Upcycled furniture ideas: Tips from an interior designer

It wasn’t long ago that my husband texted me when he was walking our dog. It was a photo of an old kitchen table and four chairs that had been thrown away by a neighbor.

The pieces had “good bones” as they say, but since the full extent of my furniture upcycling skills up to this point had been spraying flower pots for my garden, I wasn’t sure what to expect from me the old to do dining set.

Courtesy Terri Peters

“If there is anyone who can make it perfect for our home, it is you,” he wrote.

Suck up.

Courtesy Terri Peters

Thus began the madness of texts to my friends who are known to regularly upgrade furniture. After receiving some words of encouragement and tons of advice about chalking, I decided this was the way to go.

To my great surprise, it turned out to be beautiful. When I was redesigning our breakfast nook area around the lovely new table and chairs I had created, I was bitten by the upcycling bug.

Courtesy Terri Peters

Since then I have refurbished our bar cart, freshened up old mirrors from the second-hand store for my entrance area and bought an old cabinet on the Facebook marketplace that I converted into a small cabinet for dishes that I want to display.

Whether you’re looking for upcycled pieces like me or just want to spice up your space without buying a whole new table or chair (or trying your hand at the TikTok viral trend to transform your end table), there are plenty of ways to make yours Reuse existing parts and freshen up your home.

Rebecca Hay, a Toronto-based interior designer, says that with the right materials and techniques, mastering upcycled furniture is easy. In fact, Hay works sustainable techniques into many of her own projects and designs.

Here are some little ways Hay says you can make a big impact on furniture that needs a little love – or just update a tired room.


While painting over the original design or the surface of a piece of furniture may seem scary, according to Hay, there are many colors out there, such as chalk paint, a decorative furniture color, that are very forgiving.

“Some of my favorite upcycling methods are color,” said Hay. “It’s a great way to take an old piece of wood furniture and breathe new life into it, and chalk paint is fun because it doesn’t require a professional or primer.”

1. The Spruce Best Home Chalk Paint

This chalk paint was developed in collaboration with Killz, a sealant and stain blocker, and comes in a variety of colors, from light coral to warm white.

2. Waverly Inspirational Chalk Paint

My favorite thing about this chalk paint is that it is sold in Walmart stores too.

3. Rust-Oleum chalk paint

Another reliable brand of chalk paint comes from Rust-Oleum. This chalk paint is also available in tons of classic colors like blush pink and coastal blue.

4. FolkArt Home Decor chalk paint

From Tuscan red to Victorian pink, the sky’s the limit when it comes to FolkArt’s color palette. As a bonus, this brand is often sold in craft stores, which makes it a good brand when coupon specials show up.


Hay says reupholstering furniture is another great way to upcycling.

“I love to regain a seat cushion with a modern print,” said Hay. “Often the sofa and chairs are solidly built and structurally solid, they just need a little modernization, with fun fabrics.”

(While the choice of fabric is subjective, of course, here are some fun prints we love.)

1. Waverly Santa Maria Desert Flower Duck fabric

This bright, colorful and vibrant duck fabric, a heavier woven fabric, is perfect for everything from old armchairs to vintage footstools.

2. Mill Creek Blue Fog fabric

For an outdoor dining room or a seaside themed chair, this coral print outdoor polyester fabric is guaranteed to bring the ocean vibe to the table.

3. Rose satin jacquard coral fabric

Do you fancy something fancier? Jacquard fabric, often more silky with a woven pattern, is another great option for upholstering furniture.


From wallpaper to buttons, says Hay, it’s easy to spice up furniture with a few whimsical embellishments.

“Try peeling or sticking wallpaper on the back of a shelf, or replacing wooden shelves in a closet with glass shelves and removing the doors,” suggested the designer. “This gives it a slightly breezy feel and is a great way to display items.”

1. Wallpops Grassweave Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

This bright, cheerful stick-on wallpaper will brighten up any room with its ivory colors and woven appearance.

2. Opalhouse Celestial peel-and-stick wallpaper

Navy and gold are incredibly elegant. We can’t get enough of this peel-and-stick paper from Target, which is perfect for updating bookshelves, small furniture, or entire rooms.

3. NuWallpaper Brick Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Give the shelves a brick look with this light and airy white brick print wallpaper.

4. Dritz Home Ceramic Embossed Flower Knob

When you swap the knobs on old (or new) furniture for this flowery ceramic furniture, the look of the piece is instantly updated.

5. Franklin Brass Nickel Fulton Knob

If you replace several buttons at the same time, e.g. On a chest of drawers, for example, you should save money with a bulk pack like these classic silver buttons.


You may not have the time to completely remodel a piece of furniture, but still want a new feel for your home. According to Hay, adding a vintage rug is an easy way to change the look of a room.

“They are a fun way to add character to your space,” she said, adding that she usually ships vintage rugs for a professional clean. “That way, you can be sure that you are removing dust mites and any dirt. A professional can add a protective layer to the carpet to improve durability.”

Are you nervous about buying a second hand rug? These options have a vintage look, but are brand new.

1. Rugs.com Oregon Rug

This area rug is available in several neutral colors and has a low piling and a printed woven design.

2. Well-woven Adeline Bohemian carpet

Boho is part of it – have you seen the popular “nap dress”? And we love the boho vibe we get from this stunning, colorful rug.

3. Rugs.com Brighella Round Carpet

Whether your style is bright and colorful or subtle and gray, the beautiful shape and design of this round rug will add a vintage feel to any room.

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