Bold upcycling by Chirpy Kitsch

Nicola Daly has a knack for turning drab furniture into something bright, quirky and fun. Interiors writer Karen Wilson finds out more.

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It may be a fledgling sideline business at the moment but since starting 'Chirpy Kitsch', Nicola Daly has really thrown herself into creating a plethora of eye-catching upcycled pieces of furniture to sell on Etsy, Facebook and Instagram.

'This is my passion,' says Niki. 'It doesn't feel like work as it's so much fun. I love exploring charity shops, the British Heart Foundation shops in Manchester are great and always seem to have the best things. I've bought quite a bit from their eBay shop as well.

'I love unusual vintage pieces from the 1950s, as they're so well made and have nice shapes. I don’t like waste so it's so nice to bring something back to life.'

The upcycling process

Once Niki gets her bargain buys home, the fun can begin. She starts by sanding the piece down and filling in any imperfections. Then she applies three coats of either Fusion Mineral Paint or Farrow & Ball Furniture Paint, often re-sanding it after the initial coat. 'I find they don't really need varnishing as the paint is quite protective anyway,' says Niki.

Next she adds wallpaper or fabric, with animals and geometric prints being particular favourites. 'I love animal designs as they always cheer people up,' she adds.

Before and after

This black and white 1950s chest of drawers was Niki's first ever project and features Mad Dogs Multi wallpaper from Holden Decor's Imaginarium Collection. 'Although it's monochrome, I love the little pops of colour in the design,' she says.

Niki paid just £20 for this chest of four drawers at the BHF shop in Cheetham Hill, Manchester. It's been decoupaged with a Banksy design which Niki had blown up and printed.

When she spotted this two-door music cabinet, Niki wanted a funky design so choose Leopard Walk wallpaper by Cole & Son. 'I love music cabinets and they're really popular now with the revival of vinyl,' she says.

Niki's best seller is a chest of drawers with a jungle theme featuring Savuti wallpaper from Cole & Son's Ardmore range 'It was tricky getting the composition right and lining it up with the drawers,' she says. 'But so many people asked about this one that I ended up making six of them!'

Niki's also a big fan of colourful geometric patterns and has covered these units in Cole & Son's prism wallpaper. 'I plan to create my own handprinted geometric wallpaper in pastel shades in the future and am currently working on something in Photoshop,' she adds. 'In my day job as a computer games artist, I work in 3D and it's all digital, so it's nice to get back to pen and paper again.'

Top tips

Next on Niki's to do list is setting up her own website and looking for a separate workshop to give her more storage space. But she has the following tips for anyone interested in trying upcycling:

'Be bold and don't be scared to do something a bit different,' she says. 'Even if you have a neutral home, you can still add a few pops of colour. An upcycled piece can be a great focal point for the room. If you can buy something for £5 or £10, it doesn't matter if you make a mistake or don't like the colour - you can just sand it back and start again.'

Photo credits: Chirpy Kitsch