We love working on upcycling vintage items into unique lighting, and it can really set our creative juices flowing when coming up with new ideas. But for a while we (or rather myself - Johnny) had wanted to try our hand at upcycling old furniture.
It all started when we wanted a specific type of console table for the hallway of our new home. We knew we wanted solid wood with 2 drawers and a shelf to store Benji's (the Labrador) stuff. You know - his lead, collar, poop bags - all that kind of stuff. The table also had to be small enough so that it didn't stick out too far into the narrow hallway resulting in people bumping into it. Nothing too fancy, perhaps a soft industrial feel to it, and it had to be a darker colour to fit in with our vintage/heritage style decor. But above all it had to be solid and of a high quality.
So after weeks of trawling furniture stores and the internet, we found very little that ticked all the boxes. Most were either too big, too fancy, flimsy quality, or the wrong colour. Eventually we did find the perfect console table but it was a brown varnished wood with black iron drawer handles, and looked really dated.
Then the light-bulb moment - we're pretty skilled at painting and re-coating non-furniture vintage items, so surely we can utilise our creativity and talent to do the same with a piece of furniture. The paint we decided to use was Railings No.31 in Estate Eggshell from Farrow & Ball. We had seen lots of colours we liked from other brands of paint, but I'd seen excellent reviews from other people using Farrow & Ball. Sure its more expensive than some other paints, but I'd heard that the quality of the finish was really good, and the colours are excellent due to the rich pigment they use. I'd also heard that Farrow & Ball paint doesn't fade after a while like others do, and I love that their paints are eco-friendly water based rather than oil. Anyway, we thought we'd give it a try.
So we went ahead and purchased the second hand console table along with all of the paint and tools that we needed and set to work.
Preparation is key
As with any painting project like this, the key to a nice and durable finish is the preparation. There are no shortcuts, it takes time and patience and that's just the way it is. Try and cut corners and you will regret it (trust us - we've been there when we first started out). That's why good quality handcrafted things generally have a higher price tag, a lot of time and effort goes into making each and every unique piece. No two are exactly the same, unlike mass produced things.
So first up I had to remove the old handles then clean the table to remove any dirt and grease before sanding it down. Sanding will give the wood a slight texture which will give the paint something to stick to, meaning that there will be less chance of the paint chipping or peeling later.
This table was quite shiny so I used a grade 80 sandpaper on an electric sander. You could use sandpaper with a sanding block I guess, but that would take longer. I'm just wanting to take the top layer off the varnish to make it slightly rough, rather than taking it all the way back to the bare wood.
Note: I did actually take it right back to the bare wood in some places as I got a little carried away with the electric sander. No big deal though - it just means that the area with bare wood will soak up more paint meaning that I ended up using more of it.
I sanded all surfaces and edges, not forgetting the front surface and side edges of the drawers (leaving the sides and inside of the drawers).
Once sanded I then used wood filler to fill the holes in the drawer fronts left from the old handles. I would've also used the wood filler to fill any dents or gashes, but I was lucky as there were none. Once the filler was dry I sanded it until it was level with the surface of the drawer. At this point I decided it would probably be a good idea to measure the holes for the new handles and drill small pilot holes prior to starting the painting. Not really necessary at this point I guess, but I always drill the holes prior to painting incase of scratches.
Then gave the whole table a wipe down to get rid of all the dust from sanding.
Once the table was completely dry and dust free, I could then start to apply the undercoat. Applying an undercoat is important as it helps create a smooth base for your topcoat. Your top coat will be more likely to take better to furniture that has been primed with an undercoat, and to get the best out of your luxury Farrow & Ball paint it's advisable that you use their own primer and undercoat. The reason for this is that it has been specifically formulated to bring out the very best in your topcoat and also avoids any incompatibility issues. I've had incompatibility issues in the old days with using different brands of undercoat/topcoat, and its not a pretty sight!
So the undercoat I used is Interior Wood Primer & Undercoat, Dark Tones. I give the paint a good stir, then working from the top using a smaller paintbrush I start to paint in all the nooks and crannies on the table top and the edges of the table top.
I'm wanting a smooth finish with no (or few) visible brush strokes so I use a small roller to paint the surface and along the edges, running over my brushed areas to remove and brush strokes. Be sure to keep an eye out for any paint that has gathered thickly along the edges and use the roller to spread this out.
Tip: Use a foam roller instead of a flock roller to avoid fibres sticking to the paint and for a smoother finish.
Once I've finished the table top I'll continue working my way down the table, and again using the smaller brush to paint along the inside edges and get in the smaller areas.
Continuing to work down the table, using the smaller brush to get into the smaller areas and using the roller to paint the surfaces. I paint the four sides of each leg, before moving onto the shelf, and then using the roller on the drawer fronts and sides of the fronts. Then simply wait for it to dry. Farrow & Ball recommend leaving it at least 4 hours before applying the topcoat, but by this point it was getting late so I left it dry overnight.
Tip: Place a piece of clingfilm over the paint pot before putting the lid back on. This will prevent the lid sticking to the tin.
Another tip: If you're planning on using the same paint again later, wrap your brushes in clingfilm. This prevents them drying out and avoids having to wash them.
Finally I've finished with all of the prep and can start applying the topcoat. A similar process to applying the undercoat, using the smaller brush to get into all the nooks and crannies and then using the roller for the surfaces and to run over the brush strokes to remove them. Be careful not to load too much paint onto the roller as it can start to gather and gloop at the edges. If this happens, simply scrape some paint off your roller and run over the gloopy paint areas again.
Again working down the table, suing that brush to reach the fiddly areas including any areas underneath that may be seen for a certain angle. Then using the roller for the larger areas, and of course not forgetting the drawer front and the sides of the fronts.
Did you think that was it done? Nope! The whole table will need re-painting again with a second topcoat once the first has been left to dry. But trust me - it will be worth it!
With the second topcoat dry, I can now fit the new handles to the drawer fronts. I love these vintage style cast iron handles with 'The Printing Shop Portobello Rd London' embossed. They really do add a soft industrial look to the table and they work really well with the colour paint. I decided to polish them up a little using Peek as they were a little too dull and I wanted areas of the handles to really shine against the dark paint of the table, whilst still retaining some of their patina effect. I also give the screws a quick polish too to make them shine a little more before fitting the new handles to the drawer fronts.
The finished product
And here we have it - the upcycled console table in all its glory with its gorgeous new rich bluey-black coat and stunning accessories including the vintage polished cast iron handles and one of our upcycled copper telephone lamps.