If the 4.2 billion views under the #furnitureflip hashtag on TikTok tell me anything, it’s that folks are really into furniture makeovers. And it’s easy to understand why. Not only is there the satisfaction of watching a good transformation come together in mere seconds, there’s the ability to see just what it takes to upcycle something that’s outdated or undesirable into something that’s modern and fashionable.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be an experienced flipper to attempt a furniture makeover of your own. If you’ve ever felt inspired by these online showcases only to be discouraged by a lack of equipment or know-how, I’ve got you covered with three beginner-level projects that the most novice DIYer can accomplish. The best part? You don’t even need power tools to do them.
In fact, all you need are a few basic items, most of which you likely already have or can snag online, and a successful hunt for furniture that has good trash-to-treasure potential. Look for items that are structurally sound and on a smaller scale, like side tables, chairs, dressers, nightstands, coffee tables, benches, and stools.
Once you’ve found your diamond in the rough, scroll forth for three ideas on how you can give it a makeover with absolutely zero experience and no power tools. Be sure to click the link for each tutorial to get the full instructions and step-by-step photos.
All it took to freshen up the distressed finish on this previously painted end table was one coat of chalky finish paint in an olive green hue. Perhaps one of the greatest virtues of chalky finish paint is that virtually no prep work is required — you can skip the sanding and priming, and get right to the painting. It’s also a very forgiving paint choice for a newbie, since leaving visible brush strokes on the furniture is part of its charm. I also leaned into the table’s Queen Anne style (which often features cabriole legs and carved embellishments) by gluing a shell appliqué onto the front apron. It’s a tiny detail, but adds just the right touch of Old World flair.
The plain color and style of this dresser served as the ultimate blank canvas for a makeover. All it took to perk it up with personality was some peel-and-stick wallpaper cut to size and applied to the drawer fronts. I went with an art-deco style, which features swans with fanned-out wings, but the sky’s the limit in terms of the various colors and patterns available. Peel-and-stick wallpaper (as opposed to regular wallpaper) is a smart choice for beginners, because if you mess up while applying it, you can simply peel it up and start again — and if you ever get tired of the pattern and want to change things up, it’s easy to remove.
With a wrought-iron base and rattan back, this chair already had major style points. But the wooden seat was a little worse for wear and not very comfortable. To up its cozy factor, I added foam padding and upholstered the seat with a faux sheepskin fabric. No need to run for the hills upon hearing the word “upholstery,” either. This is a simple job that uses a manual staple gun. If you’ve ever used an office stapler, you can totally handle this.
Key to this makeover is chalky finish paint, which has a thick texture that clings to almost any surface. When dry, it can either be left as a solid color or lightly buffed with sandpaper at corners and edges to create an antiqued look.
Chalky paint’s signature matte finish is super effective at hiding any imperfections — making this a great makeover even for pieces that have seen better days. Here’s what else you’ll need to pull off this project.
Place a drop cloth underneath the table to protect the floor. Use a damp rag to wipe the table thoroughly to remove any dust or oil from the surface and legs. This will ensure better paint adhesion. If the table is particularly grimy, you may need to use a surface cleaner made for degreasing. Let the table dry completely.
Find the center of the table’s front apron using a tape measure, and glue the shell appliqué to the center. You may need to hold the appliqué in place for a few minutes until the glue gets tacky enough to hold it on its own. Allow the glue to dry for at least an hour. Tip: If your table has any drawer hardware (mine didn’t), go ahead and remove that first.
Stir the paint to ensure the pigment is evenly distributed, and apply an even coat onto the entire table. Since chalky finish paint tends to be on the thick side, use it sparingly when painting the shell appliqué to avoid globbing it inside the delicate grooves. Though there are special brushes specifically sold for chalky finish paint, I’ve always used a regular 2-inch paintbrush with good results. If, however, your goal is to achieve as smooth a surface as possible without visible brush strokes, you might consider using a high-density foam roller instead. One coat provided full coverage, but if you need a second coat, go ahead and apply that once the first coat has dried (about 20 to 30 minutes—it dries fast).
Let the paint dry completely, and then apply a clear topcoat to protect the paint from any future scuffs or scratches (unless, of course, you want a distressed look — then, by all means, strategically sand the corners and edges to create more of an antique look). I opted to seal the paint with clear furniture wax by buffing it onto the surface in a circular motion with a cloth. You could also paint a clear water-based sealant on instead.
Then, style the table up however you like! Hint: A vase of dried flowers ups the Parisian charm even more.
A godsend for renters and indecisive home decorators alike, peel-and-stick wallpaper offers the opportunity to play with pattern — and the freedom to change it at will. But more than dressing up walls, it can also add major personality to otherwise plain furniture. From drawer fronts to headboards, and even kitchen appliances, it’s a simple and fairly economical product to install that packs a lot of style punch.
I gave this plain dresser a bold new makeover by cutting strips of peel-and-stick wallpaper to size and applying them to the drawer fronts. The whole process took less than an hour, and the transformation is pretty dramatic. Read on for the four simple steps I took to get results.
Use a tape measure to measure the length and width of the drawer fronts.
Measure and mark the dimensions of the drawer fronts on the backside of the wallpaper, and cut it out with scissors.
Peel back an inch or two of the adhesive backing on the top corner of the wallpaper, and line up the wallpaper with the top corner of the drawer. Press it in place with your hands. Don’t worry if you mess up on the first try — simply peel it up and start over.
Continue peeling off the adhesive backing as you smooth the wallpaper across the front of the drawer. To avoid air bubbles, work slowly, about an inch at a time, as you peel off the liner and smooth the wallpaper. Repeat the same process on the remaining drawers.
Now style up your fancy new dresser with your favorite accessories, and admire your beautiful handiwork!
While it was sturdy, the wooden seat on this iron-and-rattan chair I snagged at the thrift store was a little worse for wear — and not very comfortable. So, I decided to add some foam padding and upholster the seat in faux sheepskin. Not only did it make the chair cozier, it added more of a modern touch, too.
Even if you’ve never attempted an upholstery project before, upholstering a chair seat is the perfect place to start, since you don’t have to hide any staples or seams. Using a manual staple gun, you simply attach foam, batting, and fabric to the underside of the seat. In all, it’s no trickier than using an office stapler. Read on to see how it’s done.
Flip the chair over so the underside is facing up. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws that are holding the seat to the base. Set the screws aside somewhere safe.
Place the chair seat on top of the upholstery foam, trace, and cut out a piece of foam the exact same size and shape as the seat. Then use the chair seat as a guide to cut out a piece of batting and faux sheepskin fabric, except this time cut both of them two inches longer on all sides.
Lay the faux sheepskin fabric on the ground with the wrong side facing up. Put the batting on top of it, followed by the upholstery foam. Lastly, place the chair seat on top of the foam with the underside facing toward you. Pull the fabric and batting tightly up over the foam, and staple it in place around the edges of the chair seat. You’ll want to put a staple about every inch or so, but don’t staple the corners just yet.
To get a nice, crisp fold at the corners, cut diagonal slits at each corner. Pull one flap of the corner tight, and staple it in place. Then pull the remaining flap over top of the first one and staple it in place.
Trim away any excess fabric around the entire seat. Try to cut as close to the staple line as possible for a clean look. Reattach the seat to the base with the screws you set aside previously, and you’re all set to enjoy your comfy new chair!