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Revamping your interior décor can get expensive—sometimes it gets so expensive that you have to choose between new wall paint and new furniture. Thrift and antique shops can offer cost-effective solutions, but such furniture is often outdated or scratched.

Fortunately, upcycling old furniture offers a solution to give you furniture that looks new without the new furniture price tag. Upcycling can be intimidating for people who’ve never done it before. That’s why we’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to upcycling furniture.

Choosing Your Furniture

The goal of upcycling is to take something that was formally unwanted and transform it into something desirable. But that doesn’t mean you should pick up any junky piece of furniture you find on the side of the road. Before choosing a piece to upcycle, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have space for this?
  • Is the piece stable enough to be used?
  • Do I have a clear vision of what I can do with this?
  • Do I have the skill level needed to upcycle this piece?

Asking these questions is especially important when you’re learning how to upcycle furniture as a beginner. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an old furniture piece you don’t know what to do with.

Decide How You’re Upcycling

Once you have a piece, it’s time to decide how to upcycle it. There are two main ways to upcycle furniture: redesigning it or repurposing it.


When the furniture is in good working order and simply needs a little TLC, refreshing the design of it is your best choice. If you have a table or cupboard, you could paint or stain it. If you’re redesigning a couch, you could need to reupholster it. This is the easiest choice for the first-time upcycler.


When the furniture is not usable in its current state or you want to get really ambitious, find a way to use it for another purpose. For example, a broken set of drawers can become a set of planters. Or a broken clock can become a new tabletop.

These kinds of projects take a little more skill than a simple redesign, so consider enlisting help if you don’t have a lot of crafting experience.

Safety First

As with any heavy-duty crafting project, upcycling is fraught with hazards. So, before you get started, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and your surroundings. Protective procedures include the following:

  • Wear protective clothing such as goggles, closed-toed shoes, long sleeves, and a face mask.
  • Work in a well-ventilated space.
  • Only use tools as intended and don’t leave them unattended.
  • Clean the area of spilled paints, stains, or nails when you’re done.
  • Keep children or animals out of the area while you’re working.

Upcycling furniture is more than a great way to refresh your space for less. It gives you one-of-a-kind pieces that will add a unique spin to your space. When you’re done, you’ll be so proud.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.