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How To Recycle Your Old Furniture Using Shabby Chic Techniques

Thanks to the popular designers that found their way onto our television screen back in the 1990’s, we have learned that furniture that is tired, or past it’s best, can be recycled and be given a whole new lease of life. All it takes is a little elbow grease, and a few reasonably priced materials. From the desire to achieve a modern, clean cut style that ran from the 1950’s, we are now happy to have worn looking pieces in our rooms. I can’t think of a name that suits any style better than the term ‘Shabby Chic’, to which we are referring. Spanning the classes, shabby chic furniture designs are available online. However, our purpose here is to give you a few tips on recycling to create your own one-of-a-kind item to be proud of.

Select the Item

Have a good look around the shops, or on internet auction sites, to find the piece you are looking for. The material is quite important. Avoid chipboard or melamine faced furniture. MDF is acceptable, but real wood is most desirable. You will find many old sideboards, dressing tables, chests of drawers, etc. They will be well worn, and people just do not have the time to rejuvenate. Often you can find a good project for as little as five pounds.


The furniture, not yourself. But, whatever floats your boat. Stripping furniture can be the hardest part. There are harsh chemicals available that will do the job adequately. The product is applied with a brush and left for an hour or so to do it’s thing. When the paint, or varnish, has softened and bubbled it can be scraped off. Reapply as needed until you have achieved your desired finish. After stripping with the chemical, use sandpaper.

I am not a fan of this method, as the chemicals are very toxic to your skin. Get some in your eyes, and you can be in big trouble. If you have a place locally that will dip the item and strip it for you, it can be well worth the cost.

Start Painting

Use one or two coats of primer. Get into all of those nooks and crannies. Take your time here, the painting part is very therapeutic. Always paint in the direction of the grain wherever possible. That is a universal rule for painting or varnishing as, I am sure, you are well aware.

Not its time to go and have a good long cup of tea and feel satisfied that you have done most of the hard work. The rest is all enjoyable and your artistic bone can get some exercise.

When the primer is completely dry, it is time for the top coat. A matt paint will serve you best here as they tend to give a better finish when distressed. Gloss paint just doesn’t have the same effect. One coat may be all you need here but you will only find that out once it is dry. If you find it needs another coat, apply as necessary.


Distressing your furniture should be carried out with thought and care. Using a fine sandpaper and, wire wool, or even sometimes a wire brush, begin to attach places that would normally receive wear naturally. Corners, mouldings, drawer edges as in the picture. Do a little at a time and then stand back, have another cup of tea and decide which part to attach next.


Moderns style handles do not go well with shabby chic. Try to find some antique effect brass metalwork. Easy to fit, the right items will finish your piece off perfectly.

So there you have it. You can use far more complicated methods to revive your furniture, but this way is so simple anyone can do it. Have fun and enjoy yourself.


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