Step by step guide to painting old furniture

A good friend of mine is always laughing at us about our obsession with buying up old furniture to renovate, ‘Why don’t you just save yourself some hassle and buy new’ she often says. But where’s the fun in that?! Not only is up cycling a great way to save money, I love old things, imagining the stories behind them and giving a new lease of life to something with a bit of history.

I shared some images a while ago of my latest find, an absolute steal at £27 it was an old drinks cabinet (very retro, it even had a light inside to highlight your Baby Shams no doubt!).

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I wanted something for our revamped dining room to replace some awful shelving I’d had enough of and took a hammer to and this looked perfect for storage. I took some pictures as we went along with a view to doing this step by step guide (and to prove to my friend how easy it is!)

I’m by no means an expert but hopefully this will show how easy it is to do and encourage you to have a go.

What you’ll need…

  • Sand paper (a hand held sander ‘mouse’ is even better if you have one, although not essential)
  • Sugar soap
  • Paint brushes (including a really small one for any tricky details)
  • Good quality primer (we buy all our paint from Johnstones in Cambridge, if you’re local check them out)
  • Paint of your choice (we always use eggshell as I’m not a fan of anything glossy. But chalk paint is really fashionable at the moment)
  • Matt varnish (not essential but it does protect the finish. You can also use a wax, especially if you are going for a more distressed finish)

Step by step…

  1. Good preperation is absolutely key to getting a good finish. You’ll find that lots of older furniture will have layers of varish, polish or wax which you’ll need to rough up in order to get a good finish with the paint. Start off by giving the piece a good sand all over.
  2. Once you’ve sanded it, brush off the worst of the dust and then make up a sugar solution and give it a good wipe. This stuff is brilliant and picks up all the annoying little bits of sanded mess.
  3. A tip we’ve learnt as we’ve gone along is to make sure you tape up any edges you don’t want to paint. We’ve found that when painting furniture with doors, it’s best to leave the edges as it can affect how they open and close. Spend a bit of time properly masking taping edges and you’ll be glad in the long run!
  4. You’re ready to paint! Start by putting a coat of primer all over. Don’t forget the backs of legs and underneath. If you are painting a chair it’s a good idea to turn it upside down first and start there.DSC_0425
  5. Once the primer has dried, check it all over to make sure you don’t need to lightly sand again. If you do repeat step 2 again.
  6. Time to paint with your chosen colour. Most pieces will need two coats – allow enough time for drying in between and try not to be impatient. Try to keep your brush strokes going in the same direction.
  7. The next step is option – if you want a distressed look, use a piece of sandpaper (wrapped around a small block of wood usually helps) and sand any edges to give that vintage feel. Focus on areas where chips and scrapes would naturally appear to make it look authentic. This looks is usually more effective when you use a colour and then take it back to either the primer coat or the bare wood.
  8. Once you are happy with your finish, give it a coat of the varnish. This is especially important for pieces like dressing tables – make up will then easily wipe off!
  9. That’s it. Wait for it all to dry before putting it back together and then step back and enjoy your master piece!

 

 

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My top tips for planning a lounge

Now I’m sure they are just being nice but my friends often say how relaxing our lounge is. It’s a lovely compliment as we did put a lot of work into it. We wanted an elegant, yet cosy living space and that’s quite a tough balance to pull off. I’m by no means an expert but I’m often asked for advice on colours or furnishings and how we planned our room so this got me thinking recently about my five top tips I could share for designing a new living space…

1. Live in it first.

There’s always that temptation when you first move into a new home to make changes or go crazy with the paint brush but I really think it’s important to just live with it as it is for a while, especially for a lounge or main living space. See how the house flows, how you want to use the space and also how the light can change in a room throughout the day. If you’re just redecorating a room in a house you’ve lived in for a while you’ll already know all this – and that’s possibly why you’re wanting to redecorate.

