Upcycling Furniture

Easy makeover techniques to restore old finds into valuable masterpieces

Upcycling furniture, Handyman Magazine,

Designer Tina Hutton converted this old timber sideboard into a profitable item worth about $700

As an art director and stylist for lifestyle magazines Tina Hutton enjoys a creative job but furniture is her real passion. 

Says Tina, ‘I’ve always loved the architecture of furniture. The lines, the shapes, the effect it has in a room.’

Tina started making over pieces to decorate her first home on a small budget. ‘I’d see things in magazines but there was no way I could afford them so began looking at ways I could make what I wanted. 

‘The first pieces I did, a wardrobe and chest of drawers, got great feedback. I realised I was onto something but it’s taken years and lots of experimenting to realise there’s a market for the things I recycle and re-love.’

Going into the DIY business 

Tina formed a venture called Relov’d with friend Tabitha Freher to breathe new life into old furniture like chairs, bedheads, wardrobes and sideboards. 

‘I like to think we’re giving items of value a new currency,’ says the busy mum of two young boys. 

‘Heirloom or hand-me-down pieces should always have a place. And if the aesthetic isn’t to your taste all you have to do is tweak it.’

Making things for yourself and to sell are different mindsets says Tina. 

‘So much of your time and energy goes into every piece, so it can be hard to let go. But no-one needs 10 dressers and my husband would lose it if I tried to cram any more stuff in our home!’

upcycled blue-grey shelves, Handyman Magazine, DIY, Upcycling furniture
Says Tina, ‘I used my ultimate tool, the orbital sander, to give the paintwork of these shelves a pre-loved finish’

Tina's Makeover Tips

She’s an expert at discovering the tricks for top results every time. 

SPRAY-PAINT PRIMER goes on fast but you need to use it outdoors.  ‘I put cardboard on the grass to stop the furniture sinking then make a clothesline tent with dropsheets.’  

CLEAN BRUSHES are essential. ‘I use a cleaner and conditioner after each coat. If even one bristle has hardened paint on it, getting a smooth finish can be difficult.’

PRACTICE is key and there will inevitably be mistakes in early work. 

A professional paint job takes time to master so do a course or lots of small test pieces to get an idea of what techniques work. 

TIP Gently sand out brush strokes with very fine abrasive paper. 
 

dated timber wardrobe befoer upcycling, Upcycling Furniture, Handyman Magazine, DIY
 
Big and sturdy with good mirrors, this timber wardrobe was tatty inside

Matt black timber wardrobe after upcycle, Upcycling Furniture, Handyman Magazine, DIY
‘I used a matt black acrylic on the timber and lined the inside with a classic-print wallpaper,’ says Tina

 

Finding old furniture

It’s easy to walk into a home like Tina’s and imagine you’ll drive around on the next council clean-up day and come home with a few gems. 

‘I have found things by the side of the road but I spend a lot of time on strategic salvage, trawling websites like eBay and Gumtree for solid pieces with interesting details. 

‘Friends can be a goldmine. If you put it out there that you’re into old pieces it’s amazing what you find.’ 

TIP Check out deceased estate sales, antique markets and salvage yards. 

The trick to choosing colour 

‘Before we start we work out to the last detail what has to be done to each piece and do any repair work,’ says Tina. 

‘Be cautious and don’t try to cover problems, hoping they won’t be noticed. They have a way of showing then the whole piece is compromised.’

Next is paint, says Tina. ‘Use paint to update but also to highlight details. 

‘I like to use wallpaper and fabric on or inside door and drawer panels and as you only need a small amount, you can afford to buy the best.’

‘Reflecting the period of a piece in the colour choice is a traditional decorating rule but I disagree. 

‘Collect current swatches and use the colours you like to make it modern. Don’t overthink it as the first idea is usually the best, so go with it.'

old blue chair before upcycling, Upcycling furniture, Handyman magazine, DIY,
Shapely and well built this vintage chair needed new upholstery

Chair with blue and white upholstery and black and white cushion, Upcycling Furniture, Handyman Magazine, DIY,
Glossy blue on the frame complements the subtle pattern of the seat and back, making Tina’s budget find worth a few hundred dollars
 

Cashing in on a trend 

Says Tina, ‘DIY is huge right now and it’s not just about saving money, but about creating the palette of personality that makes a home.’ 

‘Homeowners are much more savvy about interior design thanks to all the TV shows, magazines, websites and blogs. The trick is seeing the possibilities in furniture that may appear to be beyond redemption. 

‘Make it your own and you’ll be rewarded with pieces you love, keeping history and the story alive.’

Red chair with white, red and grey polkadot upholstery, Upcycling Furniture, Handyman Magazine, DIY,
'The quirky contrast of the front and back legs called for a fun treatment,’ says Tina of the paint and upholstery on this chair

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