A furniture flipper reveals her simple tips for how to source and upcycle furniture to sell on

This recent project made over £150 profit

The last year has seen many of us turn our hand to a spot of DIY. If your new hobby for upcycling furniture has turned into a passion, a furniture flipping expert shares her tip for turning a profit on old pieces.

Related: Upcycled furniture ideas – 17 easy to do DIY revamps and repurposing projects

After Shayna Alnwick was furloughed from her waitressing job in London, she decided to turn her love of DIY and antiques into a furniture-flipping business. Shopping locally for vintage pieces on sites such as Gumtree, Shayna created an Instagram account called The Flipped Piece. She's grown a whopping 156k following who love to see her furniture transformations and helped her turn her hobby into a full-time furniture flipping business.

Shayna can often make up to £200 profit from her second-hand furniture! This vintage writing bureau transformation is one of our favourite transformations, perfect for small home office ideas. Read on to see how Shayna did it, and her top tips for how to flip your own furniture.

Furniture flipping before and after

wooden writing desk with gumtree wood

(Image credit: The Flipped Piece)

As you can see, before Shayna started work on it, the bureau was a dark mahogany wood. 'Like with all of my furniture sourcing, I spent some time searching to find my latest piece to flip,' she says. 'I found this amazing vintage writing bureau on Gumtree in Glasgow and picked it up from a local seller on the same day. I bagged a massive bargain and paid just £25 for the piece!'

Starting the prep

wooden writing desk furniture legs

(Image credit: The Flipped Piece)

After getting the furniture home, Shayna spent some time looking at the piece to uncover its key characteristics and decide what style she was going to change it to. 'I was automatically drawn to the feet as they have such a unique claw and ball shape, which I decided would be the main feature,' she says. 'That also led to its name, Miss Hawkins, for its hawk-shaped legs and female flair.'

The next step was to remove all the hardware and give it a thorough clean using a de-greaser and sugar soap. 'I always remove any germs, grease, grime and dirt to make sure it’s in its most natural state,' says Shayna. 'I also fixed a wobbly leg with wood hardener and screws to secure it in place.'

Once Miss Hawkins was in mint condition, Shayna went straight on to the sanding, using an electric file to sand the feet and get the whole piece ready for priming. 'Because the bureau was a deep mahogany, I knew that I'd have to use a stain-blocking primer to make sure there would be no mishaps and bleed throughs into the paint,' says Shayna.

'After a few coats of primer, I went straight to the paint and used a gorgeous taupe-coloured chalk paint to coat the whole thing, inside and out.'

Adding a luxe touch

wooden cabinet with folding door

(Image credit: The Flipped Piece)

Once the piece was fully dried, Shayna highlighted key features in gold, such as the ball on each of the feet, along with some of the design details inside the drop-down desk. She also restored the original hardware by boiling it in white vinegar and scrubbing it with steel wool to buff the original shine back.

The finished piece

matt finish wooden writing desk with drawers

(Image credit: The Flipped Piece)

For the chic matt finish, a natural wax was used to seal it and protect it from future chips and dents. 'Even though I fell in love with Miss Hawkins, I put her up for sale and she sold in seconds for £180, says Shayna. 'I love selling my flipped pieces on Gumtree as it makes the selling process completely stress-free and I get to meet the new home it's going to in my local area.'  

Top tips for furniture flipping

1. When looking for pieces to upcycle, it’s best to start your search on secondhand platforms like Gumtree, to find furniture in your local area. Not only are you are saving the furniture from a landfill, but you're buying vintage gems from the local community to keep the circular economy going while saving money in the process.'

2. Start with something small to build up your confidence and learn your artistic style. Once you’ve found your flow, you can build up to bigger pieces and get experimenting.

3. Invest in the proper tools and products to ensure your flips are of good quality and have the longevity that you’re after. You’ll be so surprised what you can achieve with a good paintbrush!

4. Don’t rush the upcycling process. Take your time and allow everything you use to fully cure and dry before you move onto the next step. Patience is key to the furniture-flipping process.

5. Never be afraid to experiment with colours or design outside of your comfort zone. Some of my most favourite pieces have come from doing something outside the box and unexpected!

Related: Stacey Solomon's washing line hack means no folding or ironing – fans are calling it a game-changer

Do you have any upcycled projects you're proud of? We'd love to see what you've created.

Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at lauriedavidson.co.uk