Led Lights and upcycled furniture are a match made in heaven

Upcycling old and secondhand-furniture is very popular at the moment and why not? Good quality second hand furniture can be picked up very cheaply and customised to your own style and tastes for a fraction of the cost of a designer piece. Mastering a few simple techniques can soon transform your home into a stylish living space.

Choose a look

Simply choosing random pieces of secondhand-furniture and hoping that they will work together is unlikely to give you the look that you desire. Instead, find a style that you like, either from magazines or online and use this as your starting point.

Built your own head-turner (Source:SchneiderStockImages– Bigstock®)

Retro or vintage is very popular, recreating the 50s, 60s and 70s eras. The 50s look is all about furniture with what was then futuristic angles and curves, unfussy and slim line. For the complete look, go for bold patterns on wallpaper and fabrics. The 60s were heading into psychedelia and experimenting with new materials, especially plastic, which allowed moulded one piece items to be created. The 70s furniture reflected the space age and also became larger and chunkier, like the clothes, with colours such as avocado, gold, orange and brown dominating.

Baroque developed in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, characterised by its elaborate ornamentation and extravagant curves and forms. The pieces used more and more elaborate ornamentation, becoming increasingly flamboyant. Originally gilded in many cases, the look can be softened with neutral colours, so that intricate carving blends into the background.

A Gothic look makes a very strong statement, which not everyone can live with. Originating back in the 12th century, it was revived by the Victorians and is typified with strong motifs and religious symbols. It mixes well with arts and crafts as they share the same influences. The colours are typically purple and black with deep reds and greens.

The Industrial look is more about a style than a period, as it can use pieces from a wide range of ages in harmony. The essence is stripped down, functional and utilitarian. One reason for its popularity is that the basic units can be picked up cheaply when industrial buildings are being stripped out.

Techniques for Upcycling

Having selected your secondhand-furniture, you will probably find that it needs some work to turn it into the desirable piece that you want, it may need repairs or some help to blend it in with the look you wish to achieve.

Decoupage refers to covering the item, either in part, or totally, with decorated pieces of paper, varnishing over the top to give a sturdy finish. As well as decorating the item, it is also a useful technique for hiding damage, especially to surfaces that have cracked or been bleached by the sun, or suffered from spills of water. Choosing a theme for the decorative work can tie different items together, such as sheet music, foreign newsprint or scenic landscapes. Illustrations from old recipe books or magazines are ideal in the kitchen, especially for the kitsch, retro look.

Shabby Chic is one of the most widely used techniques, probably as it is one of the simplest. Dark wood secondhand furniture is out of vogue but by painting it in a pastel shade, and then rubbing it down with sandpaper to simulate wear and tear, it suddenly becomes desirable again.

Liming wax is used to accentuate the grain and contours of wood. Stripped down secondhand-furniture can be brought to life using this product, to suit a variety of styles. Acid dipping pieces that are covered in layers of chipped gloss paint will strip away the layers, down to bare wood. The wax is available in neutral shades, but also bright, vibrant colours that can turn a simple item into a striking centre piece.
Mosaics are a creative way to turn a tired piece of furniture into a work of art. Many different types of material can be used, tiles, glass, pieces of mirror and plastic, then either left bare, coated in clear resin or placed under glass to provide an easy to clean surface. Although time consuming, the results can provide a stunning talking point.

New uses for tired pieces

Imagination is the key to getting the best out of an old piece of secondhand-furniture. Do not fall into the rut of simply reusing a piece in the way it was originally intended, try and invent a new direction for it. Bathroom sinks are often housed in boxes of cheap plywood or chipboard, why not replace this with an old dresser? Simply cut holes for the sink and plumbing and apart from sealing the edges to stop water damage, it is as simple as that. Old wardrobes can become cupboards and pantries with the addition of some simple shelving. Once you get an eye for it almost any old structural piece can offer up a variety of uses. Whole houses can be decorated in a ‘salvage’ style, at comparatively little cost.


The careful use of lights in a room can drastically affect the look and feel; a visit to a trade lighting outlet will open up a wealth of opportunities for revamping secondhand-furniture. Lights are not just for floors and walls; they can be integrated into structural pieces with stunning effect. A sideboard with a damaged top may look ready for the skip, but by replacing the surface with glass and mounting soft lighting underneath it can be transformed. Plain shelf units can have lighting added that take the eye away from the structure and focus on the display they contain instead. To set off a retro look in style, try a neon advertising sign, an original would cost a fortune but reproductions are quite affordable. Lighting is far more flexible today, than when secondhand furniture was originally made and there are far more options for incorporating it into a revamped project.

Re-using pre-loved furniture is not only environmentally friendly and cost effective; it also shows originality and imagination. Rather than kitting out your home in cloned, flat packed, tat that barely lasts five minutes; you can make use of pieces built by craftsmen to stand the test of time. Simply let your imagination flow and create something that you can be proud of.

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