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The recession may be biting into how we decorate and furnish our homes, but it is possible to create a stylish space on a tight budget if you're prepared to get your hands dirty with some weekend DIY.

Painting is a great way to transform junk shop or highstreet furniture or old pieces you may have inherited: it's pretty quick, cheap and gives your home that enviable personal touch. Here's our step-by-step guide to giving your furniture a facelift.

Prepare
Preparation is key to ensure paint adheres to the surface well and creates a long lasting finish, but just how much work is required will depend on the state of the furniture. Remove old paint using paint stripper: apply with a brush and scrape off once dry with a metal spatula. Depending on the thickness, you may need to repeat this step several times.

Often with very old pieces, thick layers of paint is the only thing holding them together, so once stripped you may need to carry out some minor carpentry repairs or re-glue perished joints.

Next - or the first step is you have an unpainted piece - thoroughly clean with a sugar soap solution and damp cloth. When dry, go over with medium grit sandpaper, brush away dust and wipe with a tack cloth, before giving a final clean. In addition to creating a smooth finish, sanding also gives texture for the paint to adhere to.

Apply
The best way to apply paint will largely depend upon the overall look you want to create. The standard method is one application of undercoat, followed by two of topcoat in your choice of finish, such as matt, satin or gloss, in paint suitable for wood.

If you're feeling more adventerous, there are wealth of decorative paint techniques to experiment with, such as layering two different colours and sanding through the top coat when dry to create a 'distressed' two-tone effect, or applying glazes to create an aged antique look.

Useful books to learn new techniques include Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud's Techniques of Decorating and Quick and Easy Paint Transformations by Annie Sloan, or take a hands on course such as the furniture painting workshops, run by upcycled furniture company, Ruby Rhino.

The brand of paint to go for will likely depend on your choice of colour and finish. Dulux and Crown are great for a wide range of colours and trend-led shades; while Farrow and Ball and Fired Earth offer excellent muted and period inspired hues in a range of finishes. The range of chalk paints from Annie Sloan create a unique matt finish and only require one application, with no undercoat.

While cheaper, DIY store own brand paints are often inferior in quality and require multiple coats, making them a false economy.

Finish
It is important to finish your furniture with a sealant such as varnish or wax to prolong the durability and protect the paint from chips and scratches. Opt for clear to keep the colour crisp, such as Blackfriar Duratough, or choose a wood effect like antique pine or rosewood from Ronseal to slightly discolour the paint and create the appearance of age.

You can further personalise your furniture by lining cupboard or drawers with wallpaper and applying a coat of varnish, and replacing handles or knobs to create a different look. Online store Bombay Duck has a huge selection to choose from: try mixing different styles to give a contemporary look to old furniture.