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How to Give Old Furniture a Modern Makeover: 4 Steps to DIY

How to Give Old Furniture a Modern Makeover collage

Everyone has at least one piece of furniture that’s old and has seen better days. And I am sure you have dreamt about replacing it. Maybe with a designer piece of your dreams, or a piece that has the functionality you desire without the bruises of a hard-lived life.

And then, I can imagine, for some of your dreams turn into nightmares when you begin to think about the cost to do so — especially when we are talking about quality crafted, wood furniture.

Undoubtedly, redesigning a piece — in most cases — is less expensive than replacing it. Plus, it’s way more fun!

Of course, sources and websites like Pinterest are flooded with before and after’s, and the inspiration is endless — between the Internet and social media. But how do you actually do it?

Step 1: Decide What Needs to Change

Look at the elements of your piece and decide what’s dated. From time to time there are elements of a piece that show age, but not in a good way. Make a plan to change these elements and bring light to the more relevant design elements.

Here is a perfect example. The china cabinet has great lines, and it’s beautifully made from solid pine. But the wood rails and wine glass rack say DATED!

Now with the the rails removed and the wine rack repaired, this piece is the perfect farmhouse piece.

If you’re not used to undressing furniture with your eyes, here are a few considerations to look out for:

Old design features verses modern alternatives table

Step 2: Decide What Modern Features to Include

Now that you have decided what about your old piece needs to go, it’s time to consider some new, modern elements to incorporate. Think about things like:

  • Small doses of bold colors - Jewel colors are a trend that just keeps getting hotter.

  • Wallpaper drawer liners are an unexpected way to add a bit of color and pattern.

  • Modern color palettes - Lots of neutrals, or a blend of rich woods and jewel tones, are great on-trend palettes.

  • Natural wood elements - Showcase those gorgeous wood details.

  • New hardware - Change out the ordinary to a showcase feature.

Other considerations:

  • Make sure the new style fits in the room. A modern trend is to mix pieces from different eras, which makes for a fun and easy design. In “Redesigning Old Furniture: 4 Steps for Any Project” we covered how to determine your style and how to consider new pieces for your space.

  • If featuring a bold color, make sure it matches the space. The best part of “modern matching” is that it’s more about coordinating colors, and less about using the same color. So have fun and search Pinterest for unique color combinations.

Step 3: Repaint or Refinish Old Wood Furniture

When you’re ready to get started, treat your piece well. Start with preparing and refinishing the wood.

  1. Strip the wood.

  2. Repair any damage or hardware holes.

  3. Sand to bare wood if you’re staining or to prep an existing finish for paint.

  4. Paint/finish using your favorite brand and color.

Step 4: Refinish Metal Features

If you’re working on metal, or keeping metal hardware:

  1. Prep by cleaning with vinegar and water, and scuff with sandpaper.

  2. Paint with a on-trend metallic paint like gold or pewter.

  3. Seal.

Redesigning Furniture Yourself

Redesigning old furniture is more fun and less expensive than replacing fine furniture. When you’re done, you’ll not only have a new piece — you’ll have serious bragging rights too.

Start by inspecting the details of the piece you’re working on, and compare it to the styles and inspiration pieces you love. Figure out what needs to go and what can be added so you can start making a plan.



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