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DIY tips for upcycling

From the Resene decorating blog

We’re all thinking a lot more about waste when it comes to renovating and interior design.

Knowing where things have come from and thinking about where they’re going when you’re done with them are good habits to build into your interior design projects. There’s usually an added bonus for your wallet too, particularly if you’re repurposing used items you’ve found in op shops and on second-hand sales websites.

Paint, wallpaper and stain are very useful and affordable ways to breathe new life into used pieces. Here are some ideas for projects to try, and techniques to get the most from your projects.

Colourfully painted bar stools

Standard bar stools are given some colourful pizazz with the addition of colourful legs and tops.

The legs of these bar stools are painted in (from left to right) Resene Away We Go, Resene Party Zone and Resene XOXO while the stool cushions are in (from left to right) Resene Party Zone, Resene XOXO and Resene Away We Go. Wall painted in Resene Rice Cake, cabinet in Resene Aura, lipped shelf in Resene Atlas, round serving tray on the shelf in Resene XOXO, small plant pot on the table in Resene Party Zone, large plant pot in painted Resene Rice Cake with a maze-like pattern in Resene Away We Go and plywood floor protected with Resene Aquaclear. Stools from Mocka, planter from Nood, leaner from Cintesi, tray and sneakers from Good Thing, Whakaki by Makus Art from endemic world. Tricky Tiki Art by Glenn Jones from endemicworld. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Boldly painted furniture

Upcycling needn’t just mean sourcing items from second-hand stores. It can mean breathing new life into the furniture you already own to create a bold new look

In this study zone, almost everything has been livened up with a coat of paint. Lower half of wall painted in Resene Coast, top half of wall and floor in Resene Poured Milk, desk in Resene Influential, chair in Resene Yes Please, bookshelf and magazine file in Resene Raging Bull, plant pots on the bookshelf in Resene Influential and Resene Coast, mini drawer unit in Resene Poured Milk, Resene Yes Please, Resene Coast and Resene Influential, wooden box in Resene Coast, pencil pot in Resene Yes Please, circles painted on the wall in (from left) Resene Influential, Resene Shilo and Resene Yes Please with cork placemats used as pin boards in (from left) Resene Raging Bull, Resene Coast and Resene Influential. Rug and alarm clock from Allium, stationery accessories all from The Warehouse, glass and storage baskets from Citta. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Start simple

If you’re new to the world of upcycling, keep it simple to start with. Try your handiwork on a basic item of furniture that’s not too large, like a stool, picture frames, small shelf or even a pot. It’s also a good idea to look for items that won’t need too much work to look great; items that have some surface damage or just look a bit tired, rather than pieces that need structural repairs or major patching.

To begin with, also look for surfaces that will be easy to paint, such as wood, so you’ll get a great finished result without too much prep.

Not only will this help keep your costs down while you learn, but these simple pieces also usually give great finished results for your efforts which will keep your enthusiasm and motivation up to keep upcycling!

Basic prep for wood surfaces

Like any painting project, to get a good, long lasting finished result you need to put a little time in properly preparing your surface.

For wooden surfaces, including those that have been stained or varnished, that means removing any hardware like handles and giving them a thorough sand to remove any imperfections and ready the surface for paint. This is particularly important if you’re staining with Resene Colorwood wood stains as they can’t be absorbed through old coatings such as varnish. The type of sandpaper you use will depend on how much surface material you need to remove.

Once sanded, give the surface a good wipe down to remove any remaining dust and dirt. If you have dents, nail holes and cracks you’ll need to fill them with putty and then sand again.

If you’re painting, it’s also a good idea to start with a coat of primer such as Resene Quick Dry to extend the lifespan of your finished project and give a smooth finish. It’s also helpful to undercoat if you’re going from a darker to a lighter colour. Ask your local Resene ColorShop which product is right for your project.

Leave the undercoat to dry and gently sand again, then wipe down and begin painting your topcoats. For most products and colours, two topcoats are recommended.

Top tip: If you want a solid paint finish on furniture, use Resene Enamacryl, which is a waterborne enamel paint with a gloss finish. It's extremely hard-wearing but is easy to clean-up and doesn’t have a strong smell. For a semi-gloss finish, use Resene Lustacryl. Or if you prefer a matte finish, use Karen Walker Chalk Colour paint and wax from Resene ColorShops.

An orange hall table

An otherwise ordinary hall table is repainted in Resene Jailbreak to become the focal point of this dramatic entranceway.

A vase painted in Resene Wishing Well is another excellent demonstration of how paint can repurpose simple things to create bold new looks. The small vase is painted in Resene Noir and the tealight holder is Resene Bluetooth. The walls are Resene Bluetooth, the floor is Resene Alabaster and the hooks are in (from top to bottom) Resene Wishing Well, Resene Noir and Resene Japonica. ‘Girl with Parrot’ by Dada22 from Pop Motif, plate from Shut the Front Door. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Melanie Jenkins.

Using wallpaper on an old set of drawers

Leftover wallpaper can be used to pretty up an old set of drawers.

Simply remove the handles prime the drawers and paint in your chosen Resene colour before gluing on the Resene wallpaper strips to the front of the drawers. Then screw the handles back on. This drawer is painted in Resene Coriander and wallpapered with Resene Wallpaper Collection 366011.

Materials other than wood

When it comes to upcycling furniture and fixtures with paint it’s not just all about wood. Other surfaces such as tiles, concrete, metal, ceramic and terracotta can all be revived with a little paint. It’s all in how you prepare the surface.

It’s a good idea to talk to the staff at your local Resene ColorShop so you get the best advice on what products and preparation methods will suit your upcycling project but here are a few general tips for prepping different surface materials.

Did you know you can also paint over fabric?

Start by dampening your fabric surface with water. Paint or spray it on so the surface fabric is wet, but the upholstery underneath isn’t sodden. Apply the paint, mixed with water in small, thin amounts with a large brush until the entire fabric surface is covered.

The level of coverage you’ll get will depend on the texture and thickness of the fabric. Don’t be tempted to go too thick with your application or the paint will crack. Acrylic paints will work best. You could try Karen Walker Chalk Colour from Resene ColorShops tinted to your preferred colour. If you’re painting a smooth, non textured fabric, you could finish with Karen Walker soft wax for a leather-like finished result. Experiment on something small and inexpensive, like a cushion first! It’s best to avoid painting areas like a sofa with normal paint, but you can easily update wooden sofa or chair arms with Resene wood stains, paints or clear finishes.

Upcycling ideas to get you started:

Resene Poured Milk

Resene Aura

Resene Away We Go

Resene Bluetooth

Resene Yes Please

Resene XOXO

Resene Influential

Resene Jailbreak

Resene Party Zone

Resene Noir

April 07, 2022

The only limit to your upcycling is your imagination. Check out the Resene upcycling ideas online for other ideas to get you started.

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