I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some pieces of furniture that I have owned for years in spite of the fact that I don’t like them. It’s not that I’m cheap (well, maybe a little), but I feel that if a piece of furniture is pulling its weight by serving the purpose for which it was intended, then it doesn’t deserve to just be discarded or replaced. But what if there were a way to beautify it? Could I refinish my ugly furniture for dollars?
There is also the matter of furniture that has been in my family for a long time; namely, my grandmothers’. I have many items that were hers, and since I absolutely adored her, it seemed a sin to get rid of any of it. However, some things were worn, ugly, or just didn’t fit my current style.
Since the recent purge in my home (see how to organize your closets) my frame of mind has changed a bit. I am looking at every item to determine if I truly love it and if the answer is “no” then I’m supposed to get rid of it. This is the Kon Mari method. Trust me, this can be hard. You start to become acutely aware of the fact that you often grabbed any old thing just to fill a space.
I decided to do the same with my furniture (Do I love it? Would I buy it again? Do I use it?) and see how things panned out. Now, I am not in the financial position to be able to go around and replace all of my furniture by any stretch of the imagination. This is where I had to get creative. I had painted and refinished lots of things over the years so I knew I could do it. I currently have a Southwest style home, after all, I do live in Arizona, but I definitely have a soft spot for the industrial farmhouse style and I adore ‘Fixer Upper’ just like everyone else. I have gradually begun transitioning my décor from my original southwest decorations to a more farmhouse style décor.
This was the inspiration for the way I refinished the furniture. The first piece I refinished was my grandmother’s cedar chest. It was VERY old (even the nails were those triangular shaped ones that you only see in antiques). I remember it being in one of the bedrooms of her house and it was painted battleship grey. When my husband and I received it from my cousin, Ernie about 20 years ago, we sanded it down and stained it. We did a horrible job. I never liked the color and I didn’t know how to fix it. I tried keeping a cushion on top of it so it could not only double as seating but so I could hide it pretty well.
I decided this would be the first piece I’d tackle mostly because I knew I’d never have the heart to get rid of it. Sure, I could probably give it to my brother but since he lives in Pennsylvania and I’m in Arizona, I had no idea how I’d ever get it to him.
I had heard a lot about chalk paint so I decided to give it a try. I bought Annie Sloan brand. It’s pricey. It comes in a quart for about $25. You are also meant to cover chalk paint with wax but that is pricey too, so I went rogue. I decided to make up my own technique.
I sanded down the chest, not down to the wood or anything, but enough to remove some of the stain. I applied 2 coats of the chalk paint. It was VERY white. I knew this would not work for the aged look I was going for, so here is where my own personal technique came in. I took some walnut stain with added polyurethane that I had laying around in the garage, wiped in on the white paint, and immediately wiped it off. This “browned” the white paint just enough to make it look older. I did the same process with 4 feet I bought at Lowe’s ($6 each). I also sanded away areas of paint for that slightly damaged look.
After I did the whole chest I decided to make it a more unusual, special piece. I used stencils for some areas and just printed out words and numbers and traced onto the wood in others. I added every single address of where my husband and I have lived together. We plan to move to Chattanooga one day as well as owning a cabin in Murphy, NC so I left open areas to add those addresses. I also added the number “7” as it was my grandmother’s favorite number (she even had a dog named Seven). I love how it looks now!
Total for makeover= $53
The next items I chose to tackle were the 2 nightstands that we bought, unfinished, at Sears about 18 years ago. We had to put them together. As we were living in an old Victorian-type farmhouse in PA at the time, I thought the “natural” look would be perfect. We put them together and simple applied some polyurethane to give it sheen and protect it. Can you say “LL Bean hell?”. Yikes! I dealt with them for the rest of the time we lived there but I never liked them. When we got to AZ 11 years ago, I decided to add some darker stain to them but because I was
lazy strapped for time and didn’t feel like sanding, the stain just sort of sat on top of the polyurethane.
Well, now I was ready to correct my mistake. