Experts reveal the new way to upcycle secondhand furniture in 2023

Put down the paintbrush upcycling furniture is now all about preserving natural wood

wooden desk and chair with wooden flooring and dark grey walls
(Image credit: Future PLC/NICK SMITH)

More and more people are upcycling furniture and breathing new life into second-hand pieces. However, while in the past our first instincts might have been to reach for the furniture paint, expert predicts we'll be adopting a new upcycling method in 2023.

This new trend for upcycling furniture is all about preserving natural wood and letting its original pattern shine. 'One trend we are seeing unfold within furniture upcycling is the preservation of wood,' says Kate Usher, senior trend consultant at Trend Bible, 'while the last five years have been all about spray painting and covering up traditional wood finishes with bold or pastel colour.'

'In 2023 we’ll see more DIYers opting to strip back, sand, wax/oil and preserve the grain of second-hand furniture, really celebrating and appreciating its beauty and all of the lives it has lived.’

living room with wooden cabinet, wooden flooring, wooden stool, beige lamp and large mirror

(Image credit: Jan Baldwin)

Preserving Natural Wood 

Previously the big upcycling trend was to cover up the natural wood of the furniture and use thick coats of coloured paint to decorate the piece, hiding the natural grain of the wood. Now, upcyclers are stripping pieces of furniture back to their original wooden glory.

However, embracing the natural grain of wood does not mean your furniture needs to be dark and traditional. Keep your eyes peeled for naturally, light woods such as American Hard Maple, American White Oak and European White Beech when secondhand shopping.

However, don't give up on a dark wood desk just yet. It is also worth noting that it is surprisingly easy to lighten dark wood pieces, by removing the varnish or stain, or even safely bleaching them for a contemporary scandi look.

wooden kitchen cabinets with white countertops and stainless steel sink

(Image credit: Future PLC/JAMES FRENCH)

‘Depending on the type of wood, if you're just looking to give an item a new lease of life then oiling, wax, re-staining or polish are time efficient ways you can smarten up and protect furniture,' recommends Harriet Pringle founder of Narchie a secondhand furniture shopping platform.

However, while preserving wood might be a growing upcycling trend don't leave the paint treatment completely behind in 2022. The right pop of colour can often have transformative powers.

‘I recently spray painted some wooden drinks trays that looked really tired, the bright pop of colour and gloss finish instantly made them feel like new,' says Harriet Pringle of Narchie. 'Lacquering is also a really clever technique and works brilliantly on wooden furniture when wanting a more contemporary look.’

wooden shelving unit with cupboards, green plants and jug, next to a magazine rack

(Image credit: Future PLC/JAMES FRENCH)

The trend to preserve natural wood has grown from an increasing emphasis on reducing waste and protecting the environment. Buying secondhand furniture is a growing home decor trend that is only continuing to grow. 'On Etsy, searches for upcycled items are up 43% in the last three months, with sellers offering everything from hand-painted vintage units to dining tables made from repurposed pallets and scaffold poles,' says Dayna Isom Johnson, trend expert at Etsy.

Will you be trying the new upcycling trend?

Imani Cottrell
Content Editor

 Imani Cottrell is Ideal Home’s Content Editor, she graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from Nottingham Trent University in 2018.

She then went on to join the Royal Television Society and worked on their digital team writing about all things TV. In 2022 she joined the Ideal Home team and is getting to express her passion for all things interior design. In her spare time she loves discovering new homeware brands and travelling to new places for design inspiration.