Paint + Discarded Sofa = Gorgeous Budget Design

Honestly, I can’t exactly remember how I ran across designer Justina Blakeney’s blog, but as soon as I saw the fabulous way she’d transformed her 600 square foot apartment, I knew I had to feature her on Beautiful.   Justina and her sister, Faith, are the fabulously creative owners of the design consulting company Compai and authors of the upcycling craft book Refashioned Bags: Upcycle Anything into High-Style Handbags.

What I love is that Justina is dedicated to upcycling and recycling as much as possible in her design.  In fact, she set herself a mere $700 budget for decorating her apartment and managed to fulfill her mission using 90% reclaimed materials.  (Now there’s a woman who knows a little something about budget decorating!!!)

There’s a lot I really love about Justina’s apartment, but what REALLY struck me was her green loveseat–this loveseat:

Justina's Green Couch (photo by Jena Cumbo)
Justina's Green Couch (photo by Jena Cumbo)

Isn’t it great?  Quirky and Anthropologie-like, right?  Easily the one piece you’d figure she bought with her $700 budget and some kind of “designer” discount, right?


She found it!

And… painted it…

Here’s the scoop–straight from Justina herself:

For readers who are not familiar with your company or blog, can you give us background on your green couch? Where’d you get it, what did it look like before and how do you determine that it would be useful in your space?

I am a designer that uses primarily recycled and discarded materials in my work. I found the green couch on my block, discarded on the sidewalk. I loved the shape quite immediately, but the fabric was off-white and kinda dirty. I knew the couch would be perfect in my space because it was the right size, and the rounded back meant I could put it almost anywhere (in a corner, or floating) and it would still look good.

What gave you the idea to literally paint the sofa? And why did you decide to paint it rather than tackle reupholstering it?

Sofa Painting in Progress
Sofa Painting in Progress

I have tackled some pretty challenging reupholstering projects in my time. I actually love reupholstering, and in many cases, think that it’s a great way to go with furniture that was discarded and begs for a new life, but this was different.

1.) There was button tufting which I have never worked with,

2.) I was on a tight budget and painting is MUCH more affordable than reupholstering

3.) Because my background began in the fashion industry, I have a lot of experience painting fabric, and I could imagine what it would be like when the project was complete.

4.) I wanted the couch to look like I dipped the whole thing in paint, in a kind of neo-Victorian

5.) The whole thing can be done in about an hour, instead of a project that could last days, or even weeks.

6.) Painted furniture can be easily repainted if color schemes change.

So what tips would you share from your experience with painting an upholstered piece of furniture? Did you run into any challenges and if so, how did you overcome them? What would you tell a person who was considering doing this themselves?

I first cleaned the couch as best I could. Then, I used semi-gloss low VOC wall paint, in two coats. It’s important to know that new surface is not soft, it feels almost like vinyl to the touch and becomes pretty child-proof for spills or stains, so certain projects are more suited to painting than others. Also, I have done this on other upholstered furniture pieces as well, and sometimes the paint cracks. It actually can look cool when it cracks too, giving it a automatic vintage feel– but be open to experimenting.

Part of the fun of working with discarded materials is that you haven’t lost too much if the project ends up as more of a learning experience than a work of design. Be experimental, have fun, and think outside the box.


Doesn’t that make you wanna go out and paint some upholstered furniture?  Be sure to visit Justina and Faith’s blog to see more of their projects and for even more inspiration, visit Justina’s flickr account to see her other fun, creative upcycled projects.


3 thoughts on “Paint + Discarded Sofa = Gorgeous Budget Design

    1. snhamlett says:

      Hi Tonia!

      I’ve actually researched it a little bit since seeing Justina’s project and there is actually paint meant for this application:

      Other crafters have used regular paint and seem to have good experience with it:

  1. MIss Mustard Seed says:

    I have heard from painting upholstered furniture, but I’ve never heard how it really wears. I must say, this sofa in its new coat of lime looks really cool! Thanks for sharing it, Shauntelle. (And thanks so much for kind comment on my blog.) 🙂

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