on furniture, think about the room that it’s going to go in – will your design and colours choice fit in with the colours / styles in the room?

6.    Find good lighting

Good lighting is really important when you’re painting furniture. Outside in natural daylight is great but not always practical due to wind and rain. If you’re indoors, try and paint in a room that has a lot of natural light.

7.    Organise your workspace

Make sure you keep your work area organised, clean and tidy.  It makes life so much easier! Plastic storage boxes are great for clearing things away and enable you to see the materials and equipment you have at a glance.

8.    Preparation is key

Prepare and prime surfaces before you work on them. Wipe down your piece to remove dirt and debris before you paint.

Paint might hide a multitude of sins but if your furniture has holes, dents, scratches or peeling paint these will be visible when painted over.

9.    Use good quality brushes

Use good quality brushes and look after them, they can be used a multitude of times when well cared for. Cheap brushes don’t last as long and may shed bristles in your paintwork.

Wrap brushes in tinfoil in between coats to keep the brush moist and then clean them as soon as you’ve finished painting or waxing.

10.    Protect your piece

If you’re using a Chalk or Milk paint you will need to add a layer of protection to your furniture. These are water based paints that need either a coat of wax or varnish to protect the painted finish.

Wax will give your piece a lovely soft sheen. 2-3 coats should be applied to high usage areas. Polyurethane varnish comes in matt or gloss and provides a more robust level of protection.

Happy #PrelovedNSHD!

Caroline Malcolm

Caroline Malcolm

Community User

Caroline Malcolm is an upcycler, she lives in Edinburgh and is passionate about sustainability. Caroline runs upcycling workshops and founded Upcycled World to inspire and help others to be creative and reuse - a sustainable future is possible if we all start playing our part.