5 DIY tips for upcycling furniture

5 DIY tips for upcycling furniture

By Iona Bower on

If there’s one thing more enjoyable than a new piece of furniture, it’s an old new piece of furniture. Upcycling allows you to have exactly what you want, in precisely the right colour - and it’s a more sustainable way of switching up the look of a room. Everyone wins.

If upcycling furniture is on your to-do list for this year but you're not sure where to start, we've prepared a handy guide that would tell you everything you need to know on this crafty hobby. Now get comfy and start reading, as below are our 5 tips for upcycling furniture.


1. Catch your furniture. 

Seeking out recyclable bargains really is half the fun. There are specialist fairs you can visit such as the International Antiques and Collectors’ Fair at Ardingly, which takes place several times a year in the south east, but there are similar fairs around the UK. For the best bargains, stick your head into any charity shop you pass. You’ll be doubling up your good deed by supporting a charity as well as saving furniture from landfill. Some charity shops have a particular focus on furniture, such as Emmaus, a charity with shops all over the UK that specialises in vintage and modern pieces.

There’s also lots of furniture to be found without even leaving your sofa - eBay is still a rich seam of recyclable pieces and Etsy has lots on offer, too. And, of course, everyone's favourite online space for vintage, pre-loved and even new furniture and home decor pieces - Facebook Marketplace.

 close-up photo of an upcycled chest of drawers, painted in YesColours Fresh Lilac and Calming Yellow paint stripes

We love a good stripe, and we looove a crisp paint line. This upcycled chest of drawers has both. Courtesy of the talented hands of Karen @karenanita and our Fresh Lilac and Calming Yellow paint colours.


2. Think: preparation, preparation, preparation.

A beautiful finish is all in the prep. Give any areas a sand down that need it to smooth things out and key the surface to help the paint take. Remove any hardware such as hinges and brackets and give them a clean and polish. If they’re really old and grimy, try boiling them in white vinegar and then gently using a bit of fine wire wool to buff them. Dust off any dust with a brush and, lastly, wash your piece of furniture down with sugar soap and let it dry completely. If you’re painting something very dark like mahogany, use a quality primer first so you get a ‘true’ colour when it’s finished. 


3. Use colour confidently.

As with small rooms, you can afford to boldly go as bold as you like when upcycling furniture. Highly saturated colours look great in rooms decorated in a dark palette: try our Electric Yellow or Electric Blue paint colours. Punchy brights such as Joyful Green and Friendly Pink breathe life into neutrals and whites, while ice-cream shades such as Fresh Lilac and Fresh Peach uplift a grey scheme without screaming at you, if you prefer a look that’s just a little more sober. 

The Yes Colours range is all available in eggshell or other finishes, too. Just ask and we’ll make up a custom colour for your piece. Easy.

If you want to go quieter, choose neutral colours for the main body and then highlight certain features in bright shades. You could use a contrasting colour on the trim, or just on the legs or feet, for example. Have a look at your piece before you pick up a brush to see where there are features you might be able to draw attention to with colour. 

 Vintage mid-century nest of tables upcycled and repainted in Electric Blue, hot pink and white colours and photographed in front of a brick wall outdoors

Forever obsessed with Kelly Brown @raymondsrose's talent and the way she's upcycled this vintage mid-century nest of tables with our Electric Blue paint colour. To achieve this vibrant colour combination, check out our Passionate Pink and Electric Hot White paint colours too.



4. Finish.

Once every coat is completely dry, think about a finish. How you finish your piece will depend on the item of furniture and the style you’re going for. You might want to distress any edges and leave it quite raw. If not, a wax finish ‘seals’ the paint and gives it a bit of protection as well as making your finished piece look really smart. 

 IKEA bread bin hack presented by two bread bins put together as a sideboard and painted with YesColours Passionate Olive Green paint colour, photographed next to a large plant

We love an easy furniture upcycling (and even furniture creating) hack... just like this viral IKEA bread bin sideboard furniture hack that was all over TikTok last year. Here Holly @hollymakesfunthings has used two IKEA bread bins and has finished her DIY project by painting them with our Passionate Olive Green paint colour. Simply delicious.

5. Add a little surprise.


The world is your lobster here. You could add new handles to give your piece a unique look. These Hand Painted Geometric Knobs from Painted Wooden Things on Etsy caught our eye. If you’re upcycling a storage item you could add new sections within drawers or cupboards by popping in some small storage, such as this Drawer Organiser from A Place For Everything. Find a sticker you love to bring another dimension to your design: these beautiful Adhesive Liberty Print Stickers can be cut into any shape you like. And, don’t forget that wallpaper is not just for walls. This ‘Gelato’ Bauhaus Geometric Wallpaper from Bobbi Beck would give an element of surprise (and a lot of joy) inside a tall cupboard or on the front of a chest of drawers.

Bobbi Beck gelato pattern Bauhaus inspired wallpaper with vintage mid-century chair, table and sideboard photographed in front of it

Bobbi Beck's 'Gelato' Bauhaus geometric wallpaper grabbed our attention straight away. Read more about the sustainable wallpaper brand in our article about UK small businesses here.


We hope these home decor tips have inspired you to experiment with (or upgrade)  your crafty skills and give upcycling furniture a go. And in case you need some help with choosing the right paint colour for your piece, feel free to book a colour consultation with us and we’ll sort your colour puzzle in no time. Free option is available too!

Share your YesColours home transformation by tagging us on Instagram.