before and after basics: union jack is the new black


I’ve been a Union Jack lover for a long time, and when I visited the markets this year, I saw it everywhere — from upholstered pieces to chairs and tableware. I knew I wanted to tackle it on a piece of furniture at some point, and while I am not the first one to paint it on furniture, I thought you all might like a little Before and After Basics tutorial on how to achieve this look yourselves! This is super fun to do, and I hope you all enjoy the process as much as I did! — Barb

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • long ruler
  • paint, three colors
  • piece of furniture with the base coat already applied
  • paintbrushes, small and large for detail
  • projector
  • transparency sheet
  • pencil
  • tape
  • sanding sponge
  • stain


1. Take all the hardware off your piece. Clean, sand and paint your piece in the base color. In my case, it was turquoise! If you need painting tips, you can freshen up with my painting furniture tutorial.

2. Once the base coat is nice and dry, set up the projector and get the picture exactly where you want it on the piece. This takes some adjusting, but work with it! For the transparency, just use transparency paper and make sure that it is printed on a laser printer. The first one we made was on an ink jet, and the ink turned into a mess!

3. Take a pencil and trace all the lines. This goes much faster than it looks and is a piece of cake.

4. Once your lines are traced (you may need to turn off the projector periodically to check), it is time for the fun part!

5. Start filling in those lines, guys! Now some of you could free-hand this entire thing and skip the projector part, but me . . . well, let’s just say I’m not used to having to paint inside the lines! This was a challenge for me but having small brushes, both flat and angled, helped a ton. I applied two coats of paint for each color to ensure the right amount of coverage.

6. When the lines were completely filled in and dry, I hand-sanded the entire piece for a nice aged/faded look.

7. After the sanding, I took Minwax Special Walnut Stain and went over the entire piece. This adds just the right amount of age and the perfect finishing detail. If you need help with staining, check out my staining tutorial for answers to any questions about using stain over paint. The piece will need a good 48 hours in a climate-controlled temp to lose the tacky feel.

When your piece is nice and dry, put the hardware back on and you are ready to rock and roll! Enjoy!

  1. navyblueshoe says:

    Wow, what a beautiful tranformation! I want one of those!
    P.S.: Love the name of the post ‘union jack is the new black’!!!

  2. Diana says:

    Amazing! Great images of the step by step transformation.

    – Diana

  3. that looks awesome! And I still love/want those vases.

  4. Lena says:

    I love this, but I don’t have a projector. I suppose I could eyeball it with a ruler, but knowing me it would be a disaster! Great job on this.

  5. Christin says:

    Great tutorial, Barb! I now have the desire + know-how to get it done!

  6. leel says:

    i loved this tutorial! i am officially on the hunt for an oldschool projector for sure!

    thanks :)

  7. Oh, thank you so much for sharing this tutorial! I have a soft spot for all things covered in union jack, especially dressers and footstools, so this project is going straight to the top of my to-do list.

    Barb, I love your posts so much. Always so informative and detailed. I learned to paint furniture from you!

  8. this makes me wanna paint my cupboard right now!

  9. Vanessa says:

    the sanded finish is genius. the pulls also look fantastic…. did you do anything to them?

    1. Barb says:

      Vanessa, I did nothing to the pulls except vacuum the dust out of them and wipe them off with a rag. They were great all on their own!

      Lisa, you are too sweet! I am so glad that you love to paint!

      Thanks so much guys!

  10. Amanda says:

    Oh my! I really want to do this on a whole wall! You’ve brought that piece back to life, and I love how you kept the original wood on the handles. GREAT!

  11. hello olive says:

    wow, it looks amazing!

  12. Pistachio says:

    I love when old things get a new life. Great job!!!

  13. Susan says:

    Nice, but I lol & thought – not if you’re Welsh, it’s not the new black:)

    (I am Welsh)

  14. first of all, love it when old furniture get a new look and a new life. big fan of that. it looks smashing. so if you are u Union Jack fan, you must love and adore Gilbert and George…???

  15. Bethanie says:

    Now that you mention it, I have been seeing it a lot in blogland. Very cool idea on a dresser front.

