How to give your home a colourful boost by upcycling old items with a splash of paint

  • 11/07/2022
  • Sponsored by - Resene
How to give your home a colourful boost by upcycling old items with a splash of paint
Photo credit: Getty Images

With the recent surge in the cost of living it's perhaps not surprising many Kiwis have been left feeling like they're unable to afford house makeovers this winter.

However, Resene's in-house experts have years of experience in small hacks that can put a smile on anyone's face while making old treasures new again thanks to a little paint and colour.

The Kiwi company, started in a Wellington garage over 70 years ago, offers anyone wanting advice on DIY projects big or small access to a range of dedicated professionals for free to put them on the right path.

Resene joins Three's latest local series, Sort Your Life Out NZ alongside experts Kanoa Lloyd, Carpenter Sean Brown and Natalie Jane. In the all-new series, Kiwi families will open up their homes for a chance to simplify their lives.

Refurbishing and upcycling

One such expert is Colour Consultant Angela Fell, who has been working with the company for around 19 years. Not only does she work with architects and businesses to create amazing work spaces, she spends her weekends refurbishing and recycling household objects and loves to share her knowledge with customers and friends alike.

Her advice can help quickly turn old and worn pieces of furniture into beautiful treasures with a new life that can take pride of place in any house.

"Sometimes people just don't want things anymore because they think it looks dated or it's scratched," Angela said. "I'll take them in, sand them back, put a clear coat or some of our paint on them and give them a new life."

And it's not hard - or expensive - to do so, particularly if you are properly prepared with the correct tools and paints.

"There's loads of ways of upcycling pieces in your home that don't cost a lot of money that can really transform your space. You can pretty much paint anything."

"People just need to be brave," Angela said. "Don't be afraid of the process because once you start doing it you realise it's not that hard or time consuming to achieve the look you want."

There are a couple of things people embarking on a project need to be aware of. This first is that you don't need to spend big to get started, with staff in Resene shops happy to show you the best tools for your budget.

The second? "It's very addictive," Angela laughed.

"It's very hard to not want to do another one because you realise it wasn't that hard and looks amazing."

Angela said one of the biggest mistakes people make is to take on a big project and quickly get overwhelmed, which leads to half-started projects sitting in the garage for months on end before it's finally thrown away.

"Be realistic about what you can actually take on," Angela said. "Start smaller and then work your way up. I think that's where people generally tend to find that they have better results and they're able to complete the project as well which is most important."

People shouldn't be afraid to ask for help either, she said.

"We have staff in all our shops who can help people out with advice, providing the correct assistance for what people are painting.

"If anyone's not sure what to use, they can always phone or visit their local Resene ColorShop to find the answer."

People are even able to take their item into the ColorShop if they're not sure what it's made of and how best to treat it.

"We can identify it for them in store and they give them the correct paint that way," Angela said.

The best place to start adding your own touch of colour to everyday objects ranges from terracotta pots, to an old clock on the wall or even a dining table.

Or maybe people could take a leaf out of Angela's book and give a family friend a bit of a makeover?

"I've got a garden gnome that was my poppa's and he passed away. I painted it up gold and it looks amazing.

"I used surface cleaner on it. I just sprayed it with and put a lustre colour over the top of that. And it looks brand new again.

"You can make anything that's drab suddenly look better just by a bit of paint, so it doesn't take much."

That includes making sure the correct preparation is done to ensure the finish is as good as possible, particularly on something like a dining table.

"Resene has primers which are designed for these particular things," she said.

"If you're painting a varnished piece of furniture and you want to change it, we always recommend people clean it first.

"Give it a very light sand and then use a surface sealer and then two top coats of the likes of LustaGlo, our water-based enamel, over the top. You don't need to sand straight back to the timber or anything like that. It's an easy product to use."

"You really don't need any fancy spray equipment or anything like that," she said.

Just a smooth surface roller with an appropriate brush and you're ready to go, while good quality tape is a "good investment" when you need straight lines.

"I think the creative licence is up to the person who owns the furniture. They just need to be brave enough to trust the process and be really happy with the results."

One of the big trends that Angela has seen lately is coloured whitewashes, which could help lift the likes of that sad old table.

"It is relatively easy. I'll sand back the whole top depending on what coating has been used on it before.

"I generally start with something that's a bit rougher, like an 80 grit sandpaper and then I'll use a 240 grit sandpaper over the top just to fine it out." The rough sandpaper will remove any previous coatings, like polyurethane, on there, Angela said.

Depending on the finish, she may then use an even finer 320 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface further.

"Then remove the dust, put a primer over the top and you can use paint or whitewashes to finish it off. We've got really soft and beautiful pinks, greens and blues and whitewashes with a slight tint too.

"I mean, they're just gorgeous, really stunning. It's a lovely way to soften the look in someone's house. Everyone seems to be really fond of it at the moment."

A paint from the Lustacryl range can then be used on the legs to give a dynamic finish.

"It makes that piece of furniture which was the ugly duckling suddenly pleasant to look at and complements everything else that you have around it as well."

For those a bit more adventurous, there's also the opportunity to give more modern furniture an antique or distressed look, Angela said.

"We have our chalk paint range which has a low-sheen finish," Angela said.

It can be sanded back to allow multiple colours to show. For example, a gold paint could be used underneath, with a dark blue over the top. A light sanding will then create the distressed look, and it can be finished with a varnish or wax.

"We also have our vintage wax which looks beautiful over the top of creamy, aged or antique looking white furniture."

That will help pull out all the beautiful curves and little details from any piece to make it look lovely, she said.

And, provided you've used the right primer any mistakes can be quickly painted over with another quick trip to your local ColorShop to pick up a new colour - so there's no reason not to get started.

Ultimately, it's all about saving money, helping save the environment by not dumping perfectly saveable furniture and having fun.

"It's exciting, especially when you're doing it yourself and it's furniture that you want to be proud of when people come over," Angela said.

For more inspiration, to ask an expert a question or to find your nearest Resene ColorShop to organise a free consultation go to the Resene website.

This article was created for Resene.