Furniture upcycling can all too often be a labour of love, we start projects without truly grasping the size of the task in front of us. It’s only after the first few brush strokes do you truly begin to consider just what you’ve got yourself into, evenings and weekends vanish in a haze of furniture appliques and paint. Are you even enjoying yourself anymore? Of course you are! Safe in the knowledge that when you’ve finished, you’ll be able to stand back and look at your project and feel a sense of pride at what you’ve accomplished. Either that or throw your brushes away and pour yourself a large wine!
This particular furniture upcycling project was one such behemoth. I had had this bowed chest of drawers in the workshop, waiting for me to do something with her for 18 months. We don’t often get many shapely designs like this, so I knew whatever I had to do would have to be special. Nothing seemed to be quite right, so for a year and a half she sat there, almost mocking me.
It wasn’t until I was sent some beautiful decoupage papers from MINT by Michelle that an idea began to come to life. I’d had this particular piece since before the global pandemic, but with one eye on the close of 2020 and with 2021 being lauded a The Year of Hope, there seemed to be only one name which was suitable.
Once you give something a name it seems to become real, tangible, like you’ve breathed life into it. This certainly happened with Hope, once she was named she sprang to life and we were cavorting down the winding furniture upcycling road together.
I’ve always said that when using decoupage, if you want your design to really stand out, put it against a light background. This rings true for furniture upcycling as much as it does for crafting, or whatever you are decoupaging. Following my own advise I painted the whole unit in Dixie Belle’s Fluff which would really help the design, a replica of Madame Le Fèvre, pop.
The drawers bowed outwards in the middle which meant laying the decoupage paper could pose some problems and I was debating how to lay the paper, horizontally or vertically. I opted for vertically. This wasn’t the wisest choice. Still, unbeknownst the problems I was going to face I forged ahead.
Using Dixie Belle’s Clear Coat as a sticking agent for the decoupage it all seemed to be going quite well. The paper felt great, really strong and was sticking to the surface great, it was stretching a little in the middle, but due to the bowed shape of the drawers this was to be expected. Like a lot of furniture upcycling, I wanted an antique feel to these drawers so the wrinkling I was getting when laying the paper was perfect. I had planned to let the paper dry and then distress it to really add depth to the whole design.
As I was laying this paper I was seriously impressed and couldn’t wait to move on and glue some mouldings to the design. I remember thinking, “I could probably take this off and re-lay it if I wasn’t happy – but I won’t”, talk about tempting fate!
As I got to the bottom, the first signs of an issue began to rear its head. The drawers had raised joints and I could not get the decoupage paper flush with them. It was a minor issue, but one which was a symptom of a much greater problem. When I elected to lay the paper vertically, I should have chosen horizontally, it would have sat much better and complimented the contours of the original design of the drawers. I could have left it and hoped that when I sliced the paper so the drawers could slide it would not be too evident; what was evident in my head though is that the paper just wasn’t laid right. It was my mistake, so it was up to me to rectify it.
Time to take it off.
Now, this was one of the biggest gambles i’ve taken on a furniture upcycling project in recent years. Removing a huge piece of decoupage paper – on camera I may add – without ripping it. Every little snag felt like a gigantic tear, every little pop as it came away was like a gunshot. This paper was seriously strong stuff, I pushed it to the raggedy edge and it held up. I was impressed, it even took some of the paint off with it! It was certainly a nerve racking experience.
Once the decoupage had dried off, I made a second attempt, this time I tackled it horizontally and it went on like a dream. I was just dying to get started with the WoodUbend mouldings on this piece.
More on that next week!