  16. Bego says:

    I love it. And see all the steps is amazing

  17. melissa says:

    Didn’t y’all throw Jack (and his Union) out a few hundred years ago?

  18. stephanie says:

    bravo! what a fun project, and so perfectly executed…thanks for sharing!

  19. Kara says:

    Love, love this dresser! Thanks for the inspiration.

  20. Susan @ Retro Restyling says:

    It looks amazing! The projector is genius. With the detail painting I do, like my sons entertainment center, I would’ve died for a projector like that. Would’ve made life a lot easier.

  21. kimberly says:

    the projector!! of course! used to use these as a kid for murals on the wall (mostly for VBS purposes)…never thought to translate it to furniture! the possibilities are endless :) thanks Barb!

  22. d says:

    sorry this is not about the union jack, but about your city guides. i am visiting the USA soon and i cannot tell how much your city guides have helped! they are delightful and i am already in love with many of the cities without even having visited them :)
    thank you for putting these up!

    1. amya says:

      Thanks, d! That is so great to hear! Happy travels! xo -AmyA

  23. Anna Green says:

    This is a great way to get a designer home with out paying a lot of money for designer brands and you get something unique perfect!

  24. Looking good! And I love the overhead projector, I use them all the time :)

  25. BeLighter says:

    Loved this! That dresser is amazing!

  26. karen berg says:

    Barb! I thought I had seen enough Union Jack furniture. This is a totally fresh and new version of it. Love the new version of “black”. Hmmmmm, need to convince my clients of this too. Looks superb as always.

  27. Meesh says:

    It’s days like these that I wish I were British! What a fantastic transformation!

  28. Tessa says:

    I do love your blog/diary

  29. Adrienne says:

    is the union jack a fashion statement in england? or everywhere? it seems odd to me to be sporting the union jack in the US, unless you are of recent british heritage. the whole revolutionary war thing, i suppose.

  30. Kelley says:

    Beautiful!!!! I love the fresh colors and aged texture. I would love to have this in my home. :)

  31. David says:

    Fantastic. The flag of St Andrew (Scot) St George (Brit) St Patrick (Irish) all put together. Also known as the Union Flag. Rule Britannia!

  32. Wonderful. I need to get me an ohp!

  33. TracyS says:

    I love your style,saw your dresser on Decor Hacks and popped over..Think I`ll stalk the blog for a while :)

  34. I love this! I linked this awesome tutorial to my royalty post too, for inspiration!!

  35. iside says:

    O_O Wonderful job!! I love the Union Jack!!Bye form Italy! :)

  36. Vida Abreu says:

    That is pretty cool! I always think to use a projector for my mural art and it does speed up the process sometimes but MAN! Those projectors (the good ones) cost a pretty penny, and even to rent one is a P.I.T.A… My advice- if you’re on a budget, use a piece of graph paper. After drawing the image you can super impose it onto the wall or furniture using the grid to guide you on a larger scale. Great transformation, you guys!!

  37. mox says:

    WOW. That’s creative!!
    Like it

  38. MB@YarnUiPhoneApp says:

    I’m not a Union Jack nut…but this is so clever…and the muted tones almost makes this dresser look like it’s always been painted this way. Why is the Union Jack so popular now? I’ve seen it in knitted attire too. Hmm, a trend is afoot! Also I need to say that’s a clever use of the projector. Congrats!

  39. Esma Emanuelle says:

    Beautiful transformation. I was just wondering if you wouldn’t mind divulging the exact colours you used. Shade wise and what brand? I’m seriously thinking of doing some similar and I am absolutely in lust with the colours you used. Please and thank you for sharing.

  40. Carole says:

    Fantastically made! Really well thought out and put together. Loved seeing this. But I have a rather silly question not regarding the furniture itself but rather the two big vases alongside it. Where did you get those? I absolutely adore them.

  41. Kim says:

    That rocks. Well done.

  42. Kay says:

    Love the look you have created here – would like to do this on a desk top. I have just looked at 0ne of your earlier tutorials using painters tape. Would you not recommend that in this instance? I would have thought it might be easier for a novice like me.


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