For your next upcycling project, consider tapping into the creations of world-famous artists as your design inspiration. For this blog, a run-of-the-mill pair of tall bar chairs were transformed into artistic pieces with the help of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), a Dutch painter known for his abstract style. His paintings are simple, geographic and bold — and they look really cool in today’s spaces.


  • Pair of bar chairs
  • Blue, yellow, red and white paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Scissors
  • Polyurethane

Step 1: Find your masterpiece at a local Goodwill store.

Get out of the cold and into the warmth of your local Goodwill store. The friendly greetings you’ll receive from the staff there are sure to give you cozy feelings, too. Hit the section where furniture items await you and look for a pair of chairs to be upcycled for this painting project.

1. Find your masterpiece at a local Goodwill store

Get out of the cold and into the warmth of your local Goodwill store. The friendly greetings you’ll receive by the staff there will add to your cozy feelings too. Hit the section where furniture items await you and look for a pair of chairs to be upcycled for this painting project. 

The tall bar chairs featured here were perfect. They had a contemporary look that worked well for this Mondrian-inspired transformation. The dark wood and black metal provided a great backdrop and plenty of negative space on which to add boxes of color. This artistic approach would look great on the top of a coffee table, dresser or pair of side tables, too. For this project, look for pieces that are sturdy with very simple and clean lines.

Step 2: Create a dark backdrop.

Mondrian’s color blocks are outlined in black. Given that the wood was dark on the chairs and the metal parts were black, I was lucky that I didn’t have to do any prep work before painting. However, if your piece isn’t black or a very dark brown, consider painting it with several coats of black paint to make your artwork stand out.

  • Prep your piece by buffing it up with mid or coarse-grade sandpaper. Wipe it down when done, and then paint on several light coats.
  • Place your piece on its back and sides to get all edges and parts.
  • Allow time to dry between layers.

Step 3: Cut through the red (actually, blue) tape.

Most painter’s tape, while thin, isn’t going to be slim enough for the look you want. Therefore, you will want to cut your painter’s tape in half as you go. Be careful as you cut so that the two thinner slices don’t touch and get stuck to each other. Honestly, this was a little tedious and the hardest step. However, the final result made the time invested cutting all worth it!

Step 4: Lay out your lines.

All of Mondrian’s lines are vertical and horizontal, so model this as you lay things out.

  • Carefully place your painter’s tape on the surface, starting with the vertical lines going from top to bottom.
  • As you go, rub your fingers over the tape to ensure a tight fit that will keep paint from seeping.
  • Once the verticals are in place, fill in with horizontal lines. While it does feel grid-like, you will want to leave some space to give a variety of sized squares.
  • Use smaller pieces of the cut tape between lines to create smaller blocks of color.

Step 5: Fill in with colors.

Mondrian’s color palette was pretty simple; he often used white, red, yellow and blue with black lines.

Step 6: Remove the tape to unveil your masterpiece.

This step is the most exciting.

  • Very carefully remove the painter’s tape from your pieces to see the dark lines below and how they provide a great outline for your blue, red, yellow and white color blocks.
  • For my piece, the dark wood that showed through the grid lines looked nice and provided a cohesive connection with the wood chair’s backrest.

Expert Tips for This DIY

Despite your best efforts to ensure the painter’s tape is securely and snuggly adhered to your piece, there might be some parts where the paint gets underneath.

If your piece has been painted black, then simply touch up those parts with black paint using a small detail brush.

However, if your piece is dark wood like the bar stools featured here, you won’t be able to paint over any little flaws. My solution was to take the handle of a plastic spoon and gently scrap away the paint.

I dabbled on a little water first, which helped to soften up the paint. Have a paper towel handy to remove the moistened and scraped paint. The plastic spoon handle was a better choice than the screwdriver I used at first because the screwdriver was too sharp and scraped away the dark wooden finish.

Step 7: Brush on poly to protect the paint.

To give your design some special treatment and ensure it holds up well over years of use, brush on a light layer of poly. Poly adds a plastic layer, which will help keep your pieces looking great and allows for easy cleanup, too.

About our guest blogger: 

Instagram: @TimKineArt

Tim Kime is an artist, life coach and connector. He is the President of Kime Leadership Associates, offering executive coaching, meeting facilitating and motivational speaking. He is also the Chief Creative Force of Transformation Junkies which upcycles furniture and other household items into functional works of art. He combined his two passions—unleashing the potential in people and transforming items with the launch of the Art of Possibilities Workshops. These workshops are part upcycling, part dreaming and part goal setting.

This post is adapted from an article that appeared in the Goodwill of Greater Washington blog. Read the full blog post.