How To: Repurpose, Reuse, Refinish Furniture

It seems like as soon as the temperature starts to rise and the flowers begin to blossom my need to redecorate and rearrange my house shifts into high gear.

I feel the need to move the chairs closer to the windows.  I want everything to look lighter and brighter.  I find myself pouring over decorating magazines and websites, drooling over new prints and patterns.

Does this happen to you too?

Don’t rush out and buy a new piece of furniture just yet!

You can reuse, refinish and repurpose furniture you already have to give your rooms a new Spring look for almost nothing.

Keep in mind, some of these photos are of my real house…the one I live in with my three messy boys, a dog and a cat. And a husband who doesn’t do windows.

So, dismiss the dirty floors and dusty windowsills.  Remember…we’re talking furniture today.

Here are a few ideas on how to re-imagine the furniture you already own.

Re-Purpose It!

DSC_0615Photo by Eren Hays San Pedro

Don’t get stuck with the idea that a piece of furniture must stay in the same room forever, or with the same purpose or function.

The corner cabinet in the photo above previously held diapers and books in my boys’ nursery when they were little. And now it holds extra serving pieces and dishes in the dining room.

Small side tables work great in a master bathroom next to the tub. Chairs, side tables, stools, and benches can easily be moved from one room to another.

How about bringing the outside in? Or the inside out? You can give a kitchen a garden feel by bringing your patio table inside.

Photo by Eren Hays San Pedro

This little table used to sit beside our couch, but it now welcomes guests (with a coat of polyurethane) on the front porch between our vintage iron chairs.

Re-Use It!

  • If it is the clutter that is getting to you, try adding doors or shutters to your bookcases. Or use a tension rod and curtains to cover the mess. You’ll love the instant change.
  • Covering a sofa with a slipcover might be the easiest way to update your couch.
  • Dining room chairs are easily recovered with fabric and a staple gun or small nails.
  • Cut the legs off a taller table to make it a shorter coffee table or a play table for a playroom.
  • Add castors to a trunk or suitcase to make a rolling coffee table. Or add castors to a bedside table to make a small kitchen island.
  • Take drawers out of a chest and use them as shelves. Then, add a tension rod and curtains to the dresser for a different look.
  • Add fabric or wallpaper to the backs of bookshelves, or as curtains if cabinet doors are missing.

Re-Finish It!

DSC_0599Photo by Eren Hays San Pedro

Refinishing is much easier than you would ever think. Quality wood furniture is expensive, so if you have a good, solid piece of furniture it will save you money in the long run if you can find a way to make your piece work in a new way. The side table above was natural maple color and it would not have worked in the bedroom next to our mahogany bed. A fresh coat of white paint and it looks perfect in this space.

Paint Is My Best Friend

  • Almost everything looks better with a coat of white paint. If you feel like your room is looking a little too dark, consider painting one of the larger pieces a lighter color.
  • If you have mismatched pieces that don’t share the same finish or wood color, consider painting them all the same color for a more unified look.
  • I know all of the decorating magazines tell you to change out the hardware and knobs, but this really works. If the hardware on your kitchen cabinets or dresser drawers are making it feel a bit frumpy, change them out! You will be glad you did.
  • Just look at what one family did with their old media cabinet using a bit of paint and imagination.

Add a Little Age

If you love the look of Pottery Barn furniture, but not the prices, you can give your current furniture the same treatment for little to nothing.

I love furniture with a rustic feel. “Rustic” means that my 5 year old can run his hot wheels into the leg of our kitchen table to his heart’s content giving his mother a hear attack.

This is a great link on how to repaint furniture black with an aged look. (I’m sure it would work with white paint too). Or this one explains the techniques for using wax to get a worn look.

Strip It

I hate stripping furniture. I’ve only done it once. But it was worth it.

If you have mostly painted pieces, one natural wood table or buffet can keep your room from having that “matchy-matchy” look. And stripping furniture is a great alternative if you have a quality wood piece of furniture that you want to return to its original state.

This TLC tutorial should get you going.

Photo by Eren Hays San Pedro

Other Inspiration

Here are a few other links to get your creative juices flowing.

Have you repurposed a piece of furniture lately? Tell us about it! Or do you need some ideas on how to reuse an old item of furniture? We want to hear about that too!

68 Comments

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  2. Amanda G.

    I love this!

    I’m always trying to find ways to make furniture I already have, or great steals that I find going to sales, into useable pieces. Sometimes, things that are hideous before I perform a little magic on them, turn out to be what I get the best comments on!
    .-= Amanda G.’s last blog: Permission to Find Your Bliss =-.

      • Amanda G.

        About two years ago, my husband and I “inherited” a china hutch from the seventies that was HIDEOUS. (It had been passed around several times before it came to us.) It was very dark brown with gothic inspired carvings on the lower doors, tarnished brass pulls, and the top doors were glass with gold paint on the perimeter of the glass. It hid in the basement for about a year until I started hunting for a craft cabinet for my kids. As it was actually wood-not particle board covered with the wood grain inspired paper (though it looked like that), I sanded, painted, changed the hardware and knocked out the glass on the upper doors. On one side I replaced the glass with chalkboard painted wood and the other side is a fabric bulletin board. Now it sits in the family room, is used frequently and I spent nearly nothing to refurbish it!
        .-= Amanda G.’s last blog: Link Love :: The Mommyhood Edition =-.