2. Focal point.

You might have a feature that’s already part of the space that will be key to your new room scheme. For us this was our fireplace, which was why we choose to have cupboards and shelving designed and built to work alongside it. It’s worth sitting down and thinking about how you want the room to work around a focal point that already exists. If you don’t have something, or perhaps have a more contemporary home – think about what you want the eye to be drawn to when you walk in. I’ve a bit of a pet hate about TV’s being the focal point of the room, but that’s just a personal preference. I’d much rather have a sociable living room which will work for a number of uses.

3. Furniture

Very obvious I know, but always think about what furniture you want to incorporate. For a lounge – seating will clearly be key, have you got enough of it? If you don’t have a lot of room, think about soft furnishings (big cushions you can pull out for extra seats when there are extra bums) or furniture that has a dual purpose. We bought a gorgeous Laura Ashley footstool, which we can also use as a coffee table (with a tray on) or for extra seating when there are lots of us. Think about your storage options too – do you want to hide stuff away for a more minimalist look or display your finds for all to see (you all know I go with the latter!).

4. Colours

It’s tempting to reach straight for the paint charts – but I think if you spend a bit of time thinking through the design of the room first it pays off. Colour is very much down to personal choice – and your choices will no doubt reflect your personality. Colour can really affect the mood of the room – so think about what type of atmosphere you want to create. When I’m testing colours for a room I always put a bit on every wall as you’d be amazed how different they can sometimes look depending on light. Check test patches too in the morning and evening light as again at different times of the day colours can look different. Remember that different paint finishes can also change the way a colour scheme looks. I always use eggshell on our woodwork for example as I’m not keen on a gloss finish.

5. Enjoy it.

Lastly, there’s nothing like that feeling when a room is finally finished, the paint is dry, everything is in its place and you can sit down (in my case ideally with a glass of wine) and enjoy all your hard work. Be proud of it and show it off.

How hard can it be to find a lampshade?

Painted standard lamp

This was one of those projects that half way through I really wish I hadn’t started. After painstakingly making sure this old wooden standard lamp was painted without drips then came the task of trying to find the right sort of lampshade. I’ve never realised how limited the choice on the high street is for lampshades, and I can’t be the only one who thinks this? At one point I thought about just making my own – anyone who has any tips on this please let me know! I needed it to be big, and I didn’t realise just how big till I started trying some out. I wanted something a bit different, with a print or pattern, not too quirky but not a boring one colour shade that would blend into the background. This was to be a statement lamp, and on the practical side offer a different level of lighting in our newly decorated living room. In the end all was not lost and I found a rather fabulous drum shade by Voyage in John Lewis which compliments the Charleston Grey (Farrow & Ball) that I’ve painted the base (which I acquired for free, even better!).

Somewhere for all things pretty…

I thought I’d kick off with a blog about our ‘new’ glass display cabinet, which I have fallen a little bit in love with. I had a vision for this piece as soon as I saw a photo of it. On my wedding day my Grandparents passed onto me a china tea set which has been in the family for over 100 years, I’m the fourth owner (albeit a nervous one as it’s been passed on to me minus only two cups) and I really wanted to make sure it was somewhere it could be seen – not hidden in a cupboard or sat somewhere gathering dust.

My honorary auntie regularly visits an auction house close to where she lives and I always take a little look at the catalogue in case there’s something that catches my eye that she can bid on for me. This cabinet jumped out at me.  Looking at the elegant shape of the feet and detail on the doors I knew with a bit of TLC it could be the perfect piece for our dining room and to display all those pretty things I have (and continue to collect, you can never have enough right?!).

I started out by taking it to pieces, the back still had what looked to be original fabric on it, which thankfully peeled off in one piece. Once sanded right back and wiped over with sugar soap it was just a case of being patient and layering on the paint. I’ve tried to keep the colours in our home Farrow & Ball throughout so that each colour scheme for every room still works with the rest of the house, I chose ‘shaded white’ for this, with a piece of wallpaper from Laura Ashley. I’m really pleased with the result, as with every piece I’ve done I’ve learnt something new (like not hanging the door back on upside down!) that I’ll remember for the next piece I source.

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