Furniture up-cycling - The perfect lockdown pastime

We have recently taken the leap from a two bedroom flat in South West London to a 3 bedroom house in Berkshire and we don’t have the furniture to fill it so I’ve had to get creative on a budget. We've all had a bit more time on our hands at home recently and my lockdown pastime has been finding well made pine furniture from websites like Ebay and Facebook market place and upcycling them. I find it incredibly satisfying, not only do you get a bargain but it’s also very rewarding. We were looking for a bookcase for our sitting room and found the perfect one in a stained pine on Ebay. We collected it in the back of my Fiancé’s van on the way back from our staycation in Cornwall (bikes and all) and now it’s ready for the transformation.

When I saw this bookcase on Ebay I knew it was the perfect size and look, for our sitting room next to a wooden floor lamp (that I found in a skip, can you believe it!). The grooves down the sides of the bookcase on the front make it feel like an old classic and it wasn't varnished so perfect for using chalk paint to transform it. I think some people see pine and think "yuck" but pine furniture can be really well made, doesn’t cost the earth and just need a lick of paint.

This is my second upcycling project and took me three days to complete. It’s mostly the drying time that makes it take this long but don’t rush it, you don’t want the paint peeling off in two year’s time to have to do it all again! I posted a few photos of theTV cabinet I first upcycled on Instagram and everyone loved it, asking questions about how to do it so thought it would be ideal to make a tutorial of the process. 



Chalk paint - I used Annie Sloan ‘Château Grey’ on the outside and ‘Old White’ on the inside. Annie Sloane requires no primer if you are painting on unvarnished wood. I would recommend doing a bit of research on the different types of furniture paint depending on the finish of your item before deciding on the paint brand you use.

Natural bristle round paintbrush x 3 – these are designed specifically for furniture and I bought mine from Amazon

Dust sheets – to put the bookcase on when painting. TIP: Put some newspaper or cardboard underneath the feet so that you can paint them without your brush coming into contact with the dustsheet and getting bits of lint or fluff on your brush.

Clear wax – I used Annie Sloan clear wax

Lint-free cloths/rags – For taking up excess wax and for buffing up. Lint-free means not fluffy. So an old cotton sheet is fine but a felt duster is not.

Rags for cleaning (I like to get into hard to reach places with an old toothbrush)

Once you’ve gathered everything together you’ll be ready for preparing your furniture.  


Use a dust sheet or i've used plastic to protect the floor underneath your piece. However neat you think you are paint always finds a way of getting on the carpet so preparing the area you use is important. Make sure the feet of the item are on newspaper or cardboard, I’ve used wooden blocks which makes painting them easier and stops any fluff from sticking to the brush.

You need to thoroughly clean the piece first to make sure there aren’t any greasy spots which will prevent the paint from sticking. Sometimes there will be dust lodged in corners so a hoover is also useful.  

First use the hoover to get into all the nooks and crannies to get rid of any debris.

If there are any handles or hinges on your item make sure you remove these before painting. This bookshelf doesn’t have any but some have inbuilt drawers that need to be painted separately without any fixings getting in the way.

Next, I used a tub of warm water and a pea sized amount of fairy liquid with a cloth to wipe everything down. My secret weapon was an old toothbrush to really get into the grooves at the back of the bookcase, the dirt just would’t budge. The cloth just needs to be damp so wring it out really well, too much water can take ages to dry and you don’t want the wood to still be wet when you paint it!

It's important to let the piece stand for a while to ensure it’s completely dry before you start the next step.


I started painting the outside first, with hindsight I would have done this the other way round because I couldn’t start on the inner coat of ‘Old White’ before the ‘Château Grey’ was dry.

I also learnt that I should have started from the top and worked down, instead I started in the middle and sometimes I dripped excess paint on the areas that I had already done. You're always learning new tricks with furniture restoration so you just keep on getting more pro!

Don’t worry if the first coat looks patchy and messy, some items will take up to three coats if it’s over a dark wood finish but don’t use too much paint in the first layer, it’s better to build up the layers one at a time. I found using a roller on the flat sides gave a good coverage and then used my brush for the fiddly bits.

If you are using two different colours you may need to use tape to protect an area you have already painted to get a neat line. It’s important to wait until the paint is totally dry before applying tape otherwise you’ll just pull off the paint underneath when you remove the tape.   

I find waiting overnight for each layer to dry is best but you don’t want to wash your brushes every day when you’ll just have to use the same brush for the same colour tomorrow. I would recommend sprinkling a teaspoon of water into a plastic bag and then wrapping this around your paintbrushes and pallets. That way it keeps the brushes from drying up overnight and you don’t waste water rinsing the brushes after every coat.

As you can see, the white was very patchy and I found that it needed three coats to make an even white colour. I used the brush over the groves on the back of the bookcase to make sure they were well covered and then the roller over the rest, making sure there wasn't a build up of paint in the grooves. The Château Grey worked well with just two coats so when it was totally dry I was able to carefully apply masking tape to the outside of the bookcase to enable me to paint the edges of the shelves in Old White (see below). I would always advise carefully removing the tape whilst the paint is still wet and not leaving it on overnight which might pull off the paint underneath.

Once the painting was done I left it overnight to dry completely before applying the Annie Sloan clear wax. I used the third clean paintbrush to reach in the corners and a lint free cloth to apply the wax to the larger, flat areas. I found this took the most time because you really have to work the wax into the surface of the paint and all the hard to reach places but it really brought out the colour. For durability two coats of wax is best, the second coat doesn’t take as long as the first but since we will be putting lots of items on the shelves I wanted the finish to be super hardwearing so I persevered and did two coats. It’s worth noting that the wax darkens the colour of the paint so bear this in mind when choosing your colour at the start.

I am so happy with the final outcome and glad that the wax darkened the colour slightly as it now compliments our coffee table perfectly. I have read that it can take a few weeks for the wax to harden fully so I’m going to wait a while before I unpack all our books and ornaments. Keep an eye on our social media for an update in the next few weeks @atlasandimaps

Thank you for reading and if you are doing your own upcycling project, good luck and enjoy!