  3. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

    Thanks, Eren! You’ve inspired me to do the project that has been on my want-to-do list for several years… take our worn oak kitchen table and mis-matched chairs, and re-paint/distress it in an antique white. We’re moving in two months, and it would be so great to get this done so that the table is freshened up for moving into our new home.

    Love so many of these ideas! Especially the idea of adding a tension rod and curtain to a shelf that doesn’t have doors!
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home’s last blog: Want to Win a Copy of Real Food on a Real Budget? =-.

    • Eren

      Oh great Stephanie! Please post pics when you get it done…your house will be so pretty with a “new” kitchen table. Enjoy!
      .-= Eren’s last blog: Friday Favorites: Redecorating Edition =-.

  4. Pat

    I love that word – “re-imagining”!

    As I read this, I am re-imagining a new location for a table that has been stored in a closet for the past couple of years! Thanks for the idea! 🙂

  5. Nancy

    Eren, love all these great ideas! We have also shifted arm-chairs and tables from room to room as our family has grown and our lives have changed. I want to take a stab at recovering our dining room chairs (gulp!).

    One idea I wanted to throw out: you can buy unfinished table legs in various heights and styles online–we took a small white desk of mine (with an attached hutch filled with nooks for storing stationery) and put coffee-table sized legs on it–painted the legs to match–and voila, our daughter has a desk that grows with her. In a few years she will be ready for the end-table sized legs, and then we’ve saved the adult-sized desk legs for her teen years.

    Many tables have screws and plates these days that makes changing out table legs quick and easy~
    .-= Nancy’s last blog: Wetlands walk. =-.

  6. Rebecca Mills

    These are some great ideas Eren, especially since I have gotten most of my furniture from relatives and yard sales. You can turn a $5.00 coffee table into your own creation with some paint, but because I have a young child who puts his hands on everything I can’t go the white paint route.

  7. James

    Definitely some great ideas on how to reuse existing furniture. A lot of people tend to get hung up on how a piece belongs in one place or room, when it could work much better in another. So try changing things up!

  8. Jimmy Ahyari

    Nice touch! if I see from the picture above, I assume that you are someone who is very creative. Good job my friend!

  9. Susan Weaver @ Maple Sleigh Bed

    It takes a lot of creativity to be able to pick up something old and turn it into a completely different piece of furniture, either in terms of style or in terms of utility, or even both. It also lets us save a lot of money, since we won’t need to buy anything new. These tips are very useful, I might do this myself more often!

  10. Linda

    I love your website – I’m currently home full time and with 2 acres of unused land – I have a whole lot of opportunity here to get busy with!
    I have several barn windows and would love to turn one of the larger into a coffee table – any suggestions for how to keep the worn paint in tack and make it a “finished” surface?
    Thank you for all the lovely ideas!

  11. Wood Furniture Maryland

    You made an EXCELLENT point when you said, “good, solid piece of furniture it will save you money in the long run”. Especially since over its life time you can repurpose it as needed. Consumers should always start with quality wood furniture – or even better – custom built wood furniture that will start out being the perfect piece for their homes. Then later repurpose as their needs and tastes change.

  12. Lisa

    Hello Eren,

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  13. Irene

    What a great post, I actually found it very thought provoking, you just never know sometimes when a golden nugget of information is going to land at your feet, thanks

  14. Sarah Smith

    Thanks for all the ideas. It has definitely given me some inspiration!

  15. lindsey

    I have a question for you, Wonder Woman! I’ve got an oak filing cabinet that would be the perfect size for a media console but it has two big drawers, with 4 faux drawers. How would I re- all of the above -to this piece of furniture to make it actually have four drawers? Is that possible or am I dreaming a little too big?

  16. Michelle

    What a wonderful site. For years we have been saving beautiful, good-quality furniture from land fills. A little bit of repair and a coat of paint and you have a new treasure. Many of these pieces are very well made. In many instances the cost to purchase that piece, made today, in America, out of solid wood, (without staples) would be considerable. When we re-furbish older pieces we not only help the environment but we are getting good quality furniture!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Barbara F. Arteaga

    Thank you for this very inspirational post. This just sets all the right motivation I need to set up the same project. And you are right when you said paint is your best friend. It does all the magic!

  18. Siobain

    I have used the site http://www.ecofreek.com to find this old roll top desk that I refinished and painted teal! Check it out maybe it will help you too!

  19. amy

    I only wish we had budget to do a similar thing with our Reproduction furniture.

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    How can I repurpose a snow sled by making it into a pc. of furniture?

  21. Brenna

    I have a Pottery Barn desk with hutch that belonged to a girl who loved to paint her nails on it! It’s white and it’s shiny white, like a veneer, as opposed to painted wood. I was thinking about placing postcards, pictures, etc….and shellacking just the desktop that is so messed up. Would this work? It’s for my son’s room. I’ve never done anything like this, so any advice or suggestion would make me very happy!
    Thanks!

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    Instead of adding colour, think about taking it off. Whether you sand a piece of furniture to give it a shabby chic/worn look, or sand the colour off completely, this is an easy way to revamp existing furniture. If the object is wood, think about sanding off colour and then staining. If you’re sanding a metal object (chairs, filing cabinet), take the colour off completely and varnish with a clear protective paint – the modern look of raw metal looks fantastic.

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