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A while ago, my husband sent me a text while walking our dog. It was a photo of an old kitchen table and four chairs that had been tossed out by a neighbor.
The pieces had "good bones," as they say, but since the full extent of my furniture upcycling skills up until that point had been spray painting flower pots for my garden, I wasn't sure what he expected me to do with the old dining set.
"If there's anyone who can make it perfect for our house, it's you," he texted.
So began the frenzy of texts to my friends who are known to upcycle furniture regularly. After getting some words of encouragement and tons of advice for chalk-painting, I decided that was the route to go.
Much to my surprise, it turned out beautifully — just look at this upcycled furniture before and after. As I redesigned our breakfast nook area around the beautiful new upcycled dining table and chairs I had created, I was bitten by the upcycling bug.
Since then, I've made my fair share of sustainable home decor. I've refinished our bar cart, spruced up old mirrors from the thrift store for my entryway and purchased an old cabinet on Facebook's Marketplace that I repurposed into a small cabinet for dishes I want to display.
Whether you, like me, are seeking out pieces to upcycle, or just want to spruce up your space without buying a completely new table or chair (or are trying your hand at the once viral TikTok trend of transforming your side table) there are plenty of ways to repurpose your existing pieces and refresh your home decor.
Rebecca Hay, an interior designer based in Toronto, says with the right materials and techniques, it's easy to master upcycling furniture. In fact, Hay works sustainable techniques into many of her own projects and designs.
Here are some small ways Hay says you can make a big impact on furniture that's in need of a little bit of love — or just make an eco-friendly change to refresh a tired space.
From wallpaper to knobs, Hay says it's easy to spruce up any furniture with a few quirky embellishments.
"Try peel-and-stick wallpaper at the back of a shelving unit or replace wooden shelves in an armoire with glass shelves and remove the doors," the designer suggested. "This gives it a light airy vibe and is a great way to display items."
For a distressed wood look that still feels bright and fresh, try this peel-and-stick wallpaper with over 3,800 five-star reviews.
Pick this speckled dot wallpaper to add a sprinkle of fun into any space. It is available in both black and metallic gold.
This bright cheerful stick-on wallpaper will brighten up any room with its ivory colors and woven appearance.
Navy and gold are incredibly elegant. We can't get enough of this peel-and-stick paper from Target, which is perfect to update bookshelves, small furniture or whole rooms.
Give shelves a brick look with this light and airy white brick-printed wallpaper.
Changing out the knobs on old (or new) furniture to these flowery ceramic ones will instantly update the look of the piece.
When changing out several knobs at once, such as on a dresser, consider saving money with a bulk pack, like these classic silver ones.
Hay says reupholstering furniture is a great way to upcycle.
"I love recovering a seat cushion with a modern print," said Hay. "Often sofa and chairs are solidly built and structurally sound, they just need a little modernization with fun fabrics."
(While fabric choice is, of course, subjective, here are a few fun prints we love.)
Hello, tropical vibes! Spruce up your space with this summery, dark green fabric. It would be beautiful for upcycled chairs or any other repurposing on your to-do list.
For a dash of fun, try adding an animal-print accent pillow or stool. This warm brown and snakeskin-print fabric is a trendy, patterned take on neutral tones.
For throw pillows or a coastal-themed reupholstered chair, this coral-print medium heavyweight cotton fabric is guaranteed to bring the ocean vibes.
Bright, colorful and vibrant, this duck fabric, a heavy woven fabric, would be perfect for repurposed furniture — anything from an old armchair to a vintage footstool.
In the mood for something fancier? Jacquard fabric, often silkier with a woven pattern, is another great option for reupholstering furniture.
While painting over a piece of furniture's original design or finish may seem scary, Hay says there are plenty of paints, like chalk paint, which is a decorative furniture paint, that are very forgiving.
"Some of my favorite ways to upcycle are with paint," Hay said. "It's a great way to take an old wooden piece of furniture and breathe new life into it, and chalk paint is fun because it doesn't require a professional or primer."
This chalk paint has more than 7,500 perfect five-star ratings on Amazon. This paint comes in 37 different colors with matte and metallic and finishes, so you can get just about any look.
If you're seeking a smooth, velvety matte finish for your next DIY project, try this Behr chalk paint. It's great for creating both modern and vintage looks and perfect for upcycled wooden furniture.
This chalk-style paint is Amazon's No. 1 Bestseller in Household Furniture Paint for a reason — it's loved for its coverage, texture and ease of use. The best part? This paint dries in 30 minutes, according to the brand.
My favorite thing about this chalk paint is that it's also sold in stores at Walmart, making it a snap to pick up more if you run out mid-project.
Another reliable brand of chalk paint comes from Rust-Oleum. This Chalked Paint is also available in tons of classic colors like blush pink and coastal blue.
From Tuscan red to Victorian pink, the sky is the limit when it comes to the array of shades available from FolkArt. As a bonus, this brand is often sold in craft stores, making it a good one to save on when coupon specials arise.
Maybe you don't have the time to completely remodel a piece of furniture, but still want a new feel for your home. Adding a vintage rug is an easy way to change the look of any room, according to Hay.
"They're a fun way to add character to your space," she said, adding that she usually sends out vintage rugs for a professional cleaning. "This way you can be confident that you eliminate the dust mites and any dirt. And, a professional can add a protective layer to the rug to help add to durability."
Nervous about purchasing a rug secondhand? These options have a vintage look but are brand new.
For a vintage-inspired rug that matches any interior, this muted ivory and silver rug does the trick. Plus, it has over 5,00 five-star ratings.
Add a pop of color to your space with this low-pile round rug, which comes in an array of shapes, colors, and sizes.
This area rug comes in several neutral colors and has low piling along with an imprinted woven design.
Boho is in — have you seen the popular "nap dress"? And we love the boho vibes we get from this stunning, colorful area rug.
Whether your style is bright and colorful or subtle and gray, this round rug's beautiful shape and design will give any room a vintage vibe.
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