05 April 2013

Restoring Furniture - DIY Your Ugly into Awesome

How often do you come across a piece of furniture like the one below, all dingy & dirty with broken glass doors and crusted metal hardware? It probably happens more often than you realize and, in its state of ugliness, you don't even notice its pitiful existance.

But what you may not know is that wallflower sitting on the side of the road just might be the perfect piece you've been looking for all along - you just can't see it yet. I know, it's hard to visualize, but if you're up for a challenge and not afraid to get a little dirty in the process, let me show you just how easy it is to restore a roadside piece of furntiure.

Restoring furniture isn't pretty at first - there's a lot of grime to get past. Take this mid century bookcase for example. It's obvious from just one look that she's got a checkered past and some serious issues going on. However, if you squint your eyes real hard and look past what's on the surface, you just might see her inner beauty.restoring wooden furnitureThis little "lovely" actually has a great profile worthy of a second chance.

But first let's look at the reality of what's going on with this bookcase. We have a nice colony of mildew happenin' from years of being stored in a basement. In addition, there are quite a few dings, chipped veneer, and a broken glass door {unfortunately, both doors were removed prior to pic}. I know she looks like one hot mess right now with little chance of redemption, but stick with me.  If you're patient, your reward will come at the end, my dear. I promise!
restoring furniture
So you've come upon a dull lifeless piece of furniture that you've decided would be perfect, but it's seen much better days.  Should you pass on it or should you give it a second chance? As you contemplate your treasured find, the first question to ask yourself is whether it's sturdy enough for your purposes. Shake & wiggle it to test how solid it is. If it's good, then load that puppy up and carry it home! 

Your next consideration will be on how to restore the piece. Your options are to refinish {strip & stain}, restore {revive the original finish}, or paint over the surface. In deciding your option, think of these three factors:
  • Is it solid wood with dovetail construction? If yes, then consider refinishing or restoring over painting.
  • Is it mostly veneer and plywood with a construction of nails & staples holding it together? If yes, then refinishing isn't really an option but restoring or painting is a definite go!
  • Is it the perfect piece for your spot and your design calls for a painted peice? If yes, disregard all other factors and paint away! In the end, it's your piece and you have full authority to do what makes you & your home a happy place! {Shhh, don't tell anyone this, but it can always be refinished later on.}
In the case of my bookshelf, refinishing wasn't an option since the piece isn't solid wood and the surface had areas that couldn't be completely restored. So my options were to either paint or restore.  In the end, I decided it was worth restoring the original finish one last time. But if you'd like to see a painted option, check out my posts, Sweet Revival {mid century media center} and Sweet Revival {mid century bookstand}.

With my decision made, I pulled out my supplies:
  • Mask
  • Gloves
  • Extra fine sandpaper
  • 0000 steel wool
  • Tack cloth or  lightly damp sponge
  • Clean rags for application
  • Howard's Restor-A-Finish (in cherry for this piece)
  • Howard's Feed-N-Wax
 To remove layers of grime, I gently use extra fine sandpaper over the entire piece. This does two things - it cleans up surface grime and removes any loose finish that would interfere with a smooth end result. 
sanding wood furniture
After sanding, dust off the excess residue, then take a tack cloth or a barely moist sponge and wipe off any remaining debris. Allow to dry fully.

While my bookshelf was drying, I polished the hardware. As is typical, this brass hardware had a lacquer finish to protect from tarnish. If you like a shiny new brass finish, you could strip the lacquer then polish; but I tend to like a little patina, so I just cleaned it up with some 0000 steel wool.
mid century modern furniture leg

mid century hardware
See? It's aged appearance is perfectly imperfect - just the way I like it.

Once your piece is fully dried, it's time to apply the Restor-A-Finish.  Simply follow the directions by wiping on with a clean cloth. It doesn't call for a "sitting" time, but I like to let it sit for 20-30 minutes just to be sure it soaks in. After that, wipe off any excess. Once you've accomplished that, simply apply the Feed-N-Wax for a nice sheen and a final protective coat. Again, wipe on, let sit 20 minutes, then buff away. 

Once she was all cleaned up, I inserted her remaining glass door. I had planned to have the second door replaced but actually prefered the one glass door merely placed in the center. Gotta love it when things just work out!

So here's my final result.  We Went from this:
restoring wood furniture
restoring old wood furniture
To this!
vintage mid century modern furniture

modern danish furniture
vintage danish modern furniture
used mid century modern furniture

mid century modern furniture
restoring wood furniture
Appropriately, she still shows her age & wear. But she now has a clean fresh surface and a whole new lease on life. With just a little time and a little elbow grease, this wallflower became a stunning piece. 

So what do you think of the before & after? Are you inspired to find a diamond in the rough?

Believe it or not, this piece only took a total of three hours of my day. I think that's a fair trade off for a fabulous piece of furniture! So go out this weekend, find your own hidden gem, and show us what you can do with it! Happy hunting ;)



Hello lovely reader! Please leave your thoughts and comments for me to ponder - I truly love reading each + every one!

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