10 of the best paint colours for furniture upcycling projects

Paint swatches

Upcyclist features designers and artists who have mastered the craft of transforming furniture or indeed making it from reclaimed materials. Hopefully their work offers some inspiration to budding furniture upcycling enthusiasts too. So if you’re interested in trying a furniture makeover yourself, where do you start?

Painting furniture is something anyone can do. But it pays to be selective about what we chose to upcycle and what to simply restore. Some vintage pieces will be most desirable left in their natural wood state. So the best candidates for furniture upcycling are those gloomy low value pieces that are seemingly destined for the tip.

Speak to a furniture restoration expert before painting onto ornate vintage furniture. You may want to find out how easily it can be stripped back to its original state once painted. It may also be worth getting an expert to carry out the work for you.

Sanded down kitchen chair

When it comes to choosing colours, it’s totally subjective of course. Trends shift and evolve. If your upcycled chair is going in your own home and you like the finished result, that’s all that matters. The world would be a very boring place if we all had the same taste. There is now a vast range of paint colours on offer for different surfaces, so you can paint furniture, walls and other elements the same colour and tie a room together.

There aren’t just environmental benefits to salvaging a tired piece of furniture and keeping it in use for longer. The very process of repainting furniture – or even just revarnishing, is a mindful and meditative activity. We should all have a go at it.

Here are a few paint colours that caught my eye and will hopefully offer some ideas for your upcoming furniture upcycling projects.

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Tilton + Country Grey, Chalk Paint

Annie Sloan

Tilton and Country Grey Annie Sloan paint for furniture upcycling

Annie Sloan can only be described as the queen of chalk paint. Starting her business in 1990, her unique chalk paint recipe has evolved over the years and can be applied to wood, glass, metal, brick and laminate. This wardrobe was upcycled by Henry Shinner of Surrey-based Priory Antiques in a bold mustard yellow created with two shades – Tilton and Country Grey. £21.95 for a 1 litre pot from Designerpaint*.

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Carmine 189, Intelligent Satinwood Paint

Little Greene

Carmine 189 paint by Little Greene used for furniture upcycling

This chair has been painted in Carmine by Little Greene, an eye-catching bright but elegant pink. The chair is set against a backdrop of Hollyhock 25 and Hellebore 275 with the floor painted Royal Navy 257. Intelligent Satinwood is a water based paint finish with VOC content virtually zero. £37 for a 1 litre tin, available from Designerpaint*

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Teresa’s Green No.236, Modern Eggshell paint

Farrow and Ball

Love one colour? Use it everywhere! Create a saturated colour effect by painting walls, cupboards and chairs in the same shade. Estate Eggshell or Modern Eggshell ranges by Farrow and Ball* can be used on indoor wooden furniture. Modern and Estate ranges are certified child and baby safe in accordance with Toy Safety Standards and therefore suitable for nursery furniture. Teresa’s Green is a shade of aqua and starts at £28 for a 0.75L tin.

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Rebel, Easyclean Matt paint

Crown

Draw the eye to a focal point by choosing a dark colour for a sideboard, dresser or side table. Here you might choose to display artworks, vases, plants and personal items on top. This is Rebel by Crown – £25 for a 2.5L tin.

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French Grey Dark 163, Intelligent Satinwood paint

Little Greene

Drawers and door repainted in French Grey Dark 163 paint in Intelligent Satinwood

Here a soft calming palette lends to a restful bedroom, with both the bedside chest of drawers and door painted in matching French Grey Dark 163. Paired with Nether Red 315 Absolute Matt Emulsion, these are nice modern colour choices for a room that features period detailing and creates a cocooning boutique hotel effect. French Grey Dark is £37 for a 1 Litre tin.

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Peach Baby, Eco Chic clay based paint

Earthborn

The toxicity of paint will be of most concern when it’s coming into contact with children. Earthborn’s Eco Chic clay based paint range is designed especially for furniture. It carries the Safety of Toys Standard (EN71-3:2019) making it safe for children’s furniture and toys. Peach Baby is available from Earthborn.

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Pleat 280, Intelligent Satinwood paint

Little Greene

Little Greene Intelligent Satinwood paint in Pleat 280 for furniture upcycling

Create a pop of colour inside your shelving with a contrasting shade. This shoe storage unit is painted in Little Greene’s* Pleat 280 with Heat 24 Intelligent Satinwood (£37 for a 1 Litre tin) used for the interior. Intelligent ASP primer was also used.

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Wimborne White, Estate Eggshell paint

Farrow and Ball

Table upcycled with white Estate eggshell paint by Farrow and Ball

It might be the safe option, but nothing freshens up tired furniture like a coat of white paint. Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White* is an off-white which here sits nicely against the cool grey tones of the walls and skirting behind. £28 for a 0.75L tin.

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Evening Blue, Kitchen Cupboard paint

Rust-oleum

A softer alternative to black is a very dark blue or green. Pictured is Washable Matt Kitchen Cupboard paint and Chalky Finish wall paint in Evening Blue – described as ‘a deep black-blue with hints of teal’. £22.99 for 0.75L tin from Lions Home.

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Greek Blue, Chalk Paint

ANNIE Sloan

Greek Blue chalk paint by Annie Sloan for simple furniture upcycling

And finally, a serene paint colour by Annie Sloan, inspired by the shade of blue found on doors and shutters of Mediterranean homes. £21.95 for a 1 litre pot.

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On the subject of sprucing up furniture, be sure to check out our interview with Dawn Crabtree on how to hire an upholsterer as well as 17 furniture upholstery specialists in London

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Photo credits as captioned. First image – Brett Jordan. Second image – Anne Nygård.

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Author: Antonia Edwards

Antonia is the founding editor of Upcyclist. Based in the UK, she is the author of two books: 'Upcyclist: Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors' (Prestel 2015) and 'Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes' (Prestel 2017).