Upcycling vintage or second-hand furniture can create a unique piece you'll cherish for many years to come. Before-and-after photos courtesy of Dale Marie Wedge (bloomingdiyer.com)

Adding an element of upcycled, vintage chic to a home’s furnishings can create a rich and inviting space with a unique design aesthetic. Plus, it’s great for the environment and easy on the pocketbook.

“It’s so rewarding to buy second-hand or to find a vintage piece that is a conversation starter, instead of purchasing just another boring coffee table from a big box store,” said Calgary-based designer, DIYer and blogger Dale Marie Wedge (bloomingdiyer.com), who specializes in breathing new life into discarded, unloved and overlooked furniture. “Not only that, but it keeps garbage out of our landfills.”

Her refinished pieces are imaginative and beautiful, providing plenty of rough, unfinished textures and a sense of stripped-back simplicity.

Whether it’s a vintage find, a family heirloom passed down over generations or a freebie found on the side of the road, Wedge suggests thinking outside the box when it comes to refinishing and repurposing.

“If you see something like a wooden bar stool, chop the legs off of it to make a cute plant stand or stepping stool for your kids, or if you see a dated dresser, consider painting it and turning it into a useful storage piece for a dining room or a TV console,” she said.

However, before you head to Value Village or pull your grandmother’s Jacobean dining table out of storage, know that reinventing vintage and second-hand furniture takes time, love, a little know-how and a fair bit of trial and error.

That said, Wedge has a few tried-and-true tips to get even the most apprehensive DIY newbie started:

  • Be prepared to take some time to find the right item, ensuring that it is in decent condition and structurally sound. Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, garage sales and thrift stores like Value Village and WINS (Women in Need Society) are great places to find vintage items at bargain prices.
  • Start small and work your way up. “The first piece I ever made was a small IKEA side table. I painted it turquoise and tried to distress it with some 60-grit sandpaper. Bad… all bad. The good thing, though, was that it was a small piece,” said Wedge.
  • Find inspiration online. Instagram and Pinterest are brimming with ideas and how-to guides.
  • Consider making your own chalk paint by adding Plaster of Paris to your favourite shade of latex paint. Mix 2 ½ tablespoons of Plaster of Paris with 1 ½ tablespoons of cold water until it is smooth and lump free, then stir the mixture into one cup of latex paint in any colour and sheen.