There is great satisfaction in creating something yourself, and doing so allows you to make it bespoke to your taste and interior design scheme.  Upcycling is a great way to transform an item, as I did with my upcylced cocktail cabinet. Add to this that you’re helping to reduce landfill–it’s a win, win situation as far as I’m concerned! So read on for my DIY on how to upcycle furniture.

I bought my retro G Plan cocktail cabinet from eBay for around £40 and sent my husband off to Derby to collect it. I don’t have any pictures of before I painted it (this is something I am guilty of with some of my previous projects, but I wasn’t thinking about including them in a blog at the time!) but it was a brown formica–so you get the picture.

red retro cocktail cabinet with text overlay on how to upcycle furniture

(I’ve included some affiliate links in this post, shown with an asterisk (*). If you click on them and make a purchase, I get a bit of money in my back pocket, to help towards future creations to share with you on my blog.)

Prep & Paint Exterior

So to upcycle my cocktail cabinet I first removed the handles and lightly sanded the whole thing with a 120 grit sandpaper (except the gold trim and interior). I then primed it with a water based primer.  Once dry, I painted the cabinet with a pillar box red emulsion that I chose from colour charts and had mixed. To give the cabinet a more durable finish I top coated it with *Sadolin Polyurethane Extra Durable Varnish in matt.

Tip – roller paint on for a quicker, neater, even finish.  Get a tester pot mixed (50ml).  It’s enough to paint a piece of furniture and way cheaper than buying a full tin of paint. 

cocktail cabinet hatch open with liquor bottles inside

Decorate Interior

Remember not to neglect the interior when updating used furniture. I kept the inside of the drop down hatch as it was originally (because it was already pretty), but I wanted to jazz up the wooden interior of the bottom cupboard because it had seen better days and wasn’t very exciting (I have a before pic–yay!).

wooden interior of cocktail cabinet before epicycle

To do this I bought some *gold carbon fibre wrap  from eBay to cover the inside. This is meant for cars but can be used like any other sticky back vinyl for covering a myriad of things.

Step 1

In order to remove any wax, oil, or dirt, spray the surface you are covering with sugar soap and wipe with a damp sponge (if you don’t have sugar soap you can use detergent mixed with water).  Rinse the sponge with water and wipe over a few times to remove the excess soap.  Leave to dry.

sticky back vinyl, tape measure, ruler, craft knife, scissors, pencil, on flatly. Items you will need to epicycle furniture

Step 2

measure a section you are intending to cover and, using a ruler draw, the correct dimensions along the lines on the back of the vinyl, then cut out.

hand measuring a cutting gold sticky back vinyl demonstrating how to upcycle furniture

Step 3

Now this is the tricky part–getting the edges of the vinyl flush with the edges of each section. Stick with it (I’m being serious, no pun intended!) and be patient. You’ll get there eventually. Start by peeling off the vinyl backing from the corner (not completely), line the edges up (the tricky part I mentioned), and use a damp sponge to smooth the vinyl over your surface, eliminating any air bubbles and peeling the backing off bit by bit.  When you’re done, use a craft knife to trim any overlapping edges.

wooden interior of cabinet part way through being covered with gold sticky back vinyl

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the whole thing is covered then re-fit the handles, and there you have your upcycled cocktail cabinet.

How to Upcycle Furniture - My Retro Cocktail Cabinet

The only thing left now is to fill it!

gold cocktail cabinet interior with spirit bottles, straws, glasses and a cocktail shaker

So, before you go out and purchase a new piece of furniture, get creative and consider upcycling something preloved. You can buy items from various places, for example charity shops, eBay, and retro or vintage stores. You could even pick things up free of charge from friends and family or online platforms such as Freecycle. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure! It’s easy to transform an item of furniture with a lick of paint and a dash of love and care. You also end up with something unique, interesting, and cheaper than if you bought it new.  My cocktail cabinet cost around £60, including the paint etc.–bargain! For ideas on accessorising your upcycled furniture take a look at my charity shop finds here.

red retro up cycled cocktail cabinet dressed with spirit bottles and ornaments

I hope I’ve inspired you on how to upcycle furniture yourself!

Since this post, I’ve updated my cocktail cabinet again. You can see it in my kitchen makeover.

open cocktail cabinet hatch with bottle of Disaronno and glass on top



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