The celebrity decorator shares how to transform a piece of furniture from shabby to chic.
The celebrity decorator shares how to transform a piece of furniture from shabby to chic.

Upcycling tips from interiors expert Tara Dennis

It's little wonder that upcycling has become so popular in recent years - and especially now, as we tackle home projects more than ever.

Upcycling offers benefits to the home, but also, importantly, to the environment by reducing waste and kerbside rubbish.

"It's a win-win on many levels," said celebrity interiors expert Tara Dennis, who stars on Channel 7's Better Homes and Gardens lifestyle show.

"People are feeling very guilty these days about overconsumption and are starting to ask themselves whether they actually need to buy every single piece of furniture brand new."

Upcycling refers to the process of transforming an item to make it better than the original.

Ms Dennis, founder of the Tara Dennis interiors stores in NSW and online, added the process of upcycling also delivered personal benefits.

"There is the feel-good factor," she said. "You feel amazing that you completed the project and so you have that sense of satisfaction of creating something yourself."

Tara Dennis champions upcycling for its environmental and personal benefits.
Tara Dennis champions upcycling for its environmental and personal benefits.

In the shade

A quick paint job is the easiest way to give an old piece of furniture a fresh look.

For example, you might have noticed your pine furniture - the type that was so widespread in the 1980s - has acquired a yellow tinge over the decades.

"Pine furniture was mostly well made, but it's often a horrible shade of orange now," said Ms Dennis, an ambassador for the Jolie Home paints range, which is stocked in her stores.

"People are often saying to me that the buffet (sideboard) in their dining room, or a particular piece of pine furniture, is perfectly fine but they just want to change the colour of it."

An easy way to start upcycling is by adding a lick of paint to your bedside tables, chairs, cabinets or bookshelves.

"You can upcycle new, as well as old - it doesn't have to be grandma's furniture," Ms Dennis said. "You may have a Billy bookcase from Ikea that you can paint a new colour."

A fresh coat of paint will inject new life into old pieces.
A fresh coat of paint will inject new life into old pieces.

 

Targeting a side table is an easy way to start upcycling.
Targeting a side table is an easy way to start upcycling.

Transformative power

While most people focus on individual pieces, you can upcycle an entire kitchen by simply repainting the cabinet doors.

And you could take the project a step further by changing the handles and lining drawers and the backs of cupboards with paper or fabric.

"People are getting more creative with what is in their own homes," Ms Dennis said.

If you're handy with a needle or a power tool, you could add some decorative trim to your homewares or furniture.

For example, you could sew a braid on to cushions or use a hot-glue gun to glue buttons to the edges of a bedhead.

You could also use paint, wax and sanding pads to create a "distressed" look on pieces.

"Upcycling is as advanced as you want to make it," Ms Dennis pointed out.

Ms Dennis says people are getting more creative with their homes.
Ms Dennis says people are getting more creative with their homes.

Rookie errors

When it comes to mistakes, the most common has nothing to do with technique and more to do with time-frame expectations.

"People will often underestimate the time it takes to complete a project," Ms Dennis said.

"So, start with something small, such as a tray, picture frame, lamp base or pot plant, and build from there. That way, the sense of achievement is there and you're not left with a half-painted sideboard."

Colour choice is another stumbling block, so do a bit of research first.

"Start with a few basic colours and mix (different shades) as you go," Ms Dennis said.

"Visit YouTube or Pinterest and do some research on the style you are going for."

Get your colour choice right by doing some research first.
Get your colour choice right by doing some research first.

And if you're not handy, don't worry: you don't need any specific skills to be able to upcycle.

"I think what most people lack is confidence," Ms Dennis said. "And I think what people have to realise is that no one is going to mark this out of 10. So, have a go and if it is a disaster, you can just paint over it."

Remember, too, that most people get better with practice.

"You find your style, and then your technique improves over time and you learn from your mistakes," Ms Dennis said.

Originally published as Upcycling tips from interiors expert Tara Dennis



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