Decor Hint is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission - at no extra cost to you. Learn more here.
Upcycling old items can transform something ordinary into something that will perfectly suit your style and space. Find out more here.
I think we can all relate to finding those old decor items stashed in our closets, in our attics or hidden away in the garage somewhere.
You may even have decor pieces that are mementos or passed down through the family. But for whatever reason, they just don’t work with your current decor.
I recently found myself in this same boat.
I sat there staring at two ceramic elephants that were given to me when my grandmother passed away. One is brown (and with a broken nose, poor thing) and the other one is black. Not exactly the color scheme I have going on at home right now
But they are special to me. That’s why I never got rid of them. They remind me of her. She always had ceramic elephants around her home.
“They’re for luck”, she once told me, “You put them inside your home, with the trunk facing the door, and you’ll always have luck.” I didn’t realize it at the time but this is a belief that has a long history to it. Have you guys ever heard of this superstition?
Although I never got rid of them, I just had them sitting upstairs with a pile of other stuff that has no home yet.
So it finally dawned on me to try and upcycle them so they do work.
I knew I wanted them glossy and I knew I wanted them white. I was inspired by Jonathan Adlers elephant but certainly not the $150+ price tag that came along with it.
So I picked up a can of this Rust-Oleum Gloss Protective Enamel Paint and got to work.
Upcycling old Items
First things first. Clean and dry your pieces carefully. I used a bit of gorilla glue to fix my little elephant’s broken nose. He’s all better now!
Now, let’s get to spray paint.
Some spray paints call for lightly sanding your pieces first. I didn’t do this though and my elephants seem to be fine.
Hint: You will have to be aware of the possibility of releasing lead paint dust if you sand your old objects. Please use proper precautions as lead is toxic!
I don’t like to spray paint in the house because of the fumes. Luckily it’s been beautiful weather here. I set up a little paint station by cutting open two paper bags and laying them in the grass.
Hint: You can also spray paint your object inside a large cardboard box. Dust is the enemy when spray painting, so the box helps shield your item a bit and contains the mess.
Spray Painting Tips
Here’s a few tips for spray painting with Rust-Oleum:
- Shake your can vigorously before you use it. Obvi. Shake it often during painting. Not just once and done.
- Use many light coats instead of one or two heavier coats. Light coats are key! When you spray too much at once it will drip and the paint can crack as it dries. It looks like crackle.
- Spray your objects at a distance with an even motion, slightly overlapping each time.
- Spray in different directions. With something like these elephants, spraying in different directions will ensure you get every nook and cranny.
- Apply second and third coats a few minutes apart (see #6).
- Read the directions on your paint. It’s easy to just go forth and paint without reading first. This is especially important for finding out when to apply the second coat. You don’t want to miss your window. Certain paints have different timelines.
- With the paint I used, it dries to touch in 2-4 hrs, to handle in 5-9 hours and fully cures in 24 hrs.
Since my elephants have an underside, I had to wait for them to be fully dry before I could flip them over to paint their undersides.
And I can tell you I am so pleased with how they turned out!
This makes me very happy not only because I have two new decor items, but also because I am finally able to display something that meant so much to me.
I have one sitting on our entry table now. Facing the door per my late grandmother’s instructions.
The other one I gave to my daughter to display on her dresser. She was lucky enough to meet her great-grandma when she was very little.
Some of you might think it’s wrong to paint over a family treasure like this and they should be displayed as is. I think it depends on your family and the item in question. You know your family best.
My family would not mind that I did this. And I think my grandmother would very pleased that I was able to salvage her elephants this way, as she was very into crafts herself. She was an amazing seamstress actually. My sister got her sewing machine! (Lucky her!)
I also was given an old vase of my grandmother’s (that’s the first picture you see in this post). It was fine as is, but it had a few old sticker remnants on it that I never really worked to remove.
Goo Gone is my tried and true solution for removing any kind of sticker or residue or GOO! All it took was a bit of goo gone, some soapy hot water and a bit of elbow grease to get it shiny and new again. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
So, please give those old decor items or thrift store finds a second chance! You will be amazed at what upcycling old items can do!
Thank you for visiting today!
---> Check out more DIY projects right here! <---