Money Matters Team

Revamping old furniture for next to nothing

By Money Matters Team 30/07/2014

Sophie Banda gives her tips for how to brighten up old pieces of furniture.

For the amateur interior designer, there’s nothing quite like finding that perfect piece to complete a room’s look. New items don’t always come cheap, so Sophie Banda gives her tips on how to breath new life into old furniture.

‘Upcycling’ is the term for turning otherwise useless or unwanted objects into something of higher value – for example, taking a tree stump and making it into a coffee table, or fashioning elegant wall-mounted wine racks out of discarded wooden pallets. There really are no limits with upcycling, and with a little original thinking and creativity (and possibly some sandpaper), even the most unpromising object can be transformed into a thing of beauty. Here’s how to get started:

1. Think outside the box (literally)

Pretty much any old piece of furniture, whether it’s a stool with two missing legs, some mismatched colanders, a grubby shipping crate or an unwanted garden chair can be upcycled somehow - chances are it’s just a lick of paint and a swatch of fabric away from being your new favourite thing. The important part is to look past the unsightly exterior and forgive any scuffs and cracks, because sometimes these imperfections will be what give the finished product character.

2. Stock up on paint, sandpaper and wax

A quick coat of paint is definitely the fastest way to transform a piece of furniture – sometimes a neon makeover is the only thing an old wooden bench needs to become the focal point of a room. Sandpaper is essential to selectively wear away at a fresh coat of paint to give the impression of centuries of wear and tear, and wax is handy for sealing the finish of the wood once you’re done to preserve your handiwork. These techniques are very forgiving, so turn to the web for some handy tutorials on ‘antiquing’ furniture, and get stuck in.

3. Forage in places you normally wouldn’t

Once you’ve exhausted your own supply, you will need to start looking further afield for things to upcycle. But now is not the time to head to standard furniture stores – charity shops are the best places to find unwanted furniture, as are jumble and car boot sales, and it goes without saying that both are incredibly cheap options, with some items selling for pennies. Secondhand or discarded furniture is often fashionably retro and unusual looking, and you could stumble across a hidden gem.

4. Get inspired

The upcycling revolution is in full swing, so there are lots of sources for new ideas and inspiration. For example, there are entire online blogs dedicated to the art of repurposing and revamping old objects, and tutorials for the nitty-gritty aspects of DIY like learning to safely use power tools. Your new skills can be put to great use both at home and when gifting to family and friends, as well as doing your bit for the environment – AND you’ll be saving money. What’s not to love?

Ex-PR Sophie Banda is a freelance journalist and copywriter who has written on E-commerce, digital marketing and music for the Guardian, the Financial Times, The Huffington Post and Internet Retailing.

This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.

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