Refurbishing kids furniture

In the House of Ralph, there’s a rule. Ask my kids “What’s the most important thing in the house”?  and they will answer back like little robots: “It’s the people mum, not the things”. I want the kids to grow up with a healthy respect for home decor, but I never want to live in a house where people feel uncomfortable because everything is too perfect.

Life with (and indeed without) kids is messy. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not worth stressing about your stuff. Things will get faded, ripped, dinged, watermarked and lost. This post is all about how to refurb your beloved furniture when it does need a bit of a refresh.

Things that kids use literally everyday are bound to take some hard knocks. The best kids furniture we’ve ever purchased was the Hudson set by Mocka. We purchased this over 6 years ago, but they still sell it for $149.95. You can get chairs too if your littles can’t yet be trusted on stools. Actually, if you haven’t already – check Mocka out. Their range is fantastic.



I even use the stools daily to reach into our supremely inconvenient upper kitchen cupboards. They’re carried around the house for essential things like hut-making or wardrobe destruction, and are dragged outside too (trampoline step/leaning over the fence trying to catch butterflies step, helping mum clean the windows step etc). My point is, these puppies are SUPER hard-wearing. But as hard-wearing as they are, they still have dings and varnish rubbing from over-use/love. Here’s how they looked before I got started (after six+ years of constant daily use, including the odd occasion of being left outside overnight. sigh).

House of Ralph DIY Kids furniture BEFORE

And here’s how I gave them a new lease of life.

Clean them

No matter how clean you think they are, you’ll find kid grossness – guaranteed. I recommend a decent wash-down with either  good ol’ JIF or Sugarsoap. Never fails to remove grime. All my most successful painting projects have been the ones where I’ve done this proper prep. It just means the surface is the best it can be. Like primer for make-up. Make sure you let the surface completely dry after cleaning it though.

House of Ralph Kids furniture DIY CLEAN

Apply Filler

This fills out any dings or cracks in the varnish so you get a good as new finish. My preferred brand is Patchfilla from Mitre10 Mega. It’s really pliable, easy to use, affordable and made in NZ. In the shot below it looks like I filled in the top edges of the stool, but I didn’t that’s just dust from sanding back the filler (see next step).

House of Ralph Kids Furniture DIY  FILLED AND SANDED


Coarser grit first, followed by a finer grit. Am I speaking another language? Basically you are sanding away any rough bits first, then doing a final sand for a more perfect(ish) finish. Sandpaper comes with a number on the back of it. The lower the number, the rougher the paper is. You start off with a coarse grit (low number) and finish off with a fine grit (high number). Here I went with a 60 first and then a 240 between coats. For everything you ever needed to know about sandpaper, read this OR just ask the friendly staff at your hardware shop. They love to help.

Apply 3 x coats of your chosen colour

Yep – 3. Trust me, it gives a lovely finish and adds to the toughness. The extreme close-up below is after the first coat. You can see that even after a filler and a sand that there are still grain edges showing through? (told you they were well loved).  Just give the tops a light sand in between each coat of paint for an excellent final finish. I chose Kowhai Park (yellow) and Keneperu (blue), both from Dulux. Before you do any painting, make sure you apply a layer of painter’s tape on the edge of the top of the stool. This gives you a nice crisp and professional line.

House of Ralph DIY Kids Furniture FIRST COAT

Select your design

Choose a design to be inspired from. Your source could be anywhere: Pinterest land, books, wrapping paper, even stickers. Herringbone is one of my favourite patterns so that was an easy inspo for me. The lion came from a kid’s plate we purchased from ikoiko (it’s had a LOT of use). and the doll face I’d seen something similar on painted ceramic plates.

House of Ralph Kids Furniture DIY Choosing Design Inspiration

Draw away

If you feel brave enough, draw the design on freehand. If not, draw it lightly in pencil first then go over the pencil with this truly fantastic product: the paint pen. I can highly recommend this brand, it’s been used for multiple projects since. I purchased it from Mitre10 Mega for $12. White with fine tip.

House of Ralph Kids Furniture DIY Paint Pen

Apply two coats of varnish

Choose a matt water-based varnish. This protects your design for good. Let it dry. Apply another coat. Let it dry.

You’re done!

House of Ralph Kids Furniture DIY AFTER

The best part of this project was seeing the kids joyful faces when they first saw them. They still adore them. I have got one stool left to do and the table. One of my winter jobs, but for now – I’m loving this colourful addition to the playroom. Go on…you can do this one, it’s so much fun choosing your design and there’s a decent smug factor too. In fact, why wait ’til your furniture needs a refurb, do it while it’s still new. Good luck, and don’t forget to tag me in on your creations on instagram @houseofralph #refurbingkidsfurniture

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>