DIY... Decoupage

DIY (Do It Yourself) projects have been all the rage for years now! 

I chose this picture because I know you can do it! You can make that ugly piece of furniture look amazing... just roll up your sleeves, get creative and put in the elbow grease to make it happen!

I chose this picture because I know you can do it! You can make that ugly piece of furniture look amazing... just roll up your sleeves, get creative and put in the elbow grease to make it happen!


DIY is so popular because people want to work on projects themselves, (instead of buying a new piece or hiring a professional), in the hopes of making their interiors look beautiful at a fraction of the cost.  There are so, soooo many kinds of DIY projects out there.  Just check out Pinterest and you’ll be overwhelmed by the crazy things you never thought you could do, but now…“in just five easy steps and $5 you can do it too!!”  The list is endless and so are the possibilities.

I’ve always loved DIY projects, mainly because I live in New York City which is very expensive.  Sometimes your budget doesn’t always match your wants and desires, especially when it comes to making your home look as fabulous in reality as it does in your wildest dreams.  Through the process of DIY, you can make things that are ordinary or down right unsightly transform into something that looks great in your home and is unique because you put your own stamp on it. 

I’ve decided to share some of my own DIY projects with you because I love doing them and hopefully you will get some great ideas from seeing items I’ve transformed while decorating.  Today the DIY project will be on the art of decoupage.  Deco-who?...some of you may be saying, it’s decoupage (day-koo-paj) and let me give you the formal definition…  The art or technique of decorating something with cut-outs of paper, linoleum, plastic, or other flat material over which varnish or lacquer is applied.  I’ve personally only used paper to decoupage so that will be my focus for today.

Almost anything with a hard surface can be decoupaged.  I personally love this process on furniture, specifically inexpensive looking furniture, because it can completely transform a piece. Let’s start off with a "before" picture so you can see how the item looked before I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

This piece is from Ikea and is meant for holding shoes.  I love it because it's so narrow with a depth of only a little more than 6.5 inches!  

This piece is from Ikea and is meant for holding shoes.  I love it because it's so narrow with a depth of only a little more than 6.5 inches!  


This piece is great for a smaller sized apartment because it can fit into almost any entryway or hallway perfectly!  When I bought this I knew the color didn't go with anything I had in my home but through the magic of decoupage I could make it look the way I needed it to in order to blend into the style and decor of its surroundings.  

Here's what you will need to get started. 

You will need  glue  - any regular white glue will work.   Water  - because you will mix it with the glue using equal parts. (i.e. one cup water + one cup glue)   Paint brush ,  polyurethane (clear semi-gloss)  to protect and seal it all once you're finished.   Paper  - You can use decorative paper if you like but I always use regular brown paper bags because I know I will be painting over it afterwards. 

You will need glue - any regular white glue will work.  Water - because you will mix it with the glue using equal parts. (i.e. one cup water + one cup glue)  Paint brush, polyurethane (clear semi-gloss) to protect and seal it all once you're finished.  Paper - You can use decorative paper if you like but I always use regular brown paper bags because I know I will be painting over it afterwards. 


I'm going to show the "after" pictures next as well as explain how I did things and why.

       Left:   Photo A                                                                                                 Right:  Photo B

      Left:  Photo A                                                                                                Right: Photo B

      Left:   Photo C                                                                                            Right:   Photo D

     Left:  Photo C                                                                                           Right:  Photo D


I decoupaged this piece over ten years ago so at least you know it lasts.  This look works much better with the decor of the apartment because it is now a darker brown with a worn, distressed look.  It has the look and texture of leather with the lines created by the overlapping pieces of paper, as well as the dry brush paint effect I did with brown paint after the glue dried.  Let me explain how to decoupage step by step.

Step One -  After you gather all the necessary items listed above (glue, paper, water, paint brush, polyurethane) rip the paper bags into jagged pieces.  See picture below. 

Step Two -  Mix the water and glue together.  It's pretty safe to start off with half a cup of glue and half a cup of water.  The amount you'll ultimately need depends on the size of the furniture.

Step Three -  Use your paint brush to start painting the glue mixture onto the furniture. (Only one small part at a time, don't cover the whole thing with glue all at once.)  This can get messy so have a rag near by.  Once the glue is on the furniture, place the torn pieces of paper on top and smooth it out as flat as you can.  It's totally up to you how you want to place it.  I usually make sure my pieces are always overlapping because I like that textured look.  See the "after" close up (photos C and D) above to examine the overlapping pieces of paper. 

Step Four -  As you are gluing down the paper, brush glue on top of the paper as well so each piece can stick to the other as you are working.  So once again, place the glue directly onto the furniture, then smooth out the paper on top, then cover that paper with another layer of glue. Continue that process the whole way through until your entire piece of furniture is decoupaged.  

***Let the glue dry for 24 hours and clean your paint brush because you will need it again tomorrow to apply the paint.***

Step Five (Optional) -  I used a brown paint color to distress the look of the decoupaged piece.  First, lightly dip a clean paint brush into the paint color of your choice.  Next, remove excess paint from the brush with the rag.  You want to just slightly brush X strokes onto the paper.  As you can see in the picture above (photo B) I did a practice run on the side of the furniture first.  My hand was a bit heavy here with the paint which is why you see the harsh X strokes. I got the hang of it once I made my way to the front because as you can see in (photos A, C and D) the strokes were much lighter and natural looking.  You could even use the rag to rub the paint in after you make your strokes just to help it all blend a bit better.  Clean your brush again because tomorrow, after the paint dries, you will need to apply the polyurethane to seal it all up.

Step Six -  Once the paint is dry apply the clear polyurethane.


Here's another piece of furniture I decoupaged a few years ago.

Obviously this is a "before" photo.  This is a typical metal storage cabinet that most people keep in their garage.  I bought it because the last building I lived in had a storage room so I kept some extra items in it.

Obviously this is a "before" photo.  This is a typical metal storage cabinet that most people keep in their garage.  I bought it because the last building I lived in had a storage room so I kept some extra items in it.


About a year after purchasing the metal cabinet I moved to another building.  I didn't want to leave it but I also didn't want my new apartment looking like a garage or storage unit. So, I decided to decoupage it!  Here are the results...

Left:   Peek-a-boo pic into the dining area where the storage cabinet now resides.   Right:   The cabinet beautifully blends into the rest of the decor and adds structure and storage to the dining area (as opposed to making it look like a garage).  

Left:  Peek-a-boo pic into the dining area where the storage cabinet now resides.  Right:  The cabinet beautifully blends into the rest of the decor and adds structure and storage to the dining area (as opposed to making it look like a garage).  

Close up:   By decoupaging this cabinet I added a layer of texture, and by painting over the paper I created a slightly distressed look that adds character to this now unique piece.

Close up:  By decoupaging this cabinet I added a layer of texture, and by painting over the paper I created a slightly distressed look that adds character to this now unique piece.


So now that you've seen how the art of decoupage can transform below average furniture into pieces that add texture and character to your room...Go Wild!  Like I said before the possibilities are endless.  And remember, you don't have to use only paper bags, (I did that because I knew I was going to paint over it to add a distressed look), you can use any kind of decorative paper out there. Make overs are always fun!  Isn't it time to transform that tired piece of furniture into something that looks fresh and feels brand new? 

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