Refresh Old Furniture to Redecorate Responsibly

When cleaning out your house, itís fairly easy to remember that unwanted clothing and smaller household goods like lamps, kitchenware and decor can forgo the landfill by donating them to Goodwill instead. But bigger wooden furniture items often have a harder time escaping that fate.

Furniture is burdensome to lug to a thrift store, so many people leave unwanted furnishings curbside for the trash truck instead. This creates an enormous amount of waste and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions since wood that decomposes in a landfill will emit carbon dioxide and methane. Sadly, Americans throw away enough wood to heat 5 million homes for 200 years, according to the University of Utah.

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Is it possible for us to simply stop throwing away furniture? Of course! We can make the effort to trade, donate or revamp old pieces to reinvigorate what already exists instead of throwing them away and buying newly-made stuff that further dwindles our planetís resources.

Hereís one simple way: Add a fresh coat of paint and fun ombre stenciling. This gradual color gradient is a straightforward way to transform your decor and, when paired with a bold pattern, it feels fresh and modern. Read on to get started.

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  • Sander
  • Paint (two coordinating colors or one color matched with white work well)
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paintbrushes and/or rollers
  • Small foam brush or sponge
  • Respirator mask
  • Painterís tape
  • Pencil
  • Stencil
  • Rags
  • Spoon (Set it aside for future DIY projects and donít use it again for food.)

Step 1: Sand It Down

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In a well-ventilated area with a respirator mask on, sand your furniture to soften any chipped edges and give the fresh paint something to grasp. If you have concerns about lead paint, especially if your furniture predates the 1980s, you may want to consult a professional before making any updates.

Step 2:†Address Other Repairs

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With a damp rag, wipe off the dust from sanding. Tasks like this are a fantastic way to extend the life of clothes and sheets that you no longer wear and arenít fit to be donated or passed on to someone else. At this point, assess your furniture for other repairs. Are there cracks that need filling? Do you want to swap out the legs to update its silhouette? Before the paint goes on, fix any little quirks that have been bugging you over the years.

Step 3:†Paint the Base Color

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When the wood is dry again, begin painting. Depending on what youíre painting and the color you choose, you may need a primer or more coats of paint. The ideal paint for a healthy environment has no VOCs and is made from natural materials. Milk paint is a great choice if youíre not sure where to start. As for the color, the easiest way to create an ombre effect with your stencil is to have the base color of the furniture match the hue that youíre fading into.

Step 4:†Plan Your Pattern

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After all coats of paint have dried, plan your stencil. Start at one edge and place the stencil where youíd like it to be. Holding one side in place, gently lift the other side and stick a piece of painterís tape under the ďregister markĒ (the small holes in each corner that will help you align the pattern as you go). Use your pencil to designate each mark on the tape then lift the stencil up and move it, overlapping two of the register marks to continue the pattern. This is also a great time to tape off any places, like the lip of the bookcase, where you want the pattern to end.

Step 5:†Prep Your Paint Colors

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Count how many repetitions of the pattern it will take to cover the surface area youíre stenciling. Do a bit of math to estimate how quickly you want your colors to transition. For this bookcase, the first stencil repetition was created from the small puddle of solid dark-gray paint thatís pictured. Each repetition after that has two small spoons of white paint mixed into it. Just keep adding your second color to whatís left of the previous mixture to slowly transition the hue.

Step 6:†Paint the Stencil

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Tape down the stencil so it wonít move around as you paint. Use a foam brush to dab paint on carefully. Since the color progresses, work from one side to the next giving each section a little drying time while you mix the next color and wipe down the stencil if necessary.

Step 7:†Stagger the Pattern

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To make the final stencil section appear as if itís blending into the background color, you can also stagger the pattern a little right at the end.

Step 8:†Touch Up and Let Dry

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Peel off the tape, including the pieces designating register marks. Use a small paintbrush with your background color, if necessary, to touch up any spots where the paint bled under the edge of the stencil. Let it dry according to paint instructions then youíve got your fresh take on time-worn furniture.

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As you know, one main aspect of environmental-consciousness is taking responsibility for the things in your life. Instead of tossing out-of-date furniture and buying new, more relevant pieces, use your imagination and some elbow-grease to make something old feel young again.

Julia Marchand†writes for The Home Depot about DIY projects, nutrition and ways to reduce her impact on the earth. She has written on topics such as how to use art stencils to update furniture and using storage cubes to make recycling easier. Click here to go to The Home Depot website to find the art stencil that Julia used in this project, along with other options to give your project a personal touch.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request, and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago


Philippa Powers
Philippa Powers1 years ago

I am a great believer in reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.

Margie F
Margie FOURIE1 years ago

I love doing up old furniture, but never seem to finish much.

One Heart i
Carl Rosenstock1 years ago


natasha s
Past Member 1 years ago

Nice job! I've found so much wood/old furniture on sidewalks that i've been able to turn all into great pieces 4 next to nothing. thanks

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.