An All You Need To Know Guide to Upcycling Furniture

When you are looking to update a room in the home, we often think of updating the walls. We might make a few improvements to the painting or wallpaper. We might think of updating the accessories; things like your curtains perhaps. I often think of changing lighting, before about thinking about updating  or upcycling the furniture. How often have we just thought about getting replacement dining room chairs, when the seat cushions get a little worn? How often do we just want to get a brand new side board if ours is looking a little tired?

The thing is, you don’t have to get new ones if you don’t want to. Brand new tables, drawers or sideboard from some oak furniture stores would be lovely. But you don’t have to replace right away; you can upcycle. This gives a new look to your room and gives your furniture a longer life. When it is finally on it’s last legs, then is the time to replace. Until then, update what you have. If you have quite a modern looking home, the upcycled look might not work as well. Upcycled furniture quite often looks best in rooms that have a shabby chic look to them.

So what can be upcycled? If you’ve got wooden furniture, then it can be upcycled. Don’t attempt to try and sand down and varnish flat pack furniture. That is just made from a wooden board, and it won’t work well. Real wood, like oak or pine, will work wonderfully. You can even upcycle fabric as I have mentioned, in seat cushions for example. Mirrors can be updated too, and given a worn out or distressed look.


When you have your chosen piece of furniture, what is the next step? First of all, you need to assess the wooden furniture. If it is rather lumpy and bumpy, then you will need to use quite a coarse sandpaper, to smooth it all out. There might be old flaky paint or just general cracks that need to be smoothed. Make sure that you sand down the furniture going with the grain of the wood, rather than against it. This will make it easier to sand, and make it much smoother. If the furniture has been varnished, it will need to all come off. You can buy things like sprays that will help you do this. You can just use plenty of good ol’ elbow grease too; plenty of sanding will take the varnish off.

If you are planning to use chalk paints, like the Annie Sloan kind, you can miss out the sanding. You might want to still get rid of any flaky paint, though. Once your furniture has been sanded down, you should check for woodworm. It is in fact, not even a worm. It is more like a beetle. If you think you have some making little holes in your furniture, then make sure that you treat it before you do anything else. Get rid of it as soon as you can!


Next comes the primer. This is an important step that can’t be skipped. It helps the paint to apply well and so that it doesn’t dry out and flake off. When you have done one layer, you need to make sure that you leave it to dry and then sand it down again. Wipe off any excess with a wet cloth. Then you are ready to paint the main colour. Make sure that the paint is applied with a good quality brush. You don’t want bristles falling off and going into the paint. Not a good look! If you have a large piece of furniture to paint, like a large chest of drawers, it might be worth using a small roller. It will make the process much quicker for you and still mean and even application. Check you have paint in all the areas of the furniture. Get it in all the nooks and crannies.

Leave the paint to dry before you decide if you need more paint layers or not. The colour can change a lot as it dries. When you are happy with it, the distressing can begin! You could just varnish the furniture or sand down some areas before you do so. Edges of drawers look good with a little distressing. Go as distressed as you would like! Then just seal it with an acrylic based varnish. You could even apply fabric or paper to shelving or inside drawers using something like Mod Podge.

Have you ever upcycled some of your furniture?


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  • Hi Rebecca, I love your blog, I have been restoring furniture for years, I love the art deco you have there, is that a cornice you have there? Do you wax it to finish? I find it gives it a lovely sheen, also if you were to Top Oil it – leave to dry and wax (optional) it’ll seal it, give it a sheen & the oil helps reduce water marks!

    & when it comes to the “creepy crawlers” I had a piece I was restoring the other week, little did I know it was full of mites! which as I’m sure you know will completely over run all fabric in the area! i totally agree you MUST check! luckily I got in touch with who came same day & cleared the infestation at the workshop.
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