How to Upcycle Your Furniture

Now, one of the hottest decorating trends is ‘upcycling,’ where you take an item that you or someone else no longer uses and offer it a second life with a whole new purpose. For apartment dwellers, this is not only economically and environmentally responsible, but it’s also a great way to achieve unique results in items you already have at home, even fun to make.

The simplest way of sprucing up your old piece of furniture is giving it a lick of paint, no matter your taste or level of painting skills, all you need is a bit of hard work and imagination. However, the type of paint you use and the preparation required largely depends on the material of the piece you’re working on. Before you start, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated room and have covered the floor with polythene or old sheet – your landlord will be happy you did not paint the carpets!

Table of Contents

How to Upcycle Your Furniture 1 • Do-It-Yourself Ideas

Priming Your Piece

Depending on the wood’s smoothness, you need to choose the right sandpaper weight to attain the evenest surfaces. For rough wood, use coarse sandpaper, then lighter sandpaper, all the time working in the direction of the wood grain. If working with a smooth surface, use light sandpaper; overall, make sure you wipe away any dust using a damp, lint-free cloth – a microfiber generally works well.

If the furniture is varnished, you need to remove it thoroughly using a solvent or plenty of sanding; unfortunately, you cannot remove the shiny surface on laminate furniture. Some primers tend to stick to surfaces, so you need to create texture with light sanding – use primers designed for complex surfaces. Using a primer ensures that your paint goes on smoothly on the surface and will not flake off.


The type of paint you choose depends on the finish you intend to have and the surface you’re painting. Use a good quality brush to apply the chosen paint evenly, ensuring that it gets into all the nooks and crannies – you might have to use a smaller brush for the little bits. Use a mini roller kit and work in a single direction to avoid leaving marks for your larger surfaces.

When done, leave the paint to dry, of course, depending on the timings indicated on the tin. When dry, you’ll see if you require painting another coating or two, and repeat the entire paint and dry process.

Adding Special Effects

If you are going for the distressed look, now is the time to work on some choice areas using sandpaper; however, don’t get overzealous – aim for various sanding degrees on edges where wear is expected to occur naturally. You may even paint two coats of different color hues to reveal contrast when sanding topcoat areas.

To add pattern, purchase or make a stenciling kit, or even try decoupage, a craft that is making a comeback. If upcycling a chest of drawers or dresser, you should consider changing the hardware using inexpensive handles and knobs.


Finally, apply a clear wax or varnish of your choice to seal everything, finish off and keep your furniture looking great for longer. Lantern & Scroll makes electric lanterns that you can pair with your upcycled furniture for an excellent finish. However, choose acrylic-based varnish since it will not ‘yellow’ the color.

How to Upcycle Your Furniture 3 • Do-It-Yourself Ideas

Follow the instructions on the tins, and ensure that you use a good quality brush for the best results. If using wax, dark is suitable for an antiqued or distressed look, while clear polish will change color slightly for a more natural finish than varnish.

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