barb blairbefore & after basics

before and after basics: union jack is the new black

by Barb

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!

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  • Amazing! Great images of the step by step transformation.

    – Diana

  • 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.

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

    thanks :)

  • 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!

    • 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!

  • 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!

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

    (I am Welsh)

  • 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…???

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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!!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.