Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A compact guide to refurbishing old furniture


There are two reasons I chose to make a guide on this topic; the first one is that I experienced myself that these things are not as easy as they seem. Although it seems very obvious you'd have to use steel sanding paper to get rust of steel, it would've never occured to me if no one had told me this. The second reason is that in this way I wont have to repeat the first steps over and over again in other DIY's (I'm thàt lazy). I'm also hoping that as my skils grow, this guide will become more extensive. So it's actually a work in progress.


1. Where to start?
First up is finding a piece of furniture these are a few tips. 
  • Is there any of your own furniture that needs an update? I'm talking furniture you bought quite some time ago or  a wooden wordrobe you inherated. A lick of paint is such an easy way to re-invent your interior without having to do crazy expenses.
  • Talk to family, friends, neighbours. One man's trash is another one's treasure.
  • Check out second-hand stores. For our Belgian readers:  De kringloopwinkel
  • Try your luck at markets, local sales etc.
  • Nowadays there are specific events for retro-furniture-lovers. In Belgium there is 'de Retrobeurs', which will be moving onto a new format next year. These things do tend to be a little more expensive (See step 3) and are becoming ridiculously popular. Go early.
  • IKEA. Definately check out IKEA hackers,, a site completely devoted to modifying IKEA-products or just start out yourself: think details (See step 7) or just (re)paint the more basic Ikea products.
2. Know what you're buying.
Before buying a piece of furniture, check it out thoroughly. Loose screws can be tightened, a broken leg however can not.
  • Check out the structure; e.g. is the seat still intact? Do the cupboard's doors still close the way they should?
  • Look for cracks, damaged edges, worn upholstery,... 
  • Stains: are they removable? Repainting wood is way easier than reupholstering a sofa. Do not overestimate your own skills and start out small: try beginning with reupholstering a chair cushion before even thinking of redoing a sofa.
  • In a wooden piece of furniture there's always the possibility of woodworms, which leaves holes in the wood. 
  • Are all the parts there? E.g. a missing key, sometimes the knobs are removed,...
3. Is it overpriced?
A chair smeared in old paint stains can easily be repainted, but does the price mirrors the piece of furniture's state? Also know so called 'retro furniture' is trending, so these items are more sought after and higher priced. I feel like the odds of finding a really beautifull piece for an amazing prieces are somewhat decreasing, so keep an open mind, there's a whole world of styles ouside the current fifties an sixties trend (although I admit I'm a sucker for it too).
Also you're looking for second hand furniture, not vintage furniture. Know the difference. Vintage furniture  is  more beautifull and/or rare and this is reflected in the price; e.g. furniture designed by Alvar Aalto is vintage, a cupboard made by your grandfather probably is not. 

4. The actual work
Congratulations on your buy! Now it's time for the real work, here are a few tips for re-occuring problems.
These are a few basic steps on wooden furniture:
  • You best start off with dissamblying the piece of furniture as much as possible. 
  • Next up is sanding the woodwork;  begin with hard-grained sandpaper, and later continue with a smoother version. It's very important to follow the direction of the wood grains while sanding, since this leaves little scratches in the wood. Don't forget the corners/ sides! Wipe off the excess dust (sanding wood litteraly leaves a layer of dust on the surface, so I hope your not allergic) and search the surface for imperfections. Repeat if necessary.
Steel parts often show signs of rust. Here's how to handle this:
  • Pick up some sanding paper for steel, keep on sanding untill the rust goes off. Since this will make the paint come off, it'll be necessary to repaint the steelwork. Usually spray paint is pretty handy; check the can to see if the paint can be used for steel.
5. Keeping it simple
When the woodwork's still in a decent state, there's no need to go crazy with paint (or other things). The onlly thing the piece of furniture needs, after completing step 4, is a new layer of varnish.

6. Thinking outside the box.
 Old scraps of wallpaper or pictures from magazines might look nice on a drawer, chair, table.. etc. Mind the scale of the pattern; the design of  wallpaper is accustomed to the size of a wall so it's possible  it might not be so perfect on a small scale piece of furniture. In this case  magazines, newspapers, posters,... might be a better fit.
Same goes for paint; why not use different colours or patterns in stead of just one? It's a perfect way to get rid of any paint-leftovers. Don't overdo it; think your design over before painting to avoid clashing colours.
More inspiration: stamps, geographic lines, other upholstery...

Use old magazines for a graphic effect.
You can find this tutorial here:collage chair
Why choose one colour? Ombre-effect DIY by Design Sponge
A more romantic take on furniture with the distressed look: pretty handy girl  has written a handy guide on this look.
I got this great example here: http://www.hgtv.com/handmade/how-to-distress-furniture/index.html


7. It's in the details.
Think about decorating the inside of a drawer too, changing the knobs, etc etc. These might seem futile but, trust me, they'll add instant quality to your work..
You can find these at Anthropologie


The inside matters: I decorated this drawer with Venilia self adhesive.
8. Know when to stop.
The refurbished furniture will have to fit in your interior eventually; so evidently it shouldn't clash with your interior's main colours. Unless you inhabit a mansion, this hobby also ends when your home is full (sad face),so it's no use to keep on buying: know when to stop.

1 comment:

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