Upcycling tips to breathe new life into your furniture

Upcycling tips to breathe new life into your furniture

Last updated: 21/12/2021

If you want your furniture to look stylish, but aren’t keen on buying new, then why not refresh and repurpose? Upcycling is a great way of extending the life of used furniture, and it’s good fun to boot.

There are numerous upsides to upcycling. You don’t have to spend a small fortune on new furniture, and what you’re left with is truly unique. Plus reusing old items is more sustainable than getting trapped in the cycle of discarding and replacing.

Here we’ll look at some useful tips to get you started.

Sourcing furniture

If you don’t already have some furniture that could do with a new lease of life, it’s time to get bargain hunting. Car boot sales, flea markets and larger charity stores specialising in furniture are a good place to start.

Companies such as Oak Furnitureland have clearance stores nationwide, which sell off furniture with imperfections at a discount. Or for a real steal, you could scour Gumtree and Freecycle in your area.

Have a plan

Before you begin, work out exactly what you’d like to achieve. Think about how the piece will complement its final position in the room. Also, if you’re upcycling a larger piece of furniture, try to be sympathetic to its original style.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your design ideas, you can see other people’s upcycling projects on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.

When you’ve decided what you want to do, take a ‘before’ photo of the piece of furniture. This isn’t just useful for showing off your ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos (although, there’s no harm in that). When you head to the DIY shop, you’ll be able to show someone the piece if you need any help – such as knowing if you need to apply a primer coat, or the correct weight of sandpaper to use.

Tool up

Make sure you have everything you need for the job. With tired old items, you may need to clean or sandpaper them down before getting handy with the paintbrush.

Speaking of which, it’s best not to go for the cheapest paintbrushes. Getting decent-quality brushes reduces the chances of bristles getting stuck in the paintwork.

And to ensure the longevity of your pieces, it’s a good idea to finish them off with varnish or wax. So, you’ll need this too.

Painting furniture

Before you start, lay down some old dust sheets on the surface you plan to use. If you’re painting a wooden surface, use sandpaper to even it out. Clear away the sawdust before applying any paint.

If the surface isn’t already painted, it’s best to use a primer. This undercoat will prevent the final product from flaking, and help you get a smooth, long-lasting finish.

When it comes to painting, you may need a few coats. For this reason, don’t put your equipment away until you’re sure it’s finished. You can keep paintbrushes and rollers fresh and moist by wrapping cling film around them between coats. When you’ve finished, give them a good wash – otherwise the paint will harden, and you may not be able to use them again.

Shabby chic

In order to give cupboards, drawers and dressers the distressed look (such as this piece), sand the furniture down fully before painting. Alternatively, using chalk paint will help give that classic matt finish. Sanding the furniture down again once the paint has dried will help to nail the effect.

Let’s go outside

Your furniture needn’t be confined indoors. If you have outdoor space – such as a garden patio – then with a little creativity you can create what seems like an extra room (like this one here).

Use protective outdoor paints and sprays for furniture. Using metallic glaze gives a lovely, aged look to second-hand mirror or picture frames, which can also be put up outside.


While some furniture can be simply refreshed, you might want to take on a project requiring a little more lateral thinking.

Wooden pallets, for example, can be transformed into garden tables, seating, or even stood upright to convert into a bar.

Drums from old washing machines can be used for potting plants, or even as a fire pit.

And before getting rid of an old bed frame with an ornate headboard, could it be converted into a bench, like this one?

These are just a few ideas to get your creativity flowing. There are countless ways to repurpose old items around your home, so let your imagination run wild!

Click on the buttons below to read more content about living sustainably in your home:

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