top of page
  • Writer's pictureEmily

How to upcycle a small project: prep, paint, and protect

In this blog post, I’ll show you how to upcycle a piece of your own, walking you through prepping, painting, and protecting your new piece. I’m upcycling a small stool which I can use as a plant stand in my bedroom – you don’t have to choose a stool but try to find something small and easy if this is your first project.

You can check out the video version here.

You’ll need the following tools and materials:

  • A project of your choice (think stool, plant stand, small side table, etc.)

  • 120 grit sand paper

  • 320 grit sand paper

  • Scissors

  • Microfibre cloth

  • A range of paint brushes (small, medium, plus a rounded one for the stencilling. You can use rollers if you prefer)

  • Paint can opener (or flathead screwdriver!)

  • Stencil (optional)

  • Painter’s tape

  • A few small pots to decant the primer, paint, and varnish (don’t dip in and out of the can!)

  • Primer (I use Zinsser BIN primer for my projects as, in my experience, it’s the best product on the market. However, this means it’s one of the most expensive primers available, so you might choose to use a cheaper one when you’re starting off. B&Q is a great place to shop for tools and materials – there's always a great selection suiting a range of budgets)

  • Paint - in your choice of colour (I used Johnstone’s grey for the base, plus blue and green for the stencilled leaves, but you can use any. I use professional, premium-grade paints for my client projects but, again, these come at a higher price tag. Valspar is a great budget-friendly brand for DIY home projects. It can be found at B&Q!)

  • Varnish (I used Ronseal interior clear varnish, but you can use any)


  1. Start by giving your piece a good clean with a damp cloth and then leave to dry.

  2. With your 120 grit sand paper, scuff sand all over to provide a key for the paint. Once you’re done, wipe again with a damp cloth to remove the dust.

  3. Now it’s time to prime. Apply an even coat of primer, making sure there’s no drips. If you’re using BIN, you’ll need to work quite quickly as the primer takes on a glue-like consistency as it starts to dry. Once you’ve applied the primer and checked once more for drips, leave to dry.

  4. Gently sand the surface using 320 grit sand paper to remove any bits of dust trapped in the primer. Wipe using a damp cloth to remove the dust.

  5. Paint your piece! Apply an even coat all over, check for drips, and allow to dry.

  6. Give it another coat. It may need 2-4 coats depending on colour and coverage. Make sure you leave to dry in between coats (read the back of the paint can for dry time guide).

  7. If you’re stencilling, grab your stencil and your other paints. I find it best to use a round brush and dab the paint on to avoid bleed underneath the stencil. You might find it easier to secure the stencil onto the piece using painter's tape. Leave to dry and then recoat the stencilling if required.

  8. Protect your piece. You’ll need to give your piece 2 or 3 coats of varnish to protect it against scratches and dents. You can use a paintbrush, roller, or cloth to apply the varnish. When you’ve finished, check for drips and allow to dry.

  9. Enjoy your piece! I’m thinking about adding some dusty pink or mustard yellow leaves to mine. If you’ve created something from this blog post, I’d love to see your final piece! Get in touch and let me know how you did.

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page