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Upcycling your furniture: 3 easy tasks for beginners

Update an old table or give a wardrobe a distressed look with our three easy upcycling furniture projects. Learn how to upcycle furniture today.



Regeneration is a huge trend in home design at the moment, particularly when it comes to furniture. If you have an old table you want to spruce up or a painted wardrobe that would fit your aesthetic better if it had a distressed look, then why not have a go at renovating it yourself? In this article, we outline three easy upcycled furniture DIY tasks that you can do yourself to remodel your home.

If you need to take the piece apart before renovation, you may want to label the pieces – it makes putting it all back together again considerably easier!

How to Upcycle Furniture

Before starting, you might want to consider the aesthetic of furniture you already have, and how your upcycled piece would fit. Don’t start upcycling furniture projects until you’ve given it a thorough clean; even white good pieces like a washing-machine-turned planter are improved by doing the groundwork. For projects like this, we like Jif, as it works on tough problems without scratching.

It’s also important, whenever using paint or varnish, to test it out on a small (preferably hidden) section of the furniture first. That way you can test coverage, adhesion and whether the colour is actually what you were looking for. To get a distressed look, carefully sand after painting, focusing on the areas that would distress with normal wear-and-tear, like the edges of drawers. You may also find that you want to strip away old layers of paint/varnish before starting, to make the final look smoother and neater. Be careful of using harsh chemicals on old furniture, and always source appropriate safety equipment like gloves to protect yourself.

Upcycling Furniture Projects

Once you’ve gone through the basics, you can get started on the fun part! Here are three upcycled furniture ideas to get you started:

  1. Centrepiece table: this works particularly well with an unloved pine table. Start by choosing a light colour as a base coat, then use masking tape to mark out strips over the table. Alternatively, you could make your own stencil from freezer paper. Get creative mixing and matching different colours (some will need a few more coats then others). Once you’re happy, coat the whole thing with a clear varnish. If you’ve used matte paint, you don’t need to spoil the effect, just source a matte varnish.

  2. Upcycled bookcase: use old wallpaper scraps or attractive paper to update your bookshelves. Make sure you carefully measure the space you’re planning to line, before carefully sticking on the paper with PVA or wallpaper paste. Again, to protect your finish, you may want to use a clear varnish. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can use a similar technique with old book pages or maps, and have them folding over onto the shelf itself, using a papier mâché

  3. Rag rug: this is such a fun project to do, but does take some work, and plenty of old clothing! First, find a piece of fabric and cut to the size you want your rug to be. Then, cut your rags into equal sized strips of around 10cm. Using scissors, make holes about 4cm apart in your base fabric, and weave each strip through two of the holes. The top of the rug should look very fluffy, while the bottom will be neater. Experiment with different fabrics and blends of colour. If you’re looking for something even more ambitious, check out this stunning and durable denim rug project.

Upcycled furniture DIY is something anyone can get involved in, regardless of your level of experience. And once you’ve started, feel free to get creative and put your own spin on things.

  • Generate a list of upcycled furniture ideas and decide what you want to try first.

  • Carefully prepare your furniture before you start, using cleaning products to suit the material.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you’re new to DIY.

  • Work out timings before you start, taking factors like how long paint coats will take to dry into account.

  • Make sure to handle sharp objects like scissors with care and keep them out of reach of children!

Originally published