Every once in a while, you get the desire to change things up a bit, move around the furniture, change the drapery, paint the walls. Changing up your home decor offers the feeling of a space being new without having to go out and buy all new items. However, there are times when that old piece of furniture just is not making the cut anymore. Maybe it has scratches, or chips in the paint, or the color no longer coordinates with the new color you painted the room, and it is time for a bigger change than just rearranging the furniture. Or you find a great furniture piece at a garage sale or re-sale shop but it is in definite need of some TLC. Or you are just in need of a unique home decorating idea, well let you imagination run wild and see what you can come up with. With the creative juices flowing, the sky is the limit for what you can refinish and reuse to make your home furnishings and decor pop with a new and unique look.
A coat of paint goes a long way. Whether you choose a paint brush, a spray paint or a decorative finish, you can change the look and feel of your furniture with a few easy steps. For spray paint and decorative finishes, often you can paint right on top of your existing furniture piece without striping the finish or sanding. If you plan to use traditional paint and brush, re-stain your piece or if the current finish is cracking or peeling, you will want to first strip the finish. There are basically two options for removing the finish. You can use a finish stripper, found at most local hardware stores, that will chemically loosen the paint or stain from the existing piece so you can scrape it off and then sand it smooth, or you can just sand down the finish to raw wood. If you plan to re-stain the first option is the best. You want to make sure you do not leave any residue of the previous finish behind. If you plan to paint, just sanding will work, unless there are already a few layers of finish on the piece. The decision is up to you and varies depending on the piece of furniture and how you plan to refinish it. If you have specific questions to your furniture piece, bring photos of it with you to the hardware store and ask one of the workers in the paint department for recommendations bases on what you plan to do. Once you have stripped the finish you may want to invest in a small tube of wood filler to fill in any cracks, dents or scratches to smooth the surface and give it a new look. Filling in those dings can make a world of difference when the piece is finished. The next step is to paint or stain your piece to the color of your liking. Remember it may take a few coats depending on the color you choose. And finally, sealing the piece will ensure it lasts and your finish is protected. Your standard indoor polyurethane will work with most stains. Check when you buy your stain for what product is recommended for sealing. With paint, you will want to find a protective coating that works with water based products. Polyurethane is designed to work with oil based stains and often does not adhere well to standard interior paint. Look for a clear protective coating with a satin or semi-gloss finish to use on painted furniture. Ask your local paint department and they will be able to direct you to the proper product they carry.
Take a look in the gallery for some examples of simple projects you can do in a weekend to update and make your furniture just like new. I transformed our small breakfast without even stripping the finish. A fairly inexpensive piece, with a laminate table top and solid wood legs and chairs looks brand new with a few cans of all surface spray paint and new cushions. The total makeover, including the cushions cost less than $75. There is no way you could buy a new table set for that. I also found a coffee table sitting on the side of the road with a FREE sign on it. It has great character and wonderful details on the legs and hardware, but the finish was scratched and dented and it did not match the dark wood tables in the rest of my family room, so i decided to paint it. Because of the stained finish and the dents and dings in the surface, I decided to sand down the existing finish (because I was going to paint it) in order to remove some of the minor scratches in the finish. I filled in the larger dents with wood filler and sanded those down to make a smooth surface. I left a few of the minor imperfections to add character and charm to the piece. I did end up spray painting the table instead of using a brush for the sake of time, but either would have worked. About three coats of satin spray paint on the entire table got the coverage I was looking for. I decided to only add the protective sealer to the table top and edges since that is what will see that most use. Because I used a darker finish, the details of the legs are not as apparent anymore, so I intend to take some metallic paint and add a bit of dry brush accent in those areas, just to pop the details. A new coat of metallic spray paint to the draw pulls (leftover from the porch swing) finished the look and added a shiny touch.
In addition to a new coat of paint or stain, there are many options you have to add detail and a unique touch to your 'new' piece of furniture. Adding additional piece of molding or panels creates interest and the ability to change up the design through color and texture. The typical hall bench, illustrated in the gallery, is personalized with three panels made from wood molding strips with fabric insets to add color and visual interest. You could incorporate coordinating colors to other pieces of furniture or the room color and these can be design to be interchangeable for the next time you redecorate. Also keep in mind the hardware you use. If your piece still has all the original hardware, they may only need a little cleaning or fresh coat of metallic paint to make them good as new. A lot of times a piece starts to look old because handles or pull are missing or broken, so instead of trying to match the existing, look into getting new hardware for the entire piece. You can usually find inexpensive but nice pieces to use as is or paint to your liking and finish off the look with a cohesive design.
In addition to reusing your furniture, you can also re-purpose furniture and other items to make your space unique. Say you have a unused armoire or storage bench in one of your bedrooms, it may work great in your family room as a new entertainment unit. Update the look to match your family room decor, add your television, dvd player and other equipment and you have a newly purposed piece. Create a end table out of just about anything. A large tree section makes a rustic place to set your drink or book. A pile of old books (larger is better) can create a artistic use for those you never look through anymore. Sturdy old milk crates with a panel of wood or glass spanning the distance is a retro look that offers storage below and function above (great for a college dorm too). Change up your couch with a slip cover and decorative pillows for a quick and easy change. And use decorative storage boxes, bins, and baskets as a organizational tool. Throw blankets, magazines, toys, books, etc in them as a way to keep your room tidy with a decorative flare.
Now that I have hopefully filled your head with ideas of how to update your home by refinishing and reusing your decor, I want to share one of my decorative projects that is pretty out of the box but may inspire you to think beyond the normal. So I was shopping at a re-sale store and came across a formal prom dress hanging on a rack. Now I was not in need of a prom dress, but it was made from brown satin and I could see it's potential. I needed curtains for the eating area in my new apartment and this could work. With some creative cutting and sewing, this prom dress turned into some pretty cool looking curtains. I even had the decorative sash leftover for a wall detail in the corner. Now I am not saying you need to make curtains out of a prom dress, but let it inspire you to think creatively about your next project and see what you can refinish and reuse in a new way!
Written By: JoAnna Landers