Kirstie Allsopp on the perfect vintage make-over in an extract from her new book

Kirstie Allsopp gives the perfect vintage make-over in an extract from her new book



23:11 GMT, 14 October 2012

Kirsty's new book shows you how to get the perfect vintage home

Kirsty's new book shows you how to get the perfect vintage home

If you don’t love the place where you live, everything suffers.

In my new book, I want to teach people how to turn their houses into treasured homes. ‘Past and craft’ is a mantra I’ve lived by for years, and one I’m determined to spread.

I want to inspire people to reuse, recycle, make do and mend, ditch the factory-made for the handmade and delve deep for vintage or second-hand finds. Vintage is ‘in’ but, as far as I am concerned, it’s also the only way to make a house a home.

In auction houses and junk shops up
and down the country, you’ll find old furniture that is beautifully
designed, built and finished. It’s generally true to say that if you buy
vintage, you’re buying something worthwhile, but not all items will
look their best when you first clap eyes on them in a shop window or
auction house.

Could some
cleaning and polishing turn a sad item into something desirable, or
would painting and replacing fabric or handles be more in order A
little elbow grease and imagination can work wonders and on these pages
I’m giving you plenty of ideas and techniques for transforming
second-hand items.

my message is this: the past and crafts go hand in hand because they’re
both about seeing the potential in things for your home and giving them
a new lease of life. Whether it’s dressing up your bedroom with a gauzy
canopy, displaying your favourite treasures in a new way or gilding
some picture frames, if you surround yourself with things you love, you
are creating a beautiful home that reflects who you are and what you are
all about.


It’s worth looking at things you own to see if they can be put to better or different use. I made this distressed display cabinet more personal by transforming it into a memory box.

Kirstie's vintage memory box

Kirstie's vintage memory box

You will need
Small cabinet with shelves
Matt emulsion, paintbrush
Putty knife, goggles (if sanding), sandpaper
Personal items and photographs
Blu-Tack and pins

1. If you want to distress your cabinet, sand then paint it, and allow to dry. Scrape a putty knife along the edges and corners to remove some paint. The idea is to target areas that would naturally get worn. Using coarse sandpaper, sand off more paint on the scraped areas. Once it’s ready, attach it to the wall or place on a shelf.
2. Now select your favourite personal items. If you don’t have anything that inspires you, shop around for old things, such as sepia photographs, vintage books, postcards, small bottles and jewellery. It’s a good idea to have a theme – select similar colours or patterns, or things from the same era.
3. Give your items a polish and create your display. Start by placing photos, postcards and larger items towards the back of the shelves, propping them up or fixing with Blu-Tack or pins. Gradually work towards the front of the cabinet, arranging smaller items so they can be clearly seen.


Gilding is an old but simple art and gives stunning results. You can gild straight on to wooden frames, as long as the wood isn’t bare and porous. If it is, apply a primer undercoat first.

You will need

Simple art that gives stunning results

Simple art that gives stunning results

1 fine artist’s paintbrush
Fast-drying gold size (a type of glue)
Wooden picture frame
Test piece of wood (for testing the tackiness of the glue, optional)
1 book of 23-carat gold transfer leaf (24 sheets)
Cotton-wool balls
Mop brush

1. Paint the frame with size, applying it as evenly as possible (also paint a test piece of wood). Leave to dry for 30-60 minutes. Test the tackiness of the test wood – it should feel like Sellotape.
2. Lay the first sheet of gold transfer leaf on the frame and rub lightly with a cotton-wool ball until it has taken. Gently pull off the backing to reveal the gold stuck to the frame. Repeat this step, lining up the gold leaf segment by segment, until the whole frame is covered. Leave to dry overnight.
3. When the frame is dry, use a mop brush to gently remove any excess gold. You can then burnish the gold by rubbing with cotton wool. Start this gently, then press slightly harder to get your desired effect. Put your photographs into the finished frame and display as you wish.


I love nothing more than finding new ways of using old things. A trip to the salvage yard turned up a pair of wooden filing cabinet drawers for a fiver each. They were transformed by lining the inside with wallpaper to make bedside tables.

You will need

I love nothing more than finding new ways of using old things

I love nothing more than finding new ways of using old things

Old wooden drawers or crates
Tape measure
Pencil and paper
Wallpaper paste
MDF, same size as back of drawer or crate
Wood glue
Spirit level

Drill with appropriate drill bits
Wall plugs and corresponding screws

1. Check over the drawers and sand off rough edges. Measure the inside surfaces, then cut wallpaper to fit. Paste the wallpaper on and leave to dry.
2. Reinforce the back of each cabinet by attaching a piece of MDF with wood glue. When dry, drill two holes in the back, about 5cm from the top and sides. Mark the wall in pencil where you want the cabinets to go, checking for straightness with a spirit level. Drill holes in the wall and insert wall plugs. Screw the cabinets to the wall.


Have you got a wedding veil tucked away that might be ripe for reinvention as a bed canopy If not, you can buy vintage veils from specialist shops or even charity shops.
Calculating your materials

The veil you use can be any size because it is simply draped over the finished canopy. The main part of my canopy is three layers of silk, dyed grey and silver. The edges are bound with undyed silk ribbon. For these under-layers, you’ll need two layers of gauzy silk tulle plus one layer of habotai silk (often used for lining men’s jackets), as well as the ribbon.

To work out how much fabric you need, find the central point on the headboard, then mark how high above it you want the canopy to hang. Measure from the high point down to a corner of the headboard, where the canopy will be tied back, then measure from there down to the floor. Add the figures together, double it, and that gives the length needed for each under-layer and the ribbon. For example a king-sized bed might use 12 metres of silk tulle (6 metres for each layer), 6 metres of habotai silk, and 6 metres of ribbon.

The veil you use can be any size because it is simply draped over the finished canopy

The veil you use can be any size because it is simply draped over the finished canopy

Repairing and washing the veil
If your veil is an antique or made from an unusual material, consult a dressmaker or a bridal shop for advice before you attempt to repair or wash it. If washing, do it gently in lukewarm water with mild soap. Rinse thoroughly, gently squeeze out the excess water by hand, then hang up to dry.

Dyeing the under-layers
Soak each length of tulle and habotai silk in cool water. Wearing rubber gloves and an apron, prepare your dye (we used Dylon) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s ready, test dye a scrap of each fabric to check it’s the colour you want. When you’re ready, squeeze the excess water out of your fabrics and place them in the dye. Stir with a metal spoon for about 15 minutes, or according to the packet instructions. Leave for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the dyed fabric and rinse in cold water until the water runs clear. Finally, wash in warm water and hang up to dry away from direct heat and sunlight.

Stitching the ribbon to the tulle
Fold the ribbon in half along its length and iron flat. Place the silk fabrics on top of each other and align the edges. Tuck the front edge of the three fabrics inside the folded ribbon and pin along the length. Tack together, then machine-stitch.

Hanging the canopy
Steam-iron the joined fabrics, pressing them beneath a damp cloth to avoid burning. You can use a large vintage yarn spool to hang the canopy from (or source something similar from second-hand shops or online). Attach it to the wall at your centre point above the bed. Hang the under-layers over the spool, with the ribbon facing outwards, then use ribbon to fasten them to each side of the headboard. Finally, drape the veil on top.

Adapted from Kirstie’s Vintage Home by
Kirstie Allsopp, published by Hodder & Stoughton, 20. To order a
copy for 16.99 (p&p free), tel: 0843 382 0000. The accompanying
series begins on Channel 4 this autumn.