Furniture Fix-Its: Restore – Need a major overhaul? Even the most decrepit pieces deserve a second chance
Sometimes a major overhaul is needed to bring a piece of furniture back to usefulness. Whether it’s damaged, outdated, or just plain ugly, here are some ideas to restore beauty to your furniture.
This is probably the best-known method for refurbishing wood pieces, and there are many products and informational websites available to help you refinish furniture. There are a few important points to mention before you start applying any finish remover. First, if you are considering refinishing a family heirloom, or an antique acquired at an auction, estate or tag sale, get it appraised first. Refinishing a valuable antique will greatly diminish its value in the eyes of a collector. Second, removing a finish is messy and can be hazardous if not done in a well-ventilated space. Make sure your workspace is durable enough to deal with the mess, as well as open to fresh air and away from any source of spark or flame, including any pilot lights for gas stoves, hot water heaters, or furnaces.
Decorative handles and knobs
Home improvement stores and a variety of catalogs offer a vast selection of decorative and functional furniture handles and knobs. Designs range from traditional to fun, and can add a spark of life to the everyday table or cabinet.
You can transform a table from “OK” to “wowee!” by cutting and pasting. Decoupage can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. Basically, it involves cutting out pictures to create a pattern, and then gluing them down. After the pictures are glued in place, several coats of a decoupage medium or a varnish will seal and protect your design.
Some neat ideas include using “ABC” clip art on a child’s table; coffee and tea cup wallpaper cutouts on a kitchen table; flowers and birds clipped from durable wrapping paper to adorn the top and legs of a nightstand. Cutouts can come from color photocopied prints, pictures, or documents. Wallpaper, borders, gift wrapping, and other papers are also sources for decorative pictures.
When refinishing to the natural wood isn’t an option or your desire, consider painting the furniture piece. Start by gently roughing the surface with fine-grit sandpaper. Use wood filler for any dents you don’t want to show, unless you are purposely going for a distressed look. Paint the surface with an enamel paint to help the object withstand wear and tear. However, keep in mind you don’t have to stop at one basic color — you can create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece with the following techniques.
Faux Finishes: This category of painting includes a wide range of techniques, from marbleizing to vinegar painting, sponging to combing. Become familiar with the different looks and decide which one will work with the furniture you want to try it on. Marbled faux looks are more formal, while sponging creates a much more informal, country-style finish. The websites noted at the end of this article will give you places to begin examining the various finishes.
Trompe l’oeil: Literally “fool the eye,” trompe l’oeil painting can create illusions on furniture, like a book lying open, a deck of cards with a dealt hand, a dish of strawberries waiting to be enjoyed, or a pot with twining ivy growing up a table leg. This technique might be more challenging than you are looking for unless you are an experienced artist.
Stenciling: One of my favorite decorative techniques is stenciling. Tables, chairs, bookcases, cabinets, and many other pieces are wonderful showcases for stencil designs. Look for a stencil that will work with your decorating scheme as well as the size of the piece you wish to stencil. Proportion is important, and a large bookcase could overwhelm a small, fussy stencil pattern. If you happen to use an ivy stencil on the room walls, it is fun to trail the stenciled ivy onto a piece of furniture, adding a trompe l’oeil-like illusion. A game-size table gains extra points when you incorporate a game board for checkers or chess. For ease, try to purchase stencils with overlays that make it easy to have several colors in the design.
Crackling: If you are seeking to add age and character to a corner cupboard or pie safe, crackled paint coatings might be the technique for you. Several manufacturers offer crackle coating kits. Most start with a base coat and then apply a second coat in a crackle medium. A thin coat of the crackle medium will result in thinner cracks, while a thicker coat will create larger, chunkier looking cracks.
Whimsy: Go a little wild! Use a pop-out color — or two, three or more! One chair or table painted with flair will make a statement. You can add as much detail as you like, from painting the rings around chair or table legs with different, complementary colors; adding “dots” to the piece by applying paint with the back of a new pencil eraser; or a checkerboard patterned seat. The sky is the limit when your sense of whimsy takes over.