Upcycling furniture


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Jan 23, 2007
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Someone gave us an old pine wardrobe that is still in perfect condition, and we recently bought another, to replace some Ikea wardrobes. One is varnished, the other isn't. We plan to "upcycle" them by painting them.
I know the varnished one will likely be more difficult, but does anyone have any tips on how to prepare them, or can I just paint over the top with some special paints?
I by no means want to go down the "shabby chic" buzzword root, I just want to make them more modern looking to go with our other furniture.
I have heard some stuff about chalk paint, but is there anything else I should look at?
I would like the least possible effort option as we moved house last weekend and have a house/garage/3 sheds worth of boxed stuff to sort, some of which can't be sorted until I have painted these wardrobes. All this made a little bit harder by having an over inquisitive 2 year hovering around my ankles at all times. :D
Thanks! :)
well, speaking as someone who is about to paint his waxed pine kitchen cabinets...

Annie Sloan chalk paint is what people say to use, and thats because you don't really need to prepare the surfaces first in the form of taking off the varnish or wax. Give it a wash with sugar soap, and seal any knots with knot sealer, then 2 coats of annie sloan and then finish with a wax. You'll only get shabby chic if you distress it afterwards, otherwise its just painted furniture!
Just as an update, I went for Autentico chalk paint, just because there is a stockist where I live. It's great stuff. So far painted two bedside cabinets (3 coats and 2 coats of sealant) and one wardrobe (3 coats and 2 coats of sealant).
I'd highly recommend using a mini roller for the larger items such as the wardrobe and fine finish acrylic paint brushes for the rest.
All in all, a great cheap way of modernising old looking wooden furniture.
Now I can't stop looking on eBay for cheap pine furniture that people don't want any more as its not "fashionable", to buy and paint as an alternative to buying Ikea stuff.
Would a photo be possible of the painted units something I might look into further down the line!
Yeah sure, I'll try and take one tonight. The wardrobe is still in the garage so won't be able to see the finish properly, but I'll take a photo of the bedside cabinets as they are in use.
I wasn't sure what they would like to start with, and to be honest, my first attempt wasn't great, but like anything you get better with practice.
Had to post that first response quickly.

My wife does upholstery classes and has done up many old sofas, chairs and loungers. She has also done up some dinning chairs by sanding them down and painting them. She recently used chalk paint, because, as you say that is what everyone recommends. The finish in both our opinions was not great to be honest, it came off quite easily, looked streaky and bobbly in places and generally just not a great finish.

That said the chairs did not look terrible just the end finish was not as great as all the prep work that had gone into it. I think if you are using chalk paint a spray gun is definitely recommended.

My wife is now currently up-cycling a half-moon display cabinet for china, glassware, etc. She has sanded that all back the same using sandpaper, sanding pads and cabinet scrapers. Then applied dulux undercoat and then just used a normal emulsion paint (Laura Ashley Pale Twine) that matches the wall colour in room it will sit. Its not quite finished but the finish is a lot better than the chalk paint finish and that has been done using a combination of a brush and small paint roller.

EDIT - I stopped reading when I seen the mention of Chalk Paint. I apologise, I did not see you had done lots of things with it already... I am sure it is the best stuff in the world and your stuff looks smashing ;)
Did she apply any sealer or wax after the chalk paint?
It's not as smooth as a baby's backside, but its certainly not a bad finish. It's just so simple to apply. If I had to sand down all this stuff, I wouldn't have bothered as it is a royal PITA.

I haven't had it done long so not sure how well it will last, but I have sealed the paint as well, so hoping it'll be ok.
It's very rare that I would use chalk paint that hasnt been watered down first. it's difficult to get a smooth finish when using it neat as it's just too thick, but watered down to the consistency of double cream it goes on very smooth. Two coats of that and a sealant/wax should be OK
Yeah I got better results with it watered down, although for light coloured paint on darker wood, you have to do more coats.

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