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Upcycling an old barley twist table

In my January blog, I highlighted that one top tip for “home styling on a budget” included upcycling an old piece of furniture.

This month, I thought I’d go through an example of a piece I recently upcycled for use in my own home using Frenchic chalk paint.

The project: Transforming an old oak barley twist table that had been badly varnished by a previous owner.

As I had two pots of Frenchic paint here from a previous project when I upcycled an old sideboard, I decided to combine the two shades of grey to get the right colour for my lounge decor. In this case, I used Grey Pebble and Panther.

Upcycling in this way is far from new in the world of interiors … but it’s quick, easy, relatively inexpensive and actually very rewarding once completed!

Here’s how I tackled my little Sunday project from start to finish.

Step 1. Wash the piece of furniture with a clean sponge and some watered down sugar soap solution to remove any dust, dirt and grease or old polish. Dry thoroughly with a clean rag.

Step 2. Mix the paint up to the desired colour. I sometimes add a bit of water in to loosen it up as I find it makes it easier and quicker to apply.

Step 3. Get the electric sander out and sand the top of the table to remove the old dark varnish and reveal the wood grain again. (You may want to paint the whole piece, in this case, I wanted some contrast between the top and the legs.)

Dust off the excess dried varnish, once you have the desired effect. The sanding can take a few attempts even if using an electric sander especially in the hard to reach corners, but it’s worth persevering.

Step 4. In this case, the table was slightly too tall compared to the height of my sofa, so we chopped off the small bun feet and sanded the bottom of the four legs to make them smooth and flat again.

Step 5. Start to paint. Cover the legs in a full coat- try to stay away from the sanded top but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Once one coat is done, cover the paint and brush to prevent them from drying out whilst you make yourself a cuppa. ( Note: If I was leaving it dry overnight I would wash out the brush completely and leave it on the top of the drying plate of the Aga so it was clean for use the next day.)

Step 6. Go back once dry and apply a second (or third coat as required). In this case, I applied three coats as I had already mixed up enough paint and it actually took hardly any time to get each coat applied as the table was so small. Make sure you leave each coat dry thoroughly. (All detailed instructions on the tin if in doubt). I placed the table in front of the Aga to speed up the drying process in between coats as the garage where I had been working in January was very cold!

Step 7. Get your sanding block or sandpaper sheet out and rub back some of the paint to reveal some of the wood grain underneath and give the table more of an aged look again. Completely flat colour can look a bit strange and rubbing some of the paint back in this way adds definition, character and also helps to hide any imperfections in you paint application (In my case, very handy!) I am no expert on this, I don’t over think it. I just try to give it definition where I think the paint would have normally been worn back from usage over time. You can’t really get this wrong but if you feel you have over sanded, the joy of chalk paint means you can just paint over it again, leave dry and then start sanding again – no drama!!

Step 8. Once you are happy you have sanded back the detail and dusted off any excess dry paint. You can apply a coat of Polyvine wax finish varnish to both the sanded top and the painted areas. This allows the paint to set and protects it so you can place hot drinks and items on the table. It helps to keep it looking smarter for longer. On other pieces I have applied two coats but in this case one was enough.

Step 9. Once all completely dry, and you may decide to leave it overnight to completely cure, you can style your new painted piece of furniture with your favourite items and move it into position in its new home looking good as new!

Upcycling in this way is so easy – anyone can do it! Start with an inexpensive piece of furniture – maybe small at first and if in doubt just use a tester pot of chalk paint ( it actually goes a long way especially if you add a tiny bit of water to the mix) If you are nervous, this way it won’t have cost you much to give it a go and I’m sure you’ll love the end result.

It really can give a piece of furniture you have fallen out of love with a new lease of life and don’t worry about it being overly perfect – the best looking pieces of furniture never are !!

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