Tara Dennis creates a DIY project for Sydney Observer that shows how to turn trash into treasure

There’s probably at tonne of stuff at your place that gets overlooked, or thrown out, simply because you don’t like the colour or design. Vases, ornaments, lamps – and even frames – all can be given new life simply with a can of spray paint. Fabulous new accessories for your home needn’t cost the earth – I’m all about working with what you already have.

Objects to look for:

Shape is important; ignore the existing colour or pattern of the item. Re-working useful objects such as tins, vases, baskets and containers means you gain practical, good looking storage: something we could all use more of! Spray paint will stick to most surfaces including glass, ceramic, tin, wood, wicker and even plastic.

Preparing the objects:

Make sure the items are really clean and dry. For tins, check there is not water residue around the lid after washing. Good quality spray paints stick well, but if your piece will get everyday use, it certainly won’t hurt to use a coat of spray primer beforehand.


Check the paint label carefully before you buy, just to make sure it’s appropriate for what you’re spraying. Always spray outside or in a well-ventilated area. To save over spray, I like to cut down a cardboard box to create a small spray booth. A drop cloth or old newspaper also saves mess. Hold the can away a short distance as you spray. Too close and you’ll get a heavy build up which causes drips. A few lighter coats are better than a heavy coat [and] the paint will dry faster too. With most spray enamels no varnishing is required so once things are dry, usually overnight, they’re ready to go.

Carry a colour:

Choose a paint colour that will coordinate with other accessories in your room, otherwise start a fresh new theme and build on the look with accents like cushions, throws, lamps and art in similar tones. By carrying a colour throughout the space you’ll get maximum impact for your effort.

Tara’s DIY tips

Re-use what you can, when you can. Old furniture doesn’t have to be thrown out or overlooked just because you don’t like the colour or style, paint can do wonders. If it’s furniture you’re after, try online sites such as Gumtree or EBay for second hand finds, they often have a free section too which is enormously fun and a great way to share the love. Second hand and salvage yards are worth visiting for unique items, scrap timber, doors and windows. They will also accept donations gladly which can relieve you of things you no longer need.

Get handy too. With a basic sewing machine you can pick up fabric remnants at bargain prices to make up cushions, blinds and lampshades. Existing curtains can be modified and sheets and towels can be dyed in fun colours for a facelift.

Group objects from around your home and use colour to transform them (just like I’ve done here with gold). It’s a great way to get new life from what you already own.

Paint miss-tints are also worth looking out for at the paint counter, you can’t be choosy about the colours, but if you’re open minded you can save some pennies along the way.