Wood Embellishment

Even the most minimal of design schemes includes a piece of wooden furniture. The variety of design possibilities and the practicality and indispensability of chairs, tables and doors mean that spending time, money and energy on them is very worthwhile. Junk-shop finds, sometimes bought for next to nothing, can become individual masterpieces of your own devising, giving your home a wonderful sense of personality and your own style.

Paint effects

A lick of paint is the quickest way to transform a piece of wooden furniture from a derelict shell to an object of baroque opulence or nonchalant charm. While painting, you can opt either for a decorative pattern or for a complete, all-over paint effect such as marbling. Sometimes, as in the case of the garden chair, rather than making something that is already old look as good as new, you want a new piece to have a more weathered appearance. There is a particular charm in garden furniture that looks as though it has stood in its place for many years.

Using a dustcover as a throw is a simple and effective way of giving a new lease on life to an old chair. The large buttons are a neat finishing touch.

Modern technology means that the colour range available today is virtually unlimited, so painting allows you unrivalled opportunities for playing with colour. When selecting your colours, remember that complementary colours (red and green, violet and yellow) used together have tremendous impact. For the most subtle effects, use different shades of the same colour. If new to painting, you can buy kits for different paint techniques from good paint or craft shops.

Fabric effects for chairs

There is generally a distinction drawn between fabrics that are intended for upholstery and those that are destined for the world of high fashion and the couture house. However, there is no reason why you can’t use fabrics for something different from their original purpose, and there are many fashion fabrics that will give a magical richness to any upholstery. For example, stunning effect can he created by using velvet instead of a dust cover for a buttoned chair. Wrap a chair in a large velvet tablecloth and then add buttons in the same or a contrasting colour. You can fold scraps of fabric over self-covering buttons and attach them to the back. With this in mind, always keep your eyes peeled for large pieces of material, such as old curtains that are no longer being used for their original purpose, because they can always be used as a chair throw. Second-hand shops are good hunting grounds for bargains and ideas.

To keep things simple, avoid using fussy buttonholes or zips on your covers, tic fastenings can look far more stylish as well as being extremely practical. Glue guns and staple guns are invaluable, as they give quick results. If you are at all nervous about sewing or do not have a sewing machine, take full advantage of both these and the many non-fraying fabrics available that do not need hemming.

Few things areas immediately effective as gold, and these gold tassels add a touch of luxury to everyday chairs. This table has been decorated with a stamped Egyptian motif, transforming it from the ordinary to something quite fun and individual.

Instant embellishments

Great effects can often be achieved by simple techniques. It’s worth attempting an easy, very fun look on a spare piece of furniture, which can then be a lasting centrepiece in a dull corner of the hall, cloakroom or bathroom. Here are some ideas, though don’t be afraid to experiment:

• Colourwash the doors of kitchen units and stamp a simple floral pattern around the edges.

• Stamp classic Egyptian figures around a freshly antiqued table top.

• Tassels are available in a wide range of colours, sizes and materials, from bright pink plastic and simple muslin to luxurious-looking soft silken yarns. On a wooden chair, hang them from the hack struts, or for a soft armchair, sew them on to the front of the arms.

• Matching trimmings and braids are a quick and simple way of drawing attention away from worn patches in chairs and for covering blemishes.

• Go to craft stores and garden centres for more unusual materials to fire your imagination: rope, garden twine, raffia, even chains and electrician’s wire could all he used.

• Use water-gilding techniques to add gold and silver to furniture.

• Glue flat pearly buttons in a straight line up the back struts and around the seat edge. This looks particularly effective on a dark wooden chair.


1. Sand or strip the chair, then apply a coat of white emulsion (latex). Mix a thin wash of about five parts water to one part yellow-ochre emulsion. Use a dry brush to drag a little glaze at a time in the direction of the grain. Keep drying the brush as you work, to ensure you do not apply too much glaze.

2. Spread some light grey paint on to a plate and run a roller through it until it is evenly coated. Ink the starfish stamp and print around the edge of the chair seat so that the design overlaps on to the sides.

3. Fill in the seat area with starfish stamps, rotating the stamp to a different angle after each print. Space the stamps quite close together to make a dense pattern. Leave to dry before applying a coat of varnish to protect the surface.


1. Apply a coat of shellac to seal the hardwood. When dry, paint the dresser dusky blue emulsion (latex), following the direction of the grain. Allow to dry.

2. If desired, rub candle wax along the edges of the dresser before painting with a second colour. The wax will prevent this coat from adhering completely, and will create a distressed effect. Add the second colour, if using.

3. Paint the hacking hoards cream, again following the direction of the grain. When dried, use medium-grade sandpaper and wire (steel) wool to rub down to bare wood along the edges, to simulate wear and tear. Finally, apply a coat of antique pine varnish to the whole dresser to protect the surface.


1. Sand the door and then paint with a coat of blue emulsion (latex). Leave to dry. Mix tour parts blue emulsion to one part wall tiller. Paint on to the door, working on one small section at a time. While still wet, comb in lines using a rubber comb and following the grain. Leave to dry.

2. Paint the door with a thin coat of lime green emulsion, applying in the same direction as the combing. Leave to dry and then sand, revealing lines of blue paint beneath the lime green coat. Seal with two coats of acrylic varnish to protect the surface.


1. Prepare a large wooden tray by painting it with corn yellow emulsion (latex). When dry, gently rub the surface with fine-grade sandpaper.

2. Carefully cut out your paper shapes. Turn them over and paste the hacks with wallpaper paste, right up to all the edges and then glue them in position on the tray. Use a soft cloth to smooth out any bubbles and leave to dry overnight.

3. Apply a sparing coat of clear satin varnish to the whole surface of the tray. When dry, rub lightly with fine-grade sandpaper and repeat this process as many times as possible.

4. For the crackle glaze, first apply the base varnish on to the tray. Leave to dry (about 20 minutes). Then apply an even coat of the crackle glaze and again leave to dry for 20 minutes. Rub a small amount of artist’s oil paint into the cracks, using cotton cloth. Raw umber was used here, which gives a naturally aged effect, but any colour can be used.

5. When the cracks have been coloured, gently rub the excess paint from the surface, using a soft cloth. Finally, give the tray at least two inure coats of clear satin varnish, though more are desirable as these will give it a better finish.

A good tray will be strong enough to carry mugs and plates, and handsome enough to hang up as a decoration when not in use. This one has been decoupaged with a selection of old engraving tools, but you could follow the method using any design you choose