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How to Make a Unique Marimekko Bench

How do you transform a grotty old garden bench? How about some cool decoupage with designer paper napkins and transform it into a Marimekko bench.

I am a huge Marimekko fan. I just love their fabrics and Scandi/Nordic style. For those of you who don’t know, Marimekko is a Finnish home furnishings and textile company.

I wanted some of that Marimekko style in my garden. Therefore, instead of just painting a neglected bench in my garden, that was in dire need of cosmetic attention, I decided to Marimekko it!

I got the idea from some Marimekko decoupage shoes I’d made a few months ago. I still had some *Unikko napkins left over from the shoe revamp, so I decided to use these to upcycle and pimp my bench.

(*Unikko is probably Marimekko’s most iconic print it was actually first designed in the 1950’s, very mid-century modern)

Using Paper Napkin Decoupage to Make a Marimekko Bench

This method of upcycling a bench with paper napkins can be applied to other outdoor furniture too. I’ve upcycled an old wooden table with other Marimekko designs and turned it into Scandinavian Christmas wall art.

There are also many other fabulous designs besides Marimekko. That is one of the great advantages of using paper napkins to upcycle garden furniture, they come in thousands of fabulous designs.

Bench before upcycle

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What you need to make a Marimekko Bench

marimekko unikko napkins for bench decoupage

How to Decoupage a Marimekko a bench.

  1. The first thing is to prepare the bench or outdoor furniture for decoupage. To do this sand it smooth with the orbital sander.
Sanding garden bench ready for decoupage

2. Next, give the bench a coat of white paint. One coat should be enough, the paint is just to make sure that the paper napkin pattern can be as visible as possible.

Decoupaging the Bench

3. Next, prepare the Marimekko napkins for decoupage by separating them. Most paper napkins are 3 ply thick, but we only want the top printed ply for decoupage. If your roll the corner of the napkin between your thumb and forefinger the layers of ply should seperate.

5. Next, tear the flower patterns out from the paper napkins. If you wet the napkin first where you want to tear, the flowers will come away easily. It is better to tear rather than cut the napkins as you get a feathered edge which blends in better.

Preparing paper napkins for decoupage.

6. Next, spread glue onto the bench where you want to decoupage and then place the cutout flowers onto the wood, one by one. The napkins are too delicate to apply the glue directly to. Gently brush out the napkins as you lay them on the bench.

If you screw up some cling film into a ball you can use this to gently push the napkins onto the bench and smoot them out a bit.

Decoupage of bench with Marimekko napkins
decoupage bench

7. Carry on decoupaging the bench with the flowers until the whole bench was covered in Marimekko Unikko flowers. This took me a couple of hours. You can do this in stages it doesn’t have to be done all in one go.

8. Leave the glue to dry thoroughly. Once it is dry, cover the entire bench in two coats of crystal clear outdoor/yacht varnish. Make sure you use a crystal clear varnish, as just clear varnish can have a yellow tint to it.

This varnish will protect the decoupaged Marimekko bench from the elements. It has been a few years since I decoupaged this bench and the outdoor varnish has protected it from all the English weather can throw at it.

finished decoupaged Marimekko bench

I told you it was easy, and I now have a bench to match my shoes!

Marimekko Bench and shoes

If you’re not a huge Marimekko fan, you can of course use this method to upcycle a bench with the napkins of your choice.

Upcycle an old bench with decoupage.  This Marimekko bench was achieved by
Other Marimekko Crafts and DIYS

Since upcycling my garden bench with Marimekko, I have painted my garden shed to match in the same Unikko pattern but in a different colour way.

I have also created a wonderful and beautiful floral display of decoupaged Marimekko planters using paper napkins in lots of their different designs which brightens up my garden on the dullest of days. And in the summer I even have a Marimekko giant cactus I bring out into the garden for some fun decor.

Marimekko isn’t just for the garden, my stairs have been wallpapered in the Unikko design too.

Instead of upcycling an old garden bench with paint how about transforming it with paper napkin decoupage to create a unique Marimekko bench. It can be made waterproof to stay outside all year round.

You will find more unique upcycled garden ideas here.


Wednesday 8th of April 2020

What a great job and so colorful.

Claire Armstrong

Wednesday 8th of April 2020

Thank you so much Maria it does brighten up the garden.

Roy Altis

Monday 20th of May 2019

Love it and I have many questions I have a garden bench and I thought maybe I could cheat and use those Dollar Store jumbo butterfly peel and stick stickers. And maybe coat it with mod podge and then use that marine crystal clear varnish. How bad does this sound???

Claire Armstrong

Tuesday 21st of May 2019

Thank you. You could give it a go I'm sure that would work too.


Tuesday 26th of February 2019

so it is okay to have it look a little wrinkled, will the varnish help to smooth that look out?

Claire Armstrong

Tuesday 26th of February 2019

Yes, the wrinkled look isn't so obvious once the bench has dried. It's hard to avoid wrinkles totally but if you smooth the tissue paper down with crinkled up cling film (saran wrap) as you stick it down this will reduce wrinkles.


Saturday 5th of May 2018

Absolutely love this idea. Would love to do this to two benches on my deck. Question: I wondered how well this process weathers over time? I leave my benches out,but covered, over the winter months. I live in a mild but rainy climate. usually does not go below 20's in the winter.

Claire Armstrong

Saturday 5th of May 2018

Thank you, make sure you use an outdoor varnish like a marine varnish. Also, make sure it says crystal clear on the tin not just clear as the clear varnish often dries with a yellow tint,


Saturday 30th of December 2017

Love the tennis shoes and bench to match!!!

Claire Armstrong

Saturday 30th of December 2017

Thank you. I never thought I'd have a matching bench and shoes!