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Upcycled bench seat with pillows and blanket, and painting above.


Bench seats are great as kitchen or dining seating options or as stand-alone furniture pieces - there are stacks of amazing, vintage or antique versions up for sale on sites like Trade Me or Facebook Marketplace. Here's how to upcycle one for your place.


1Clean and prepare your bench

Before you do anything, you'll need to remove any dirt and grime from the surface with a damp cloth – if you're restoring old, antique chairs or benches this may take some time. After this is done – and dry, you're ready to sand. We used a hand sander, but medium-grit sandpaper or a sanding block works just as well (though it may take longer). Make sure you have eye and ear protection for this, and a dust mask to protect your lungs from all the stuff you're sanding off. Also, if you're using an electric sander, make sure you sand WITH the grain of the wood, otherwise you run the risk of ruining your beautiful bench. Once this is all sanded and you've revealed the beautiful, natural timber beneath you're ready for the next step.

2It's time for an undercoat

You're ready for a stain-blocker undercoat. This is sprayed onto the surface of the bench, so make sure you have your dust mask on. The stain-block undercoat stops the stain from coming through to your top coat and will make everything look great once it's finished.

An undercoat being applied to a bench

3Now you're ready to varnish

When you have your tin of varnish – we used Monocel Waterbased Clear Wood Varnish (Satin) – you need to make sure there are no air bubbles trapped inside. Tap the tin against the bench and those air bubbles should rise to the top and escape before you use it.

Handy hint: When you are painting and varnishing something, you need to make sure you varnish first and paint second. Apply one coat of varnish, wait two hours for it to dry, and then apply the second coat, lightly sanding between each coat (a light sandpaper should do the job).

Person holding open can of white paint in hands.

4Paint the bench

Once you've got your first coat of varnish on the seat you can start to paint your first coat of paint on the sides. Like the varnish, you will have to apply two coats – wait for it to dry between each coat.

The sides of a bench seat being painted

5It's time to style!

Once your bench is all dry, you're ready to move it into your home and start styling - add some cushions or a throw for comfort. And voila! Your very own statement piece of furniture is complete!

A finished upcycled bench seat

6Keep watching

Watch the full episode and more D.I.Y. projects from Make It Yours Episode 1: Kitchen Makeover by Haus of Cruze.

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.