Making Do and Mending to Create Your Own Shabby Chic Wardrobes

Published: 15th February 2011
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Making do and mending was not just an attitude, it was a way of life in the post-war years of many of our grandparents! Now, this make do and mend vibe is back with us, inspired as a positive response to making more of what we have in the face of economy issues and to help the planet by reusing and creating sustainability where there has more recently been waste and disposability.

So, when faced with the choice of purchasing a flat pack that is, on the face of it, cheap and cheerful but in reality comes from a production line with an environmental and chemical footprint that Big Foot would be proud of, or making do and mending a weary old wooden wardrobe, what can you do? Here we offer some easy steps towards helping old wardrobes evolve into shabby-chic desirables!

1) Check over the wardrobe carefully, gently testing all joints and checking all hinges and locks. Make a note of anything that needs repair or replacement. If locks or handles are to be replaced, remove these before you start any restoration.

2) Make any repairs, including re-fixing joints using wood glue, small nails or joint supports and filling in any cracks or splits with wood filler.

3) Sand the wardrobe completely, including the inside if this has had any repairs and is going to be painted. The overall finish will be much better if the wardrobe is repainted inside and out, but if funds are limited, painting the outside only will do to start with!

4) Once sanded, wipe down. Ensure that the wardrobe is dry and dust free before painting.

• Now, check the manufacturer’s information on the paint tin. Using a one-coat, primer-free paint could be cheaper, but you may get a better finish if you use a primer or two coats, depending on your desired finish:

• For basic ‘shabby’ looks, paint with primer or one coat paint. Wait until completely dry, then sand and repaint with a second coat (again, check the paint tin for advisable drying times for the paint you are using).

• For a more ‘distressed’ look, or to ensure a blend of colours with a bedroom colour scheme, make the first coat a darker coat that complements the desired colour scheme, for example, a dark blue, terracotta or burgundy red. Once this coat is dry, sand carefully to prepare for the next coat. Apply the next coat in a magnolia, cream, egg-shell or dove grey colour (again depending on décor or preference). When this coat is completely dry, sand specific areas carefully with a fine grain sandpaper, to reveal the darker paint beneath: a ‘distressed’ look!

5) Add the finishing touches by replacing handles and locks. Add paper, sticky vinyl or glue material to line shelving - for an authentic shabby look, seek out pastel floral prints such as Laura Ashley or Cath Kitson, and your new wardrobe is ready for action.

Harman Hayden is an experienced interior designer who always recommends a suitable Wardrobe for his clients. Based in London, UK.

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