5 Steps to Upcycle Furniture

Upcycling is a growing trend that saves valuable resources. It involves rescuing a discarded item, then spending time transforming it into an object of beauty. Learning how to upcycle furniture is an ideal way to save money while having fun and being creative.

Your piece of furniture has already been manufactured, so it’s an environmentally-friendly product that won’t be increasing carbon emissions. You’ll be able to provide your room with a completely new look while giving the unwanted item a second chance to be useful.

1. Finding a Suitable Piece of Furniture

If you’re new to the art of upcycling, it’s a good idea to start with a small item such as a bedside table, chiffonier, or dresser. It’s surprising how useful an extra cupboard can be in your living room for storing games, throws, or magazines. You can find plenty of bargains in second-hand furniture stores, at a local charity shop, at a car boot sale, or at an online marketplace.

What you should look for is a well-made piece of furniture that has an interesting design. The lower edge could be scalloped or there might be carved details on the doors. Don’t worry if there’s a handle missing but do check that the furniture is stable.

Deciding how you’ll use an item helps you to search for the right piece. In most cases, you’ll need to be imaginative and see beyond the scuffed timbers and lopsided doors. But thinking about how to transform an item is an exciting process.

2. Assembling Your Tools

Assembling Your Tools

You don’t need a great deal of equipment to upcycle a small piece of furniture. Most people use two types of sandpaper such as a coarse grade for tackling rough surfaces and a much finer one for providing a smooth, final finish. Wearing a mask is helpful to stop you from inhaling the fine dust that floats in the air while you’re removing old paint or varnish.

You might need a screwdriver, wood filler, and masking tape. A selection of different sized paintbrushes is useful along with a dust sheet or newspaper to protect the area where you are working. A few absorbent cloths or paper towels are sure to come in handy for wiping up any spillages. You’ll also need some paint.

3. Preparing Your Furniture

It’s easier to remove the hinges and handles from your cupboard as you’ll be able to work on the doors without them getting in the way. You’ll also be able to reach inside the furniture much more easily. First give your furniture a clean using a cloth moistened with mild, soapy water to remove years of grease, then dry thoroughly.

Any large holes or crevices can be repaired with a wood filler. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about how long it needs to dry. Using rough sandpaper, rub away the surface layer of paint or varnish. Wipe away any dusty particles from the furniture and vacuum the area to prevent the debris from getting into the paint as it will spoil the finish.

If the wood is bare, it requires a primer to seal the timber. There are multi-surface primers that are suitable for furniture that has already been painted. Allow the primer to dry before buffing the surface with fine sandpaper to remove any rough edges.

4. Choosing the Best Paint

This is the stage where your furniture begins to achieve a completely new appearance. However, the type of finish you want determines which paint you should choose. The main types are matte, silk, and gloss. Matte paint is sometimes known as eggshell and usually has a velvety, non-reflective surface that often suits furniture with a rustic charm.

A silk or semi-gloss finish has a subdued sheen that can be very attractive on an antique piece of furniture. Gloss paint is highly reflective and can add a lively appearance, particularly to a table or dresser.

Traditional paint contains solvents known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) such as benzene and ethylene glycol to make it adhere to surfaces and create a durable finish. Many alternatives are available that contain low or no VOCs. However, these may still contain other undesirable chemical agents.

Non-toxic or natural paints are usually more environmentally friendly and have less odor. Vegan paints are usually made from ingredients such as clay and plants. They contain no harmful toxins or animal-derived ingredients, and they are not tested on animals either.

5. Creating a New Look

Creating a New Look

When painting your furniture, try to keep your brushstrokes light and even, and don’t overload your brush with paint. Always paint in the direction of the grain where possible. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding over-drying times and whether a second coat is required. Doors should have the edges painted before the main surfaces.

You can be creative by painting your furniture in two different colors. This works well if you want to highlight the beading around a cupboard door. To create stripes, use masking tape to provide a straight edge that’s easy to paint. Accurately measure the different bands for a high-quality finish.

Once the paint is dry, fit the hinges back onto the cupboard doors and reassemble any shelving. Add the finishing touch to your upcycled furniture by adding new handles for a contemporary image.


Upcycling furniture helps you furnish your home for a fraction of the cost compared to purchasing new items. It’s an imaginative, creative project that lets you add a unique style to your home. And it saves wasting a perfectly useful item of furniture.

Also, remember to be safe when completing upcycling projects. When completing projects that require professional help, don’t be after to call a contractor. For example, any electrical project should require a qualified electrician.

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