From trash to trashure

My biggest project yet. And the weirdest method of veneer removal I’ve ever seen.

A local man was giving this table away for free and the ad stated “it could do with some work”. I don’t know what I was more worried for, the “work” it needed or fitting it into the car. Once I got it home, I realised there was a much more sinister thing to fear. A huge spider carrying a sack of baby spiders 😧

Im still traumatised by the spider and wonder if it had laid babies behind my sofa. I’m also traumatised by trying to remove the dark and dated veneer. It took a long time for me to realise how to remove veneer, read on for the best technique ever!

At first I tried sanding with my electric sander my mom got me for my birthday but then I realised it was in fact veneer that I was sanding and I ended up with an uneven mess of light and dark veneer. I also tried paint removing paint but that just smelt funny and added to the mess.

Then I found it. Well, my mom found it. She was round visiting and helping me through the pain of removing veneer from a spider-infested table and found a tip online to iron the veneer off. Ironing!

It worked a treat! I soaked an old towel in water then ironed it on top of the table. Then I just scraped the layer of veneer off! It was that simple! I wish I’d videod the peeling of the veneer because it was so satisfying to do. Like stripping wallpaper.

Then all I had to do was paint the sides in Rustoleum Vintage White (several coats including an upside down coat on the underside of the table top) and varnish the top. And, of course, Hoover the inside for fear of more giant, pregnant spiders.

I can’t wait for my next veneered table to peel. And if you end up peeling veneer, please film it and tag me on my Instagram so I can relive the joy! @upcyclednottingham


Upcycling a retro sewing box

Got one of these bad boys to do up? My mother-in-law asked if I would do up her mother’s sewing box. It’s always scary doing bits for family but this had added pressure as it has been in the family for a long time and has sentimental value.

As you can see, it’s a very retro design and this is further enhanced by the rounded legs. The gold strips are actually embedded in the wood so I wanted to keep those in and focused the design around them.

The finished product is below so you can see what we’re working towards. I’ll then outline what I did and some tips.


  • Furniture paint (I used Craig and Rose Payne’s Grey from B&Q)
  • Gilding wax or similar (I actually used Plastikote project enamel because it was half the price of wax)
  • Brushes (Annie Sloan are the best brushes and I also use a small brush for the details)
  • Furniture wax (Annie Sloan, Rustoleum or Johnston’s are all good)
  • Masking tape
  • Extra: I used dark furniture wax for the legs to bring them out.


Firstly, prepare the piece by making sure it’s clean. Older pieces with lids/cupboards tend to gather a bit lot of a whiff over the years! I washing up liquid and some liquid soda crystals to make sure it was really clean.

I then removed the plastic gold strips from the front and put masking tape all along the edges of the top to protect the lid/edges.

Paint! A couple of coats was enough here.

For the legs, I used dark wax and buffed to keep a shine then taped off a few inches on each leg.

Because I used project enamel and not wax for the gold, I did paint a layer of white where I wanted to place the gold to help bring out the colour. I also needed three coats of the enamel whereas wax would only need one coat.

Wait for the gold enamel or wax to dry and then remove the masking tape carefully. I managed to get a pretty clean line for once!

Finally, protect everything with a couple of layers of clear wax. Sewing boxes tend to be used a lot and therefore need a bit of extra protection. The wax can be buffed up when dry if you like with a lint-free cloth.

And done!

I’d love to see more designs so tag me on Instagram so I can see your creations! @upcyclednottingham Instagram

Thanks for reading!

How to use stencils for upcycling


Using stencils in your upcycling can really push your projects to the next level. It can open so many more doors to you in your creativity but it can be pretty daunting when you first try out stencils. This post is about my journey using stencils as well as some hints, tips and ideas!

I was so excited when I first bought a stencil. It was an Annie Sloan rose stencil and in came in the most beautiful package (because, what else can we expect from Annie?). IMG_4449.JPGI was super excited to use it then when I actually was ready to use it, I went through the standard upcycling emotional rollercoaster (self-doubt, fear, acceptance and back to being excited). And I immediately faced several issues! Maybe I wasn’t quite ready for the big girl stencils yet.

1. Application. Short story, use a foam paint roller.

Long story, I tried a brush application, sponge, spray paint (surely that would work? Spray paint fixes everything!) and using spray glue to stick the stencil to my table. Worst idea. It ended in a gooey painty mess and some tears.

Look at all those smug rollers, thinking it was so obvious.


2. How to place a stencil.

Seems straight forward and it is. You can place them where you like! I love symmetry so always use a tape measure to place my stencils exactly in the centre of my piece (ok, maybe not exactly in the centre but I like to think I manage it) but you can throw caution to the wind and wing it! Some people go ad hoc with their stencils and even overlap them in different colours! One day I hope to be brave enough to try this on a chair.

3. Try with new paints!

In this photo, I’ve used a paint rub rather than an actual paint and it created a lovely metallic worn effect!


So remember, there’s no wrong way to use a stencil but a paint roller would sure help!

I’d love to see your upcycled pieces so do tag me on Instagram @upcyclednottingham

Thanks for reading!

Top tips for the upcycling beginner

Upcycling is super fun and a great hobby. After a few months of upcycling, I’m about 30 projects in, and so I wanted to share my top tips that I’ve discovered so far.

1. Clean and air your items first. If you’re shopping for bargains at car boot sales then you’ll probably pick up a piece of furniture which someone has kept in their garage for a very very long time. When painting items, dust can easily get mixed in with your paint and get onto your brush, make sure you wipe the surface first to avoid getting a bumpy look.

You might also find that old caravan smell or cigar smell inside drawers and cupboards. Be sure to air your furniture for a while before painting otherwise you might start to feel sick from the smell.

2. Five coats of paint is probably too much.

I discovered this while painting my first project (a knitting table). It was the first time I’d used chalk paint and I’d read that the paint was self levelling so decided the more paint, the better. It would level itself out anyway, right? Wrong. Two coats really seems to be enough, maybe three if you’re painting a light colour onto dark wood. I ended up getting quite a streaky finish. That being said, I still love to use this item. It still smells like caravan because I was too excited to fill it with yarn so never aired it 🙈


3. Sandpaper is a must.

If you’ve got carried away and painted a load of coats onto your furniture, then you can even it out by lightly sanding in between coats. Make sure to do this very lightly otherwise you’ll end out sanding back to the wood.

4. A rounded brush will save you lots of time.

From reading posts online, most people have a favourite brush. And it’s usually an Annie Sloan brush. Initially I thought this was just a sort of fashion statement and that my bargain brushes used for painting walls were just as good. Until I got a beautiful Annie Sloan brush for my birthday 🎉

A good brush is pricey but it makes painting so much easier. If it’s rounded then you can get into corners and odd shapes very easily. Whilst you’ll never get a completely smooth finish without using spray paint, a good brush makes the brush strokes left in the paint much softer and more appealing to the eye.


5. Use a foam roller for applying stencils.

I could write a whole post about my trauma when first trying to use a stencil.

I tried everything: spray paint, normal brush strokes, patting brush strokes and sticking the stencil to the surface with spray glue which kind of melting the paint and resulted in peeled gluey paint lumps.

Then I tried a foam roller as per an Annie Sloan (yes it’s her again) YouTube tutorial.  I didn’t even stick the stencil down and threw caution to the wind. It worked perfectly! Just hold the stencil in place with one hand and roll with the other.


Thanks for reading! Let me know what projects you’re working on by commenting below or tagging me on Instagram (@upcyclednottingham).

Upcycled house – making luxury from bargains

Today I was asked whether I’d take my class down to the school library for a talk about blogging (I’m a teacher FYI) and of course I said yes (not just because I’d get to have a break from teaching for an hour but because adults usually have to pay for workshops like that!). I thought if the children can make a blog then I most certainly could!

I love trying to find bargains for the home wherever I can and make them look pretty! I find old, unloved furniture at carboots, online and on the pavement  then make the pieces look like they were bought at some high-end, overpriced store that I would never dare step into for fear of being laughed at! Or at least that’s what I try to do. Follow for inspiration, ideas and tips on upcycling and reloving furniture. Thanks for looking!