Upcycling is not just about painting furniture, it also includes refreshing the original finish or creating a new finish using different products and techniques.
Many of the pieces we see thrown aside are often wonderfully carved solid mid-century mahogany. When these are restained or painted they look so much better than any modern furniture bought today. All it needs is a little imagination.
The one thing that stops people giving upcycling a go is fear. Fear of getting it wrong and messing it up. This fear is alleviated by using he right products for the job and participating in workshops that will guide you, online or in person. To get you started here is an example of a fireplace I recently upcycled for a video tutorial and blog.
There are four basic steps to follow:
Cleaning. I cleaned the surround with a mix of methylated spirits and water (50/50 mix) in an old shower bottle. Methylated spirit is a very strong cleaner which will not leave any residue to bleed through your water based paints. I sprayed it straight onto the wood, scrubbed with a sponge and wiped off the dirt with kitchen roll.
Sanding. I rubbed down the surround with a medium grade sandpaper. This is not hard and gives a lot of adhesion/durability to your finish. This is called scuff sanding and all it does is create millions of little scratches in the surface which gives your paint/primer something to sink into. I am not trying to take the factory finish off this piece. My millions of little scratches will cover it up instead.
Applying the primer. I always say ‘your Prep is your Finish’ and you will get the best finish by applying a primer first. Now choosing your primer/undercoat is very important. If you don’t have any knots or potential for anything to bleed through, you can just roll on a water based primer but for the fire surround I used an oil based one as it gives super adhesion to shiny surfaces and it seals in knots and nasties. Very good for painting mid-century mahogany. I used a mini roller to apply the primer and it was very quick and easy and gave a super flat finish.
Painting. This is actually the easy bit. For a fireplace surround choose a hard wearing washable paint, applied with mini roller and a small craft brush for the smaller areas. Make sure you buy a paint that goes on easily, adheres well, gives a really smooth professional finish and looks as good in 12 months’ time as the day it was applied. For this project I chose a type of paint referred to as satinwood. For furniture I would choose a lower sheen finish known as eggshell.
Once you are very clear on the products you are using, why you are using them and how to apply them you have the confidence to start. People message me so often with before and after photos and they are still in shock that they achieved this themselves. The sense of satisfaction is incredible. Painting furniture is also proven to be extremely therapeutic and let me tell you… quite addictive! You will soon find yourself looking around for the next project.
Words: Aileen Hogan