by Maria
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Give old furniture a new life with textured sheet metal

There’s other ways to do up old furniture than always painting them. Today I’ll show you an original ethnic-inspired (but, like, cool ethnic!) technique

Few things give me more pleasure in life than finding a jewel of a piece of furniture abandoned on the street. And when I say jewel, I don’t mean something that’s flawless, or in perfect condition. I mean like an unpolished diamond – beaten up and battered and usually dirty and full of rubbish (OK, I don’t love this last bit…), but full of possibilities.

I found this chest of drawers in the street we used to live in. Seriously, that street was a veritable mine of old furniture. I found the chair that I upholstered with coloured fabric, the boho chair, the wicker chair, the step ladder for plants there! Like I said, a proper little gold mine! If you want to see how I transformed those things, check out my gallery of furniture makeover projects.

When I came across it, this dresser was battered, dirty, with the varnish all coming away and missing a drawer. And, it was still like that when we moved!

I’ve already mentioned a couple of time that the removal guys must have thought Mick and I are a bit mental. So much of the furniture that we moved with us were in such a bad state – a rocking chair with no seat, a chest missing a drawer, the base of a wardrobe, a chair that was literally in pieces…I’d love to know what they thought!

One by one, each of these little monsters has been subjected to my experiments, and has walked away with a complete make-over. This old dresser, which fits like a glove in the hall, is the last of them.



When you decide to rescue abandoned furniture (I like to think of them like that because, like abandoned dongs, with just a little love and care, they’re transformed!), and especially when it’s old, it’s more than likely that it’s covered in, and full of, dirt and filth. It’s the least appealing part of the process, but I’m afraid there’s nothing that can be done except roll up your sleeves and give it a good ol’fashioned scrub.

The varnish on old furniture is usually a bit beaten up, as well as often being ugly and making it look old fashioned. So, you need to decide at this point what you’re going to do – leave the wood showing, or paint it a different colour.

In this case, I wanted to keep the wood (in reality, it’s not solid wood at all, but laminate) so I stripped it using a chemical varnish remover and sanded it down. This is what the little creature looked like:

This is the bit I like the most. Everything’s bare and sanded down with no sign of the previous yuckiness and uglyness. From here, it’s real beauty can start to shine!

I wanted to make the grain of the wood stand out so I applied a gloss varnish. In all honesty, I regret that a bit as I now thing that maybe a matte varnish would’ve given more focus to the brass sheet metal, but, hey…it’s not bad.

My initial idea was to get rid of the drawer that was left and leave the top part open, but then I felt that the look of the two drawers was too nice so I built a new drawer as best I could, copying the old one.

Making the cuts for the shape of the drawer front was not easy at all. I’d say that only a cabinet-maker really knows what they’re doing here, so my ‘copy’ (note the punctuation!) isn’t perfect in the slightest, but, covered with brass sheet, it does the trick.



You can get brass sheet in any arts and crafts shop. Using it is pretty straightforward because, being so thin, it cuts easily. That said, please wear gloves when cutting it. I ended up with my hands covered in a thousand cuts. How? Because I didn’t use gloves! So, the moral of the story is…wear gloves!

First thing I did was mark the shape of the drawers on the brass sheet with a cutter and then cut them out with a ruler and the cutter.

I was going to leave the brass sheet smooth, but it turns out that the sheets are so soft that you only have to look at them and they’re marked for life. So, I decided to embrace this and create a texture with a table mat. Yes, that’s right. A table matt that’s a bit like bubble wrap and so left an interesting texture when you hit it against the bass sheet with a hammer.

It’s important to take it easy and be a bit methodical here. Put the table mat, or whatever you can find that’ll leave an interesting texture) on top of the surface you’re going to create the texture on and start hitting in one corner. Slowly work your way along and out, making sure you don’t miss a bit. Don’t lift the table mat up until you’ve finished.

Warning: you’ve got to hit it quite hard, so this isn’t something you should do at 11pm while watching TV with your long-suffering boyfriend!

To stick the brass sheet, cover well with a strong glue and stick it down, applying pressure, at first with your hands, and then by putting some books or something on top.

To top off the drawers, I put a fine strip of brass on, but I’m not going to explain this because it was pretty painstaking to do, and very specific to this chest of drawers.

Here’s Peggy photobombing my lovely set. I have no idea where she learnt to be so unrefined…



In the end, the chest of drawers is kind of halfway between being ethnic (looks like the classic embossed metal) and mid-century. It might not be for everyone, but I love it.

You can use this technique on the surface of a side table, on the sides of a dresser, or even to cover the feet. Wherever you do use it, though, I’d recommend it’s not somewhere where it’ll get brushed against all the time.

In case you haven’t heard, I’m actually in the middle of a hall makeover, and this is the last piece of the jigsaw! Next week I’ll show you the whole picture – as always, I’m a bit nervous about this bit!!

Anyway, how do you think this poor little chest of drawers has turned out?

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