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Reception revamp

Project ideas and inspiration from Good magazine

Using paint for a cost-effective office makeover

Anyone who works in an office knows the benefits of a workplace that is clear of clutter and filled with natural light. Reception areas and shared break-out spaces also play a vital role in setting the mood. But not all organisations have money to spend on fancy office refits – especially those in the not-for-profit sector.

Oxfam New Zealand is a development organisation working in the Pacific and elsewhere to help combat poverty, social injustice and the effects of climate breakdown. Thanks to a generous landlord, the team at Oxfam New Zealand had the chance recently to reconfigure their Auckland-based office layout, including knocking down a wall to create a light-filled reception area.

Adding a little paint colour can be good way to refresh furniture and give it a second life. Always test the finish on an inconspicuous area of the fabric first to make sure it dries properly and achieves your desired finish before painting all the furniture. Or for a different twist, paint wooden arms and legs of furniture to freshen them up and leave the fabric unpainted.  Final touches: The newly revamped space is furnished with artisan fair trade baskets, cotton cushion covers and an alpaca throw from Oxfam Shop. Check out or @oxfamshopnz for handmade goodies from around the world.

The challenge was to refurbish this new space on the tightest of budgets. The solution? A pot of Resene Lustacryl and some volunteer time to repurpose old furniture. Out with the frumpy blue on the armchairs and tawdry teal on the vinyl chairs. A simple application of Resene waterborne semi-gloss enamel in Resene Bokara Grey delivered a subtle new sophistication. Adding in a few fair trade homewares from the Oxfam Shop range completes the updated look.

Vinyl chairs getting painted
Vinyl chairs getting their first coat of Resene paint
Finished painted chairs
Finished painted vinyl chairs
Armchairs - before photo
Armchairs before
Painting fabric chairs
Use an old brush to really work the diluted paint into the fabric

You will need

  • Various grades of sandpaper .
  • Furniture with vinyl or a low-pile, tight-weave fabric.
  • 1 litre Resene Lustacryl, waterborne semi-gloss enamel in a colour of your choice. We used Resene Bokara Grey.
  • Dropcloth, paintbrushes, masking tapes.


Step 1: Cover the edges of any wooden or metal chair arms or legs with masking tape to be painted around.

Step 2: Paint the chair fabric.

Step 3: Remove the masking tape and tidy the arms and legs with a light sanding. Wipe down any dusty surfaces using a damp cloth.

Words and styling: Sarah Heeringa. Photography: Amanda Reelick. 2019.

Download this article as a PDF

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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.

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