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Top Tips for Sourcing Vintage Furniture

Upcycling queen Lucy Turner gives us her expert advice on finding the best vintage pieces to upcycle.

Lucy Turner transforms second-hand furniture into bespoke works of art. Made in her Cornwall studio, she's been giving Mid-Century pieces a modern twist since 2005 with her laser-cut formica designs. Having created pieces for clients including MTV and The Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall, as well as creating a bespoke range for John Lewis, Lucy's fresh and fun take on upcycling has sparked a revolution in giving second-hand pieces a new lease of life.

How did you first get the upcycling bug?

I have been laminating furniture for almost 10 years now! I started this business because I loved the style of the midcentury furniture and recognised the quality of the craftsmanship – I couldn't bare to see these pieces being chopped up and burnt! It's hard to believe now as they are so popular again. I'm so pleased the fashion has changed and these pieces of classic design are being respected again.


Where do you go for vintage pieces to upcycle?

I need to keep that one secret, but charity shops are the best places – at least you are giving something back to society that way. Also, the prices are quite fair.

Do you go shopping with a particular piece in mind or do you just wait to see what turns up?

Sometimes I will have a particular commission, but I generally look online for that as it's much quicker. I used to go hunting for furniture and that was my favourite bit but actually things get snapped up so quickly now.

Once you've found the perfect piece, how do you decide what to do with it?

Sometimes, I will know instantly what I want to do with a piece. A design will jump out at me, or I will already have a colour palette in mind. It's strange but I can wake up and think: 'I'm going to make a sunshine and yellow piece today,' then I do! I do try and mock up designs to check whether it will work, but generally I can visualise it. If you are not very good at that, try taking a photo of the piece, printing it out, and holding colours, patterns, and wallpapers next to it.


What the best bargain or piece you've ever found?

Ooh, so many! I'm not precious about my finds. I generally price my pieces on quality and design complexity rather than the original make of the furniture. There are so many quality makers out there, and some of them are quite underground but of high quality. Don't be fooled by the top names, especially if you are going to upcycle them

And your favourite piece you've ever designed?

I LOVE PINEAPPLES! I always have, about nine years ago I made a wardrobe – black with cut out pineapples – people around me thought I was bonkers. It sold to a country house in Sussex, and I think that was probably the start of my career, it had lots of press and received lots of attention. Probably because it was so odd, but I liked it because it was so different. Now you look around and it's pineapple madness!

Lucy's top five tips for sourcing vintage pieces for upcycling:

1. Always check drawer runners; these get a lot of wear and tear, especially if the drawers have had heavy items in there.

2. Look for the overall quality, not just the shape and form.

3. Check for stability, sometimes it could just be a loose leg, but no one wants a wobbly piece of furniture.

4. Don't be fooled by a bad finish on a piece, I have discovered rosewood under old varnishes and stains before.

5. Remember to take a tape measure to check your piece will fit in your home, a full belly, and a clear head (this last one applies to life in general, not just furniture)!



Once you've sourced your vintage pieces, check out our step-by-step video guide How To Paint your Furniture, and don't forget to share your before and after pictures with us on our Facebook page!

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