I have watched quite a few TV programmes where old furniture has been rescued from skips and turned into something desirable and trendy. And it is possible for you to do the same if you have the inclination, to give an old piece of your own furniture a new lease of life, using some imagination and maybe a pot or two of paint.

All it takes is a little inventiveness and a few simple tools to repurpose old to new – saving money and most importantly, saving waste. From upcycling sideboards into fashionable statement pieces to making a bathroom vanity unit using an old table, there's an easy-to-follow DIY project for all.

Imagine that old chest of drawers sitting in your bedroom – it's functional as it holds all your t-shirts and sweaters or whatever, but it’s old and out of style, and you are maybe thinking of replacing it. But before you replace it, consider upcycling it. An easy choice is to take off any knobs or handles first, clean down with sugar soap and then a good job with a sander. Give the whole thing a new colour - and there are plenty to choose from out there - and add new knobs or paint the old ones in a contrast. You could even paint the inside of the drawers a totally different colour for a wow factor when pulled out.

To use the same piece of furniture elsewhere, why not turn it into a storage place for the kids’ toys? Each drawer could be for each child to keep their treasures in, or the drawers can be individually used for, say, soft toys in one, puzzles in another, maybe those irritating little building blocks in their own individual drawer – the choices are endless. And it can make ‘clear-up’ time really easy, as everything has a home. The drawers could be painted or stencilled with a picture of what’s inside or playful animal knobs to help younger ones find what they want – and help them get into a habit of putting away too. And perhaps if art is your thing, you could turn it into storage for your tools, paints, paper and brushes.

A plain wooden kitchen table can be enlivened by a revamp. By their nature, they are rather formal pieces of furniture with lots of straight lines and flat surfaces. Painting the legs of a table a different colour to the top is a wonderful thing to do if you’ve got a lovely old wooden table which has seen better days. You can even leave the top unpainted after sanding, or whitewashing it - it’s super easy, you just mix white paint with water, paint the wood with it, and then wipe it into the grain of the wood with a rag. It gives a lovely whitewash look for a more subtle or light distressed wood, while painting the legs with a different colour, maybe to go with your new kitchen colour scheme, which will hide scuff marks and other signs of wear and tear.

Credits: PA; Author: PA;

In order to start upcycling at the very basic level, you can use pieces of salvaged wood as shelving, just buy brackets and even paint them to contrast with your existing colour scheme if you feel adventurous enough. Even an old wooden ladder can be rubbed down and painted to make some great hanging space for towels in a bathroom.

Pallets have many uses too, there are loads of tips on the internet for making basic furniture or shelving with them – all they need is your creativity to turn them into something totally cool and useful!

Here’s one I would like try myself – turning old spoons into cup-hooks. Using old spoons, perhaps picked up at the charity shop or found in the back of your own drawers, beat the bowls flat with a hammer, and bend the straight handles into a curve, using the neck of your hammer for instance. Screw the flat bowls equally apart on an offcut plank and you have got yourself a handy cup holder - or somewhere to hang the dog leads, aprons and dishtowels!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan