Upcycling tips by interiors expert, Lynne Lambourne

Lynne Lambourne with her upcycled cabinet

Sustainable interior designer, upcycler and warrior on waste, Lynne Lambourne offers her expert tips on how to upcycle your British Heart Foundation homeware finds and help raise funds for life saving research.

FIND YOUR LOCAL SHOP

If you’re passionate about interiors and keen to shop more ethically, then BHF stores are a great place to source unique furniture and homewares.

Here are Lynne Lambourne's, from Oxfordshire-based interiors design company, Love Nellie, expert upcycling tips...

Upcycled cabinet painted grey

Think second hand shops for furniture 

If you see something in a shop or interiors magazine that you absolutely love and have to get your hands on, look closely; the chances are that you can find something very similar in a charity shop. The BHF has over 180 home stores across the nation offering a wealth of amazing household bargains.

Car boot sales or a second-hand online site are also good sources and you can always check out the BHF eBay shop if you can’t find anything in-store.With a bit of paint and some imagination, you can create something very similar. It’s all about looking at pieces with fresh eyes - one man’s trash can be another man's treasure.

Be a savvy shopper and create something unique for your home at a fraction of the price of buying new; it’s also a much more sustainable way of furnishing your house.

Brown cabinet from British Heart Foundation shop

(Lynne transformed this cabinet she found at her local BHF store into a completely new piece with some simple upcycling tricks)

Preparation is key

When upcycling, preparation is key. The more time you spend preparing, the less time you'll have to spend correcting mistakes. Go around the mirror edges with masking tape to stop the paint getting on the mirror and mask off drawer edges. Remove old drawer knobs first so you don’t paint around them only to find when you remove the old ones, the new ones are smaller, and you have a space with no paint. 

Give all furniture a wipe before you start. An old cobweb stuck on your paint brush is just annoying. Sometimes the excitement of getting the job done can mean we rush things.

Consider the era

Make sure you match the era of the piece of furniture with the style of upcycling. An old 1950s G-plan sideboard will never look cool painted in pastels and then distressed to give a shabby chic coastal effect. Try and be sympathetic to the original style. A piece like that would look great painted in a bold colour or decoupaged using geometrical wallpaper.

Be imaginative when you see old pieces. Old ladders painted make great places to display plants, old washing machine drums make great outdoor plant pots. Creative ideas can give a new purpose to something that would otherwise have been discarded.

Upcycled ladder with plant pots

Patching up second hand furniture

If your piece of furniture has watermarks or stains, go over it with a primer first or use a paint containing primer. There's no point going at it gung-ho with layers of paint, as they will bleed through again and your work will be ruined. Once you’ve finished your piece, make sure you protect all your hard work with a wax or varnish to give it longevity. If you’ve gone to the bother of making something fabulous give it the respect it deserves by finishing it properly. Don’t rush it to just get it done!

Collect old odd socks (clean ones!) as they are great to use to apply the wax to the furniture, providing they are not too fluffy.

Be bold

Have fun and be bold, create what YOU love. You are not bound by the constraints of what is available on the high-street. You can create something unique for your home that is your style. Have a look online for inspiration – there are a wealth of ideas on ‘Pinterest’ to inspire you.

New products on the market make the impossible, possible. Protective outdoor paints and sprays mean that you can be creative with outdoor spaces and create the look of an extra room in the garden quite easily.

Think outside the box; gardens don’t have to be full of teak furniture. There are some amazing new easy crackle glaze products out there which mean you can age a piece easily. This is great news if you find second hand mirrors or frames as these can be made to look far more expensive than they are.

Close up of wallpaper for the cabinet

Spend on the small stuff

Spend a few extra pennies on good paint brushes. Cheap ones leave bristles in your work and don’t give good coverage. Most paint brands now have their own paint brushes which work well for their products. Wrap brushes and rollers in tinfoil in between coats to keep the brush moist and then clean them as soon as you’ve finished painting or waxing.

FIND YOUR LOCAL SHOP