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How to upcycle furniture – Tips & Tricks

Following some useful tips on where you might source upcycled furniture in the blog of 13th May, now take a look at some handy ideas of how to actually paint and finish the piece of furniture from MOLLY MAID, the house cleaning professionals.

Painting and Finishing

Consider using chalk paints for a matt and chalky finish. They also lend themselves to those new to upcycling. Once you have a smooth surface these are the perfect way to paint over a dark stain or veneer. They require no priming and give excellent coverage. There are also many different ways of experimenting with finishes.

  • Once the item has a smooth surface, apply two or more coats of paint, wax and buff the piece, then sand to add a distressed look. Sand in the areas that would generally see the most use – on corners or arms of chairs, for example. Once you are confident with applying the paint, be as creative as you can. Chalk paints allow for many different finishes: you can water them down for a streakier look, or add a crackle glaze to give the effect of an aged oil painting. Also try layering different colours which can be exposed when rubbed back. A bright white under a dark green or blue gives a fresh seaside appeal, or red will provide a warm, decadent look.
  • If you want to use emulsion paint you will need to sand your furniture to provide a surface for the paint, prime with fine sand paper, undercoat and then use either an emulsion for a more distressed look or eggshell for a durable finish.

Paint Effects

Paint effects on top of your upcycled finds will add great charm and personalise them too.

  • Items with carving or detailing lend themselves perfectly to gilding with a dust of gold leaf. For a more cost effective way of gilding, purchase loose leaves of brass rather than gold, which will add a rich shimmering tone. Apply gold size on the area you would like to gild, then carefully pat on the loose leaf. Use sparingly if you want to create a look of faded grandeur. Try lightly sanding the carving and painting on the size sparingly and sporadically to give a hint of more opulent times – perfect for creating a boudoir feel! This effect also looks stunning on photo frames and makes those favourite snapshots glow. It’s a great technique for mirrors too, although if the mirror you are painting is gilt, you may just want to rub the paint back to reveal its former colour.


Finally, stencilling is enormously satisfying as it is creative and adds another beautiful dimension to your painted surface. It also allows you to add a painted effect without painting the whole piece of furniture.

  • Try a bold acanthus scroll across larger furniture such as wardrobes for a Provençal approach, or use a delicate pattern that intermittently fades for a vintage look.
  • Stencils can be bought online or you can cut out your own designs from a piece of card using a sharp craft knife.
  • Stipple the paint through the stencil using a large bristle brush and add a covering of wax to protect it.
  • If you want something even more creative, try hand painting vines that diagonally flow across a chest of drawers in greys for a dazzling effect!

Have fun and enjoy being productive!