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Inspired ideas for upcycling furniture

Whether you pick up a project from a junk store, find a bargain at a car boot sale or have a loft ripe with pieces ready for transformation, upcycling furniture is an affordable and sustainable way to breathe new life into old, broken and tired furniture.

With some clever tricks, easy techniques and thrifty fixes, you can add a unique twist or custom finish to a project, to perfectly suit your spaces.

Whatever the size, style and condition of your project, here are some fun upcycling ideas to inspire you and help you get started.

  • Refresh, repair and replace
  • Transform with finishes
  • Repurpose for a new life
Refresh, repair and replace
Refresh, repair and replace

Whether certain features are worn, broken or just not to your taste, a quick make do and mend job can transform a piece of furniture.

  • Replace old or broken decorative mouldings on a chest of drawers or end table. An easy way to make a new piece of furniture look more ornate or to make an old piece of furniture look more contemporary.
  • Change the legs, handles and knobs. A quick and easy fix that can help a project look as though it always belonged in the space. Try adding castor wheels for easy manoeuvrability or using mismatched handles for a quirky look.
  • Refresh tired and worn out seating. Use offcuts of fabric, a foam pad and wadding, secured with a staple gun for a fast and fresh makeover. If you have wicker seats, spray paint is a great way to freshen up worn weave, while getting into all the nooks and crannies.
  • Opt for a streamlined look and remove damaged doors or drawers all together. Use small decorative baskets or boxes in their place to transform a dresser or cabinet into a shelving unit.

Transform with finishes
Transform with finishes

Whether you paint, stain or strip, experiment with different finishes for a great new look.

  • A fresh paint job is a really easy way to revitalise a project. Remove or protect any fixtures you want to keep, then check for any small repairs such as scratches and dents. Use wood filler then sand back the surfaces, before applying a good quality undercoat or primer. Allow to dry then add a couple of coats of a new colour, before replacing any fixtures and fittings.
  • Experiment with colour. Get creative with the colour wheel and go for 2020 paint trends, clash or match with your walls or harmonise to your décor with neutral shades.
  • Try different finishes. Go for a slick and shiny surface with gloss paint, more of a rustic look with chalk paint or try adding accents with metallic spray paint.
  • Customise your project for a bespoke finish. Distress your paint job with sandpaper to expose the natural wood for a vintage look or try adding unique designs with stencils.
  • Stripping a piece back to reveal the natural grain is also a great way to refresh a project. Using paint stripper or a heat gun, remove the old layers with a scraper and sandpaper. Finish with wax or stains to protect and seal the wood.
  • Enhance the natural grain of stripped or unpainted wood with liming wax. Following the grain, apply the wax with a cloth then buff with fine steel wool to remove any excess. Seal with finishing oil or clear wax for added durability.
  • Stain wooden furniture for a beautiful colour. Make sure your project is well prepared by filling, sanding and cleaning the surfaces. Apply your chosen stain with a brush, making sure to rub away the excess with a rag between coats. Allow to dry then seal with finishing oil.

Repurpose for a new life
Repurpose for a new life

Perhaps you have a piece that no longer has a place in your home. Instead of donating or dumping, give an unwanted piece of furniture a new lease of life with a thrifty DIY repurpose.

  • Add a chunky worktop to an old chest of drawers for a stylish kitchen island with plenty of storage.
  • Remove the drawers from an old filing cabinet, turn it on its back and fill with tall garden tools.
  • Transform an old wardrobe into farmhouse kitchen storage with timber shelves and mesh or wire panels.
  • Use an old ladder as a trendy bookcase. Paint in fun colours and lean against a wall to display your books, plants and pictures.
  • Turn an old cabinet into a chic sink pedestal with a fresh coat of paint and handles to match your basin taps.
  • Add chunky castor wheels and a glass top to a wooden pallet for an instant coffee table.
  • Make an old dresser into a stylish TV stand with new legs, handles and a lick of paint.

There are plenty of benefits to upcycling furniture and even more room for creativity. Check out the ideas and advice hub from more inspiration, including our how to upcycle a bedside table project> for a range of techniques.

More inspiration from Wickes