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Jazzing up furniture

When it comes to giving your home a facelift, the difference is all in the details.

Painting tired furniture is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to revive a room’s décor. Mismatched garage sale finds or worn-out hand-me-downs can be turned into instant show-offs. In much the same way that a dull outfit takes on a new life with accessories, furniture can be injected with character and contemporary styling with paint.

Colour consultant and interior designer Debbie Abercrombie says you can do fun things with paint. “If you have timber dining chairs, for example, you can paint each chair in a different colour and then do something that connects them. So, you could do chairs in four different colours around the table but maybe each chair has a white stripe in it so it’s one thing that connects all of them. That eclectic look that we’ve had for a while has evolved a little bit but it’s still there because it works. Old pieces work with new pieces. Unloved pieces come back to life.”

Refurbishing timber chairs with paint and colour

Create a dipped chair effect – click here for step by step instructions

While neutral shades are often used when painting furniture, bright colours shouldn’t be ruled out. Swapping out neutral pieces with colourful ones can reinvigorate your space. Furniture that’s decked to the nines in colour shouts “look at me”, adding drama to a room.

Brightly painted boxed shelving

Testpot table – click here for step by step instructions

Reach for the colour palette to bring certain themes into your home’s décor. A French country theme often utilises turquoise, teal and green hues (think Resene Landmark, Resene Globe and Resene Koru), while the ultra chic Scandinavian style often incorporates bright-coloured accent furniture amid simple clean lines and white walls and floors. Minimal colour accents against a white canvas appear bold and edgy – against a neutral backdrop they simply pop. Perhaps it’s just a single speck of colour, like a painted chair in a jaunty orange (try Resene Flashback), a vintage cabinet in aqua blue (like Resene Refresh), or a side table in a fuchsia or cherry pink (we love Resene Knock Out). Either way, colour in a white interior stands out.

Resene Landmark
Resene Landmark
Resene Globe
Resene Globe
Resene Koru
Resene Koru
Resene Flashback
Resene Flashback
Resene Refresh
Resene Refresh
Resene Knock Out
Resene Knock Out

painted cane furniture has a ne lease of life

Think outside the box when painting your piece. An ombre effect is very stylish right now. When painting a chest of drawers, paint each drawer a different shade of the same colour – dark at the bottom and light at the top.

Metallics are also popular, with gold and brass colours stealing the spotlight from silver. Designers are putting the pedal to the metal and incorporating it into the most contemporary interiors. Mirror frames, lamp bases, furniture, even door frames can be revamped with a metallic sheen. But remember, metallics in a room will draw the eye, so less is more. Painting just the legs of a dining table with Resene Enamacryl Metallic paint, for example, will provide a subtle touch to a room.

Blue metallic cabinet – click here for step by step instructions

If you have a guest room that’s dull as dishwater, paint the bed in a vibrant hue, then pick up one of those outdated metal candelabras or chandeliers for a song and paint that too. A high gloss paint, such as Resene Enamacryl, will add instant glam to a room.

Sometimes, though, a subtle change is all that’s needed to perk up a piece. Paint the knobs of a dresser in bright colours to add instant wow, or embellish it with wallpaper.

“We’re seeing pieces of furniture using wallpaper on the outside,” says Debbie, "just in a panel on the door, and then repeating it on the wall behind the furniture. You can easily do that with things like old tea chests.”

Debbie says there’s also a trend for putting wallpapers on the back of shelving and on the inside of cabinets.

“You know how there’s sometimes really beautiful lining on a jacket? It’s that outrageous paisley or houndstooth. Well, we’re seeing people do it with furniture now. It’s very cool. It’s like the lining becomes the feature. And you only get to see it if you open the door.”

A piece of wallpaper slipped under a glass top quickly transforms a side or coffee table. Pick a colour out of the wallpaper and paint the legs to finish your piece.
To breathe new life into old furniture it might be simply a matter of using it in a different way. Remove the drawers of an old dresser, add a shelf and it can be turned into a book cabinet. Or use the dresser as a bathroom vanity, a kitchen island or a potting table – once you’ve transformed it with a coat of paint.

Old wooden crates can become open shelves too.

“You can call it boxed shelving,” says Debbie. “You might have three of the boxes in a colour in one area and then three other boxes in a colour in another area. So you’re just bringing in a little bit of colour, which gives the room a lift. You’re introducing quite strong colours but only a little of it. And then that’s such an easy thing to change out if five years down the track you’re over the coloured boxes.”

Brightly painted boxed shelving

Create a series of crate shelves – click here for step by step instructions.

Don’t limit yourself to paint. Stains are another option. According to Debbie, stain gives a softer appearance than hard paint colour. But it depends what look you’re after.

“If it suits the house you do colour,” says Debbie. “If you want to keep it more elegant you can just do a nice stain or whitewash on it.”

When overhauling a vintage chair or cabinet, for example, a softer look may be achieved using stain. For more vibrant, solid hues, paint may be your preferred choice. Or use something like Resene Colorwood Whitewash to give a whitewashed effect to wood for that French or shabby chic style.

Updateanold set of drawers to a contemporary look with a coat of paint

Contemporary drawers – click here for step by step instructions

Debbie suggests playing with colour too. “I have some very dated country-looking bar stools that are timber. I’m going to put a Resene Colorwood Whitewash finish on them. And because they’re slatted I might put one stripe in a striking colour. I can’t wait to do them because suddenly they’ll look like a new piece and they won’t look like these old-fashioned country bar stools any more.”

Outside metal furniture can be given a spruce-up too.

If rusted, wash it down with Resene Paint Prep and Housewash then prepare the rusted areas using  a 3M paint and rust stripping removal disc. Dust off and immediately prime with Resene Rust-Arrest. Then paint with a Resene exterior acrylic. If the corrosion is extreme or you live near to the sea, apply an additional coat of Rust-Arrest before applying your topcoats.

If you have furniture that needs a new lease of life, rather than replace it, take the time to imagine how you could transform it with some colour, paint or stain. The only limit is your imagination.

Paint old furniture for a contemporary effect

Painted display stand – click here for step by step instructions

Happy decorating!


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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.