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How to Upcycle Wooden Furniture

How to Upcycle Wooden Furniture

 This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no cost to you. I only recommend products from suppliers I genuinely love and use, as an interior designer.

The world is consistently becoming more environmentally conscious about their purchases and this movement is taking over the interior design industry. 

After seeing the impact that the fast fashion industry is having on the world. People feel more inclined to start thrifting instead of purchasing and the same goes for furniture, particularly wooden furniture.

Upcycling is a transformative process. It is not only a great way to express your creativity but you can contribute to a greener planet too.

That is why I’ve created this expert guide on how to upcycle wooden furniture, that even beginners can follow!

Why Should You Upcycle Furniture?

Upcycling is a great way to contribute to sustainable living. 

Thrifting clothing is a popular trend, however, thrifting furniture has been largely overlooked by the general population, until recently! 

That being said, every year so much furniture still gets wasted when it could go to a new, loving home.

By thrifting furniture, you also have the opportunity to seek out vintage pieces that are completely one-of-a-kind. 

Alongside its ecological impact, upcycling furniture can be a great way to express your creativity and create unique pieces for your home.

What is Upcycling?

Before you grab paints, varnish and new doorknobs, you first have to understand what upcycling is. 

Upcycling goes way beyond restoration. Upcycling is the process of repurposing and reimagining older or vintage furniture to create a fresh modern look. 

Wooden furniture is often the easiest to cycle due to its durability and timeless look. 

The process of upcycling begins with purchasing an older piece of furniture that is usually cheaper due to it being out of style or no longer wanted by the original owner.

Then you have the opportunity to turn this piece of furniture into something functional and stylish.


This before and after by The Sorry Girls is a gorgeous example of upcycling!

How to Upcycle Wooden Furniture

Now you know what upcycling is, here is how to upcycle furniture.

1. Choose Your Desired Piece of Furniture

There are a few things that you need to keep an eye out for when choosing your favourite piece of furniture to upcycle, especially if you’re a beginner. 

Although the entire purpose of Upcycling is to take old pieces of furniture and create something new. If you’re a beginner, you may want to find a piece of furniture that isn’t completely on its last legs. 

You’ll want to look for solid, well built items with good structure. You can often find these types of furniture in thrift stores or on online marketplaces. Usually online is where you can find hidden treasures for a discounted price!


Check out Smore Home's blog for some incredible DIY projects. She's quite the talent!

2. Cleaning & Sanding

Before you get into the fun part, you have to prepare the piece of furniture. 

This involves removing any dirt and grime with mild soap and water. You will then have to let the furniture dry before you do anything else.

Sanding is arguably one of the most important steps in the upcycle process. You’ll need to use sandpaper to remove any existing paint and prepare the wood for new paint. 

By sanding down the furniture, you will create a smooth service which is much easier to work with. 

You’ll want to sand in the direction of the wood grain. If you do not, you may cause scratches to the surface.This process can be time consuming but it is well worth the effort!

sanding chair 

Photo from Ann Nygard via Unsplash.

3. Reinforcing The Structure

Sometimes older furniture can have structural damage that you will need to take care of before you can use it in your home. 

This may be as simple as repairing any loose parts with wood glue or filling cracks with wood filler.

If you’ve done your preparation right and researched the furniture, hopefully, you won’t need to do too much reinforcing and repairing. However, these small key details will increase the longevity of the furniture.

Great some fab tips from Pretty Distressed and their furniture upgrades!

4. Redesigning the Furniture

Now this is the fun part. There are many different ways that you can create a new look when it comes to new furniture. You can opt for a distressed appearance or try a sleek modern style. 

To achieve different finishes, there are different materials that you can use.


Smore Home perfectly shows how you can completely change the style of your furniture by adding some fun features. 

5. Paint

Paint is one of the easiest materials to use to upcycle wooden furniture. You’ve likely already worked with paint before so you know what to expect when using it. 

You will need to find a paint suitable for wood but this is a great option if you want to create a bold look with a bright colour.


Rachel from Craving Some Creativity has some incredible painted DIY upcycle projects and Lily Ardor has created this beautiful green dresser. 

6. Varnish

Varnish adds a glossy or matte sheen to the piece of furniture. 

It also helps to protect the wood from additional scratches. Varnish can be placed directly onto the word or after painting to add an expensive look.


Photos: Beazy and Douglas Bagg via Unsplash.

7. Stain

Staining is ideal if you want to preserve the natural beauty of the wooden cabinet.

It’s also a great tool to use if you want to make light pieces of furniture darker and you can choose from a variety of different shades.

staining furniture
Kristin Lia has some fabulous tips about upcycling wooden furniture and staining them. 

8. Add Your Signature Touch

The final way to cycle a piece of wooden furniture is to add your signature touch. 


Smore Home add her own flair with these personal accents, like handmade bows

9. Replace the Hardware

One of the best ways to add a unique flair is to swap out the door knobs or door handles for new and modern replacements. 

(We have a huge selection of brass door knobs and door handles that are not only beautiful but are built to last!)

Bumble Bee Drawer Knobs | Apis Chrome Starburst Hardware | Stellae

Try adding some statement handles or knobs to your DIY project to give it a creative flair. Our Apis collection is of bumblebees or our Stellae collection has a stunning starburst design on solid brass. 

10. Stencilling

Stencilling is perfect if you would love a specific design. 

You can actually find stencilling patterns and designs online that can be placed onto the furniture. This is a really cool way to have a unique piece of furniture that stands out.


Royal Design Studio has some really fun stencil patterns!

11. Distressing

Distressing is perfect if you love that vintage look! You can use sandpaper to go against the grain and create a worn-out design.

Just The Woods has some really great tips and advice if you want to start your own DIY project. 

Key Takeaways

The verdict is out. Upcycling really isn’t that difficult at all. It’s actually quite easy. 

All you have to do is find your affordable piece of furniture online or at a thrift store. Then,  grab some sandpaper, some paint and a new door knob or two and you can create a one-of-a-kind piece for your home. 

Upcycling is an affordable way to transform your home that will leave people asking you where you brought that wooden cabinet! Seriously, once you get the upcycling bug, you’ll never purchase furniture directly again.


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