Madonna famously said “We are living in a material world and I am a material girl”. I think all of us chicks out there can connect to this, on so many levels. Ok, so maybe just the one level…Madge may have written some killer pop but a philosopher she is not.
My point being, most chicks like ‘stuff’. We love to surround and adorn ourselves with pretty things that sparkle, or shine – or just please the eye. And although that’s fine, I sometimes wonder if it is mostly down to social conditioning that has encouraged us ladies towards collecting lovely aforementioned ‘stuff’, and doing it, in general, a little more than the men in our lives. But where would be the fun in resolving the nature Vs nurture debate, right here and right now?!
What is more interesting, and relevant (you see I do have a point, and I AM getting to it), is that our world is filling up with human-made things. So when it comes to certain areas of my life, I like to buy something pre-loved and bring it back to life. Upcycling is a prime example.
I first started to re-do furniture for three reasons.
1. charity shop and ebay furniture was way cheaper than any other place I looked
2. it has more character in its hinges than in every inch of the flat packs I looked at and
3. it gave me an excuse to wear my vintage BIBA dungarees & a headscarf, while holding a paintbrush. Voila!
So I started my journey at pinterest, and this is when I discovered Annie Sloan – who showed me via her website videos how to put a little effort in, and get a lot of splendidness out. So I ebayed, charity-shopped and even scoured the streets for discarded furniture, fished my dungarees out of the wardrobe and got going.
The first piece I did was a mid-century school desk, which I found on ebay. Purchased from a couple of retired teachers, who served us cups of tea and told us all about their lives, just collecting it was a fun outing! It is the perfect size and shape to be a dressing table, or a writing desk, and I store my make up and jewellery in it.
I did an original sand and paint job on it last Autumn, and then decided to go back and sand some more, to make it look even older. I’ve also lined the desk with wallpaper. The surprise Unicorns come courtesy of letsgohme.com – it is absolutely the perfect product for this purpose, as it is wipe clean and sticks down beautifully. So if you use it for make-up, or in a kids bedroom, ta-dah! Mess-proofed. This is how the final piece looks.
Some of the other pieces I’ve done are my coffee table – solid oak, and found in a gem of a charity shop called Ecco. It was covered in a dark varnish, so the sanding on this took two of us an afternoon but in the end the wood underneath was SO worth it. I decided to put a matt varnish on the top, and the shelf, and only paint the legs. I think it looks damn fine.
This adorable little number is the first piece I’m selling, and I found it in a sorry state with one leg missing, but I’ve given her a sexy ‘Graphite’ grey coat and a bright mint green lining. I think the slate colour adds a luxurious, Victorian feel. So you see – I’ve managed to get some pretty decent looking furniture, at a fraction of the cost you’d pay in a furniture shop, which reflected my own taste.
If you’re thinking of upcycling here are my top tips –
The right tools do matter –
Annie Sloan paint has a wonderful range of colours and is incredible quality. Plus her website shows you how to get started with helpful videos. My Black and Decker’s sander has proven invaluable – the Mini Mouse, since you’re asking, a steal at £22.49. You don’t need to sand the piece before you start, but in my opinion it does give a better end result. Also, you will need to buy wax,which you apply after the paint has dried, to protect it.
Be adventuresome –
Take time to look for unusual colours. Annie Sloan has all the classic colours- Old White and Country Grey will look good anywhere, but if you’re feeling adventurous, or your room just needs a pop – why not take a walk on the wild side and paint a cupboard in Antibes Green, or a table in Greek Blue? Pinterest is a haven of ideas, but be prepared to lose hours to it.
Go slow –
I just wanted to get creative, and save money, but now that I’m hooked, I’ll spend hours and hours getting it just right. You can do it quickly, but if you want to really make your piece look expensive, put your back into it! This is the reason people charge proper dollar for this stuff, too. It’s labour intensive.
If you love it –
You’ll never look back. A couple of days spent sanding, painting, waxing and buffing a piece of furniture is my idea of a good time. You may say I need to get out more, and you may be right, but if you and upcycling find each other and it feels right, go with it.