Sunday 12 April 2015

The Perks of being an Up-Cycler: how to find and transform second hand furniture

My friends well know my love of charity shops, markets, car boot sales and eBay. I'm a bit of a second hand fiend.

I actually like them for two reasons: they're for a good cause - the charity shops for obvious reasons, and recycling is much better for the environment; and secondly, you can find brilliant items - that no one else will have - at very reasonable prices. 

Having been asked specifically about this topic, this is the first of a few posts on my thrifty spending, and I hope you will be inspired to consider this mode of shopping in the future, because while inflation is finally at 0% (woohoo!) it's always nice to snap up a bargain.

First up: bargain furniture

A few weeks ago the hub and I were driving back from Devon and we stopped off at a place called Ringwood. It's a classic bypass town, but there are notable signs of regeneration and modernisation (the massive AGA sign is a dead giveaway). 

And so it was that on our way back from lunch, after which we stopped by in a sweet little cookshop (I go in them a lot!), we discovered a charity shop selling predominantly furniture. They can sometimes be rather sad places and I am often given over to imagining to whom pieces belonged in their former lives, but if you can get beyond this you might just spy a gem. 

Looking beyond the melamine pieces (who knows, in twenty years' time it will probably be all the rage again) there is often a wealth of vintage Ercol and other solid oak and pine furniture. The pine is particularly good for painting. As the daughter of a timber merchant I still squirm when people tell me they have painted oak furniture. Having said that, that is precisely what I have done on this occasion (but only because it was already painted!). 

It was here that I discovered a lovely, if a little battered, oak chair for £10:

I loved the pretty star motif - it reminds me of a bentwood design that my parents own. As you can see from the pictures, the white was a little sad looking. I chose 'Dijon' from the chalk range because it is such a happy colour. And, contrary to what you might think, the colour goes well with lots of others. It is now used as a piano seat in a room painted in 'Warm Seas' by Susie Watson.

Next up: this mirror was purchased for £3 at a silent auction in the village hall. It is a solid wood frame and measures 60x40cm. Mirrors are not cheap, but those with wooden frames are easy to rejuvenate, so I'm always on the lookout for them in charity shops. 

I liked the cream colour, so I chose to reprint in 'Calico'. To save yourself time, put masking tape around the edges of the glass so your paint doesn't go on the glass. I had run out of masking tape, but a scraper will take it off once it's dry.

Lastly, we bought this collection of original local artwork. The frame was very severe in black, so I re-painted it in 'Linen' and it is now in a room painted in 'Savage Ground' by Farrow&Ball.

Penny cat is also heavily involved in the painting process. 

A quick how to:

Sand down the surface, be it painted or not. 
Wash of the dust with sugar soap.
Paint the first coat. I used the Grand Illusions Vintage Paint. You want to get the colour on at this stage, so it doesn't matter if your brush strokes aren't all going in the same direction. Don't over coat your brush though as this will result in drips and runs which will take longer to sand down.
Leave to dry.
Lightly sand down and dust off. This might not be necessary if your finish is already smooth.
Paint the second coat, this time taking care that you are accurate and precise with your brush strokes.
Leave to dry.
Waxing or varnishing is optional, but preferable for items which will be handled regularly or endure heavier use. The exposed paint can have that wincing effect of fingernails on a chalkboard. 
To wax, apply some to a clean soft cloth and wipe it onto the item. Buff to a shine with another clean soft cloth (I used torn up bed sheets). Don't be unnerved if your paintwork looks like it's changing colour, the wax takes about 24 hours to dry.

And there you have it. How to turn your bargains into unique and stylish pieces of furniture for your home. I would love to see some of your own projects, so get in touch on Facebook or via email. 

Happy painting!

Sarah x 

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