Upcycling Furniture: Our EASY 9-Step Guide 

November 28, 2022

We highlighted in our recent post about the top interior design trends for 2023 that the most popular decorating themes right now are those that help protect the planet, such as Vintage, Maximalism, Avant Basic, sustainable design and those with a global influence. Understandably, after a torrid three years of COVID, our need for a sense of security has brought our love of classicism back into fashion as we enter the recovery stage.

What is “upcycling”?

According to, “Upcycling is taking unused everyday items or old materials destined for landfill – such as second-hand furniture, scrap metals or timber – to create treasure.” 

In the context of furniture, the process can mean anything from stripping back the original finish of a piece and painting it a new solid colour or paint effect, simply replacing the door furniture, or altering the piece completely to suit another purpose.

Savvy homeowners are re-using materials such as old timbers, glass and plastics to create new treasures and are clamouring to local markets, council clear-outs, and car boot and garage sales to source antique and secondhand furniture pieces such as French armoires, blanket boxes, and old dressing tables. They know that upcycling furniture adds another layer and dimension to their decorating, and trust us, it's addictive! No piece of furniture is safe in your home once you've successfully completed your first piece. In fact, it's that easy, you can even update your kitchen cabinets with a new, trendier colour.

Upcycling is so addictive, it can be hard to know when to stop! 

Fortunately, classic pieces complement a range of decorating styles, from coastal and Boho to the earthy styles that are currently popular, and refurbishing antique pieces or making new creations from recycled or reclaimed materials breathes new life into them, a modern revamp that ties in better with the way we want to live now.

Of course, not all of us are Shaynna Blaze or handy with a tool kit, so for your first upcycling project, it is wise to start small and try stripping back and painting an old piece of furniture in a block colour. To make the process easier for you, we've compiled the following easy 9-step guide with our best tips for success. 

Upcycling Furniture: Our EASY 9-Step Guide  2nd image
Upcycling furniture adds another layer and dimension to decorating and it's addictive! No piece of furniture is safe in your home once you've successfully completed your first piece.

Our EASY 9-step guide to upcycling furniture:

Step 1: Prepare your workspace. The key to success lies in the preparation, so the area you assign for the work should ideally be an undercover space such as your garage or an empty, well-ventilated room with little traffic. Working outdoors is also an option if you have the space, as long as you don't paint on a windy day like those we experienced in Sydney's ever-changing climate last week. This job is messy and when you get to the varnishing stage of the project, the last thing you want is dog and cat hairs stuck to your beautiful new surface!

Step 2: Make any necessary repairs and remove all door furniture. Second-hand furniture is often donated for a reason, so there may be minor repair requirements such as holes to be filled, drawer runners to be waxed or even glass panels to replace. If you are changing the door furniture, now is the time to remove knobs and handles.

Step 3: Prepare the surface. Sand back the existing finish to remove varnish or glossiness so that your primer will adhere to the surface. You can do this by hand or with an electric sander – which you can hire from any DIY store and some of the larger supermarkets (if you can justify the cost) – then wash the piece down with soapy water to remove any fine dust and allow it to dry. 

Step 4: Treat knots on furniture in knotty timbers such as cypress pine with a knotting solution/paint to prevent the natural resins from the timber from leaking through the paint.

Step 5: Apply two coats of primer. If your furniture is antique with a stained finish, it is advisable to use a special stain-blocking primer to prevent it from bleeding through to your finish. These primers are more expensive, but they could save you a lot of heartache at the end of your project. If you are using a standard primer, use white for light paint colours and grey for dark. Once your primer is dry, sand the surface lightly in between coats and after the final coat, sweep away any dust and get ready to paint.

Step 6: Pick your paint. My preference is to use water-based paints because of their quick drying time, lack of odour and improved durability. Apply approximately three coats with a brush, roller (on flat surfaces) or paint spray and sand lightly in between coats.

Step 7: Varnish the surface – Two coats of varnish will suffice, and once again I find that water-based varnishes are much easier to use and less likely to discolour with ageing. Again, sand lightly after the first coat. For an antique finish, you could work an antique wax into the surface and crevices of the piece.

Step 8: Refit your existing or new door furniture. Fortunately, most door handles have the same size thread so you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to new options.

Step 9: Step back and feel proud of what you have achieved at very little cost to your pocket and the environment. Make it a statement in your room with some accent lighting.

Recently, Jen Bishop from The Interiors Addict had a sideboard upcycled in a duck egg blue chalk paint with new brass handles and she was blown away with the result. As she says: “Clearly this is much cheaper than buying something new, especially something so unique, not to mention the environmental benefits and being able to keep high-quality furniture in circulation for much longer.” See the stunning results here.

Upcycling furniture adds a new dimension to a room, saves money and the planet 

Whatever the property experts are predicting for 2023, we know one thing for certain: buying a property is a considerable investment and costs can mount, leaving not much left in the kitty for interior design. Selling unwanted furniture prior to your move, upcycling furniture and buying or selling your property off-market are three surefire ways to save money. Upcycling is one of many mindful interior design decisions we should all be making in the current climate because it not only provides us with stylish, customised homes to be proud of but also helps us create a safer environment for the next generation. To learn more about how we can help you save money when you buy or sell a property, book a FREE consultation with our sales team to learn more about our Buyer Assist and Seller Assist services.


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