Want to breathe new life into those dated book­shelves, draw­ers or cab­i­nets? ABI JACK­SON asks the ex­perts about get­ting started

Harefield Gazette - - HOME STYLE -

Pick­ing up sec­ond­hand fur­ni­ture from charity shops and car-boot sales can be a purse- and plan­et­friendly way of kit­ting out your home. But of­ten, this means dated MDF, which can look a bit blah.

There’s al­ways the op­tion of up­cy­cling, of course – a fun and rel­a­tively thrifty way of giv­ing fur­ni­ture a re­fresh and un­leash­ing those cre­ative juices. This ap­plies to giv­ing old MDF fur­ni­ture you’ve had in your home for years – and are now bored of – a bit of a style up­date too.

“In the past, MDF fur­ni­ture has been a pop­u­lar op­tion for peo­ple want­ing to fur­nish their homes on a bud­get, how­ever, it can eas­ily be­come tired-look­ing and out­dated – but peo­ple shouldn’t get rid of it and re­place it with some­thing new, in­stead, they can up­cy­cle and give their fur­ni­ture a new lease of life,” says Cato Cooper, co-owner of The Em­po­rium Som­er­set (the em­po­rium som­er­set. in Welling­ton, who re­stored fur­ni­ture as a hobby be­fore turn­ing her craft into a pro­fes­sion.

“Up­cy­cling is a great way of sav­ing money – and it’s good for the en­vi­ron­ment too, as it min­imises the amount of dis­carded ma­te­ri­als and waste be­ing sent to land­fill each year.”

Where do you start with up­cy­cling MDF though?

“One of the big­gest chal­lenges I face when ad­vis­ing peo­ple on reusing old fur­ni­ture is that they think it’s huge task, and things can get over­com­pli­cated. This mind­set can eas­ily put peo­ple off and good fur­ni­ture is thrown away that could have oth­er­wise been used for some­thing else,” says Andy Bax­ter, home and gar­den fur­ni­ture ex­pert and MD of In­ter­net Gar­dener (in­ter­net­gar­dener.


If you’re new to up­cy­cling, make sure you’ve planned out the whole process be­fore you start.

This isn’t just a ques­tion of de­cid­ing on the meth­ods and colours you’ll be us­ing – but mak­ing sure you have all the ap­pro­pri­ate tools for ev­ery stage, and enough time and space to com­plete the job. Think about how you’re go­ing to pro­tect any sur­round­ing items, and your cloth­ing, from get­ting splashed or dusty while you work, and en­sure you’ve got a well-ven­ti­lated suit­able area sorted out be­fore crack­ing open those paint and var­nish cans.


There are some paint prod­ucts that prom­ise to cut the ground­work, but if you’re go­ing the tra­di­tional route or want more con­trol over your fin­ish, then you’ll need to do some prep.

This usu­ally means some thor­ough sanding (you want to cre­ate a rough sur­face to ‘grip’ the paint so it holds), plus us­ing a suit­able primer be­fore you get go­ing with the paint­ing.

“A coat of un­der­coat or primer will need to be ap­plied to the piece of fur­ni­ture first, and once dried, you’re ready to go with your new colour of paint. If painted on plain MDF, you will need to give the fur­ni­ture a gen­tle sand af­ter the coat of primer/ un­der­coat, and be­fore ap­ply­ing the paint,” says Cato.

“The ma­jor­ity of my restora­tion projects are done us­ing Au­ten­tico Chalk Paint (au­t­en­ti­co­, which al­lows me to re­ju­ve­nate an old piece and give it a fun and bright coat of paint. It can be used on MDF too, as long as a primer is used first and the Au­ten­tico paint is sealed af­ter ap­pli­ca­tion. Al­ter­na­tively, you can use the Au­ten­tico Chalk Paint ‘Eg­gshell’ range with­out a sealer.”

Andy adds: “You may find that some paints won’t al­ways stick to sur­faces very well, even when the sur­face been sanded down and primed. As a quick tip, acrylic paint is best in these sce­nar­ios. As it’s made of acrylic, this paint sticks far bet­ter to a whole host of ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing plas­tic, glossy and shiny MDF sur­faces. A quick var­nish af­ter paint­ing will also stop any paint com­ing off af­ter­wards.”


“To get that aged, dis­tressed look to fur­ni­ture, it’s best to use a slightly darker shade as your un­der­coat, and your main colour as a sec­ond layer,” says Kasia Wik­torow­icz, mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager at Valspar paints.

“Then you can use sand­pa­per to lightly scuff cer­tain ar­eas, such as cor­ners, to re­veal the colour un­der­neath. Try out dif­fer­ent brush strokes to cre­ate a tex­ture you love.”

“Once the paint has dried, you can rub gen­tly with sand­pa­per over the ar­eas you want to ex­pose. Valspar’s Pre­mium Blend v700 Wood & Metal (£28.80 for 2.5L, B&Q) will give even the thinnest piece of MDF a beau­ti­ful fin­ish, that’s long-last­ing and with­stands those ev­ery­day knocks.”


The best thing about go­ing to all this ef­fort is you have free rein to cre­ate.

“Up­cy­cling gives you the chance to cre­ate one-of-a-kind fur­ni­ture that’s com­pletely your own, adding a real per­sonal touch to your home.

“In re­cent years, we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the ‘flat pack cul­ture’, which peo­ple are cur­rently turn­ing away from. It’s now more im­por­tant to have an el­e­ment of craft and sto­ry­telling within the home, and this is ex­actly what up­cy­cling of­fers,” says Kasia.

So, be cre­ative with colours – this might mean colour-block­ing with draw­ers in dif­fer­ent colours, for in­stance, and think about adding ex­tra fin­ish­ing touches, such as sten­cilling or re­plac­ing knobs for ex­tra style or go for clas­sic and un­der­stated, too.


If you don’t have the space, time or tools to go full-on restora­tion mode, there are paint prod­ucts that prom­ise to do the job in one or two sim­ple steps. Ron­seal Chalky Fur­ni­ture Paint (£14.99 for 750ml, Home­base) comes in eight pas­tel shades and just two ap­pli­ca­tions on un-primed MDF will give you a chalky, matt fin­ish.

Rust-Oleum also has a paint range that can be used di­rectly onto un-primed wood, in­clud­ing MDF.

If you’re af­ter a gloss fin­ish, try the Rust-Oleum Gloss Fin­ish Fur­ni­ture Paint (£19.99 for 750ml, Home­base).

Cre­ate some­thing unique with a lit­tle up­cy­cling

Colour block draw­ers

Add your own de­tails

Try dif­fer­ent paints

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