Much more than a simple seat, a bench can serve as a canvas to reflect local pride, add flowers to a garden or enliven a boring hallway. Used wooden benches are often extremely sturdy and need little more than a quick sanding and a fresh coat of colour to make them both attractive and useful.
Community Spirit Benches
Make a community project out of painting benches. If the benches belong to the town or to a bus company, enlist the appropriate community relations supervisor to obtain permission for the project, establish some guidelines and explore funding options for the purchase of paint and materials. See if a local school, youth group, public library or any non-profit organisation would help sponsor the event, and enlist the local media to help publicise the effort and its results. A theme or contest for the best designs is one way to control artistic exuberance and end up with a cohesive community look. 4-H or Scout troops might paint farm animals, local history themes or indigenous flowers on the benches. A high school class or a community centre could tackle sports themes or uplifting quotes. The participants get pride of ownership and a reason to protect the benches from damage or graffiti and the community gets attractive public benches on its streets or in its parks.
An old wooden garden bench proves a prime candidate for a facelift: One way to do that is to disguise it with flowers. Sand the rough edges and any old cracked paint off the bench; wipe it down; and apply one or two base coats of colour. Try a creamy ivory to make pale flowers pop or a vivid lime or chartreuse for larger, more exotic blooms. Cover a pale, pretty bench in wildflowers and heritage roses with the help of tracing paper and garden catalogue cutouts. Use a stencil of a giant sunflower or free-sketch hibiscus blossoms for a showy, bright bench. Once the base coat is dry, transfer or draw the flower designs on the seat of the bench, with stems and leaves or vines winding down the legs. Paint the seat first, the legs and edges of the bench second. Seal with a clear protective coat when dry and then tuck the bench into a flowery corner of the garden. On a hot summer day, guests will enjoy stumbling across a botanical bench in a spot of shade near a garden water feature.
Boot Bench in the Mud Room
A second-hand park bench provides the perfect place to tug on or take off rain or snow boots in a hallway or back mud room. You can paint the bench to match or complement existing decor---a red, white and blue bench in an American colonial house; a shiny black lacquered bench in a modern black and white hallway; a whimsical design of cats, dogs and umbrellas raining all over the bench in an artsy, eclectic, kid-friendly interior. Highlight a sense of humour by painting the bench bright yellow with large black "KEEP OFF THE BENCH" letters stencilled across the seat-back. Or let the youngest artists in the family paint parts of the bench with their own designs; stencil "THIS BENCH BELONGS TO:" across the top and let each child "autograph" the bench before sealing it with a coat of protective lacquer.