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Upcycling Furniture – All You Need to Know

upcycling furniture

May 11, 2018 by Chris Chapman

Upcycling is an amazing way of giving old furniture a new lease of life. If you’re not sure what it is, upcycling is the art of taking old furniture or junk and turning it into something new! If you want to freshen up the furniture in your house, think twice before you add to the thousands of perfectly good tables, chairs, bookcases, dressers, shelves, and plenty more besides that end up on the scrapheap every year! Whether it’s your own old furniture or something from a second-hand shop, you can save yourself a small fortune with a bit of creativity and a lick of paint. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a wooden shelf or a metal garden chair, our complete guide to upcycling will give you all the ideas and advice you’ll need to transform it into something new!

Upcycling Wood Furniture

Even junk like pallets can be upcycled into stylish furniture if you follow our simple guide!

It’s really easy to rejuvenate any piece of wood without breaking the bank. All you’ll need is:

Whether it’s an ornate bookcase or a simple coffee table, the process for upcycling is always really simple. Follow these simple steps and your furniture will look better than new in no time!

Step 1: Sand your surface. This is an important step many people forget! Gently sanding your surface down will make sure it’s nice and smooth, so you’ll get an even coat of paint.


The Mylek Rapid+ works with all oil-based and water-based paint


Step 2: Mask off any areas you don’t want to paint with masking tape. This isn’t really an issue with really simple items like shelves, but if you’ve got a table, for example, and you want the top to be a different colour to the legs, you’ll need to use some masking tape to make sure you end up with a nice, even pattern.


Step 3: Apply your primer using your Rapid+ Paint Sprayer. The reason we recommend this sprayer above all others is that it can handle pretty much anything – oil-based paint, water-based paint, staining oil, and even varnish. This means you can do the whole job with just one tool! If you’re not sure about using a paint sprayer, read our beginner’s guide to paint spraying to ensure you get a smooth, even coat sprayed on fast.

Step 4: Let the primer dry and apply your first coat of paint! As we mentioned above, you can use virtually any kind of paint you like, although a chalky matt paint is currently very fashionable for indoor furniture. This is the part where you can get creative with some different colours, patterns, and finishes. Think about the rest of your décor and how you want your revived furniture to fit in.

Dab any spots you miss with a paintbrush

Step 5: Let that coat of paint dry and then repeat step 4 until you’re happy with the finished product. The Rapid+ is great for giving you a really even coverage, but if you do miss a tiny crevice, carefully dab it with your paintbrush.

Step 6: Once your final coat of paint is dry, apply a clear varnish – again using your Rapid+ Paint Sprayer to ensure you get an even coat with no brush marks – and let it dry. The amount of time this takes varies depending on what varnish you’ve used. Generally, polycrylic varnish dries quickly and clearly, so your paintwork will shine through!

Step 7: If you like, you can very lightly sand your product again with some fine finishing sandpaper (if you’re not sure which one to use, 220 grit sandpaper is ideal and easy to find). You can then apply another coat or two of varnish to give you a really smooth protective finish!

Upcycling Metal Furniture

Even the rustiest garden furniture can be saved with a little creativity

A lot of garden furniture is made of metal rather than wood. Luckily, the process for upcycling metal is largely the same, although you will need a few extra bits depending on the condition of the metal! To bring your rusty old metal furniture back to life, you’ll need:

A new lick of paint can make all the difference to a worn-out bench

Metal furniture can be a little trickier to clean and prepare, especially if it’s been left outside for a while. While you’re dealing with metal and metal paint, always make sure you’ve got gloves and goggles on to protect you from metal shards and flakes.

Step 1: Make sure your metal furniture is clean and free of any rust or green mould before you do anything else. If it’s indoor furniture, this probably won’t be much of an issue. Otherwise, use some Simply Spray and Walk Away to get rid of any green growths that might be covering your metal.

Step 2: Once it’s clean, prepare your furniture for its primer coat. Sand it down until you have a nice smooth surface (make sure you wear your dust mask here). If your furniture is put together with nuts and bolts, check them to make sure they’re not corroded – you don’t want your furniture looking great but still falling to bits! Replace your nuts and bolts if they’re rusty.

Step 3: Make sure your surface is free of any dust and paint particles after you’ve finished sanding, then use your Rapid+ Paint Sprayer to apply the primer. Make sure you’ve got the right kind of paint that’ll work with the type of metal you’re painting though!

Step 4: Once that’s dried, use your Rapid+ to paint your first coat. Again, make sure you have the right oil-based metal paint that’ll work best on your metal, particularly if your furniture is made from aluminium.

Step 5: Let the first coat dry, and then repeat the process of painting and allowing the coat to dry until you’re happy with the colour of your furniture!

Upcycling Furniture Ideas

The beauty of upcycled furniture is that you can turn it into whatever you want! A bit of ingenuity can turn old junk into a statement piece of unique furniture. If you’re thinking about putting a lick of paint on some old furniture, why not try one of these ideas?

Put two chairs together, facing each other. Put some planks over the seats and screw it all together. You’ve now got a workbench! Add a couple of 2 x 4s in as a backrest, and you’ve got a new sofa or garden bench!

upcycling bookcase

Knock some or all of the shelves out of a bookcase and lay it on its back. A lick of paint later, you can pour some sand into it to make a sandpit for the kids!

Old boots or pots and pans can make for some quirky plant pots for your garden.

Keep your eye out for cable spools. These things can make rustic tables, garden seats, and even a round bookcase!


Pallets are the dream when it comes to upcycling furniture. Get two or three pallets of the same size and cut the middle out of them so they look like giant photo frames. Stack them on top of one another and stick a bench in the middle of them to create an outdoor seating area!

If you’ve got some more great upcycling ideas of your own, why not show us? You can reach us on Facebook and Twitter using the buttons below, so get creative and get tagging to show off your handiwork!


Garden and Outdoors, Lifestyle

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