Want to upcycle your decor but unsure of the process? We know it can be daunting and gathered some expert tips from designer Julian Maison who has a lot of experience on the subject and also produces milk paint for distressed furniture finishes, which he uses for his own collection of vintage & antique reclaimed furniture.
Read on for Julian's five most valuable steps to easy and cost-effective upcycling:
1| Identify your style-aim
Upcyling means you get to create your own, new, bespoke look. But that doesn’t mean everything has to change. Incorporate what you already have in your surroundings, pick up on an existing colour and use it in your upcycled piece in order to create a cohesive colour scheme. Identifying what you already have is also handy for deciding on what style to go for. For a flat finish and velvet depth of colour that is often found in shabby chic interiors, use milk paint or chalk paint. For traditional looks, wax and varnishing over a wood finish are perfect, while modernist upcycling sees a lot of high gloss paint instead of restoring wood finishes.
2 | Know what to find and where to find it
If you're going for a shabby chic or traditional style, then find items with mouldings, trims, curves and wood. Real wood is much easier to work with than chipboard. If you plan to paint an entire piece over without distressing, medium-density fibreboard, chipboard or laminates are best avoided unless you are more experienced. For a modern, scandi or mid-century vibe stay away from mouldings or trim lean lines, and try to find products other than wood. To find your potential upcycle pieces, websites like Gumtree or Preloved.co.uk can be great. More traditional options are car boot sales, family garages and attics, and charity shops like the British Heart Foundation which have larger locations for furniture.
3 | Be Brave!
Often taking chances with your upcycling pays off the most. After all, if you don't like it, you can re-finish it. A pair of dull chairs can be painted a bright primary yellow or red with high gloss paint. If you decide later that the colour is a little too much, applying another coat of paint is easy. With distressed pieces, adding a coat of paint and changing the colour a little each time adds to the final look, so don’t worry and embrace experimenting with different colours and finishes.
4 | It’s all in the details
The smallest details can have the biggest impact. With modern pieces a geometric design as simple as a triangle could be painted on a cabinet door or table top. To do this use masking tape to outline your designs, or use paper to make your own stencils. Adding a secondary colour on trims, moulding insets or an outer edge that ties in with other colours in the space can make a big statement. Stencils are an easy option, as well as changing knobs for more interesting designs. Anthropology and many other companies now carry a collection of creative and stylish knobs that can carry a colour theme or style all on their own.
5 | Prep your space with what you’ll need throughout the process
With most things in life – planning is key. Before you begin your upcycle, it’s important to make sure you have a space that allows you enough room to move around as you don’t want to end up with paint or varnish down your leg. Use drop cloths, not just to protect the floor but to soak up drips, this will minimise the possibility of your shoe carrying paint off to unwanted places. Make sure you can leave the piece in place for dry time as this will also stop you from rushing through - you’ll end up happier with your project if you stop and think about what to do next.
You must prep for the look you want to achieve. Sanding, even lightly, will help ensure that your finish will hold and go on evenly. A foam brush can be better for many specialty paints. And remember, as tempting as it may be to try to get away with one thick coat, the first coat should be thin in almost all cases for a stable even surface.
Feeling inspired to give your home an upcycle or makeover of its own? Start working with Julian or one of our other fabulous designers from just £99/room: Let's get started