Esme Clemo explains just how simple it is to give old furniture and home accessories a new lease of life

It’s amazing how you can transform a chest of drawers or a tray using our upcycling and découpage techniques.

Découpage drawers

Time to make: Two days (including drying time)

You will need:

✤ Old wooden dressing table
✤ Paint stripper
✤ Fine sandpaper
✤ Sage green, white and pale blue eggshell matte paint
✤ Paintbrushes
✤ Craft knife
✤ Cutting mat
✤ Butterfly patterned paper
✤ PVA glue
✤ Satin or matte varnish

1. Prepare the dressing-table surfaces by removing the handles and applying paint stripper to any painted or varnished surfaces. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to strip the surfaces safely. Once dry, use sandpaper
to smooth down the surfaces and then wipe down with warm water to remove dust.

2. Apply two thin coats of green paint to the body of the dressing table, working the paint in the direction of the wood grain. Allow each layer of paint to dry before applying the next.

3. Repeat for the drawer fronts, applying a white layer first and then two blue layers. Leave the paint to dry for at least 24 hours.

4. To create the distressed look, there are many degrees of ‘ageing’ the paintwork. For this dressing table, we rubbed sandpaper over the raised areas, edges, around handles, drawers and keyhole details. Remember that less is more. You can always rub away a little more, but it’s harder to put it back.

5. Using a craft knife and cutting mat, carefully cut around the outline of the butterflies from the patterned paper. Arrange the butterflies on the drawer fronts and stick the shapes down with PVA glue when you are happy with the layout. Allow the glue to dry.

6.  Apply a thin coat of varnish to the dressing table and drawer fronts to protect the découpage butterflies and the paintwork. Put the drawer knobs back on to the dressing table to finish.

Tray display

Time to make: 30 minutes

You will need:

✤ Thick cord or mirror chain
✤ Scissors
✤ Hook
✤ Wall fixings
✤ Magnetic metal tray (we used steel)
✤ Glue gun
✤ Small magnets
✤ Butterfly brooches or buttons – visit for similar
✤ Floral paper

1. Cut the cord to your desired hanging length and knot tightly to each of the tray’s handles to secure.

2. Fix a hook to your wall using suitable wall fixings and suspend the metal tray from the hanging cord.

3. To make the butterfly magnets, use a glue gun to stick old brooches or buttons on to the magnets. Allow to dry completely.

4. Cut the floral paper into a variety of sized rectangles. Place the paper pieces on the display board and layer with postcards, precious pictures and to-do lists. Use the magnets to hold the papers in place.

Upcycling furniture