Have you been thinking of ways to reimagine that unloved sideboard from the living room or the old stool from the kitchen?

If you want to breathe new life into a long-forgotten piece of furniture, why not try your hand at upcycling?

There are lots of ways to upcycle things around, and you don’t need to be an artist to make things look like new. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Why should I upcycle?

Before you begin, it’s worth thinking about the benefits of upcycling – and there are many reasons to try it out!

Firstly, renovating your furniture is the perfect way to revamp it if you’re on a budget. Whatever you have in mind, whether you have big ideas or want to start small, it can be done relatively cheaply and saves you having to pay out for new furniture.

It’s also a fantastic way to extend the life of something that’s not been used for a long time. Instead of scrapping it, giving it a new look can make it suddenly fit in with the décor of your home.

Ultimately, upcycling can be a fun and rewarding way to make the apartment you’re renting feel homely. As you’re updating pieces that belong to you and you’re not making any changes to the property you’re in, you won’t have to worry about getting your landlord’s permission first, so you can enjoy getting creative with what you have.

Where do I start?

Begin by choosing your first upcycling project. Do you have just the chest of drawers in mind? Or would you like to go hunting for a bargain that you can redecorate?

If you’re in a part-furnished property and want to add in your own upcycled items, ask around before you spend your money. Family and friends are a great place to start when it comes to finding some preloved pieces. Ask around to see if there are any unwanted items that you think might work in your flat.

It’s also worth trawling the local charity and antique shops. There are plenty of hidden treasures tucked away in corners that just need a bit of love and a lick of paint!

Whether you know exactly what you’ll be upcycling, or you still need to find the right furniture to refresh, once you have it, you can start thinking about how you’d like to update it.

What techniques can I use?

Hunting for the ideal item to start your upcycling journey is lots of fun but getting creative with it is the really exciting bit! This is where you can take your time to choose how you’d like it to look.

The techniques you use and the tools you’ll need will depend on the project you have in mind, but to give you an idea, here’s an overview of some ways you can transform that old side table.

Paint it

One of the most straightforward ways to make something look brand new is to paint it. As well as covering up any scuffs and scratches, it’s a creative way to add something that suits the rest of your décor or current theme.

You’ll need to choose your colour first. If you’re trying to keep to a budget, see if there’s any leftover paint in a cupboard that might work nicely. Alternatively, you could ask friends and family if they have any paint they don’t need anymore.

When your paint is ready, you’ll need to invest in primers and paint brushes. These can be picked up cheaply at local DIY shops.

Before painting, you have to:

  • Make sure you lay a cover on the surface you plan to paint on to avoid causing any damage to the carpet.
  • Use some sandpaper to even out wooden surfaces – be sure to check you’re using the right weight of sandpaper beforehand. If you’re unsure, ask someone at your nearest DIY shop.
  • If the piece you’re upcycling is varnished, use a solvent to strip it. You can also put in some elbow grease with your sandpaper and scrub hard!

From there, you can apply your primer. This is essential as you want to ensure the paint you apply is nice and smooth. Priming it will prevent paint from flaking and make it last longer.

Depending on the paint you use, you'll get many different effects. So if, for example, you decide to use that leftover chalk paint that was on the feature wall in the living room, you’ll find this creates a lovely rustic and textured effect. Gloss paint, on the other hand, leaves everything looking shiny; silk paint offers a subtle sheen, and eggshell is a semi-matte effect.

Whichever you choose, apply the paint evenly and leave it to dry. It might need another coat or two, so don’t put everything away until you’re sure one coat has done the job.

Add some details

It may be that you quite like the current paint job on the piece you’re upcycling, and you just want to make your mark subtly. Or you might want to get creative after you’ve finished painting it.

Whichever category you fit into, there are lots of ways to add some details. If you’d like to add a distressed effect, you’ll need some sandpaper. Choose some areas where you think the item would naturally wear, most likely the edges, and gently sand the space.

Another idea is to add another layer of paint in a different colour to create a striking contrast. Then, when you start sanding, the colour below will be revealed as you sand this new top coat away.

You could also try adding some embellishments, such as stencilled designs or decoupage. Decoupage has become popular recently, and you’ll find lots of patterned paper in craft shops.

When you’ve finished adding your designs, apply a layer of varnish or wax. This will protect your creation.

Swap it

Perhaps a paint job isn’t required. Maybe all that’s needed is a set of new door handles. If you adore the way a cupboard looks, but it just needs a simple change, it’s worth searching for decorative door handles and having a power drill at the ready.

This can be a simple yet effective way to upcycle something, and it’s so easy to make the switch.

Get chopping

Want to change your dining room chairs? Sometimes a lick of paint just won’t do, so why not remove the arms?

You might just need to unscrew the arms using a basic screwdriver, but there’s a chance you’ll need a small saw, so be careful. Once you’ve removed the arms, sand down the area and repaint it.

Be creative

Whatever project you have in mind, remember that there are no rules. Once you start to feel confident, you can try new ways to add your own personal touch. Before you know it, your home will be filled with your own upcycled pieces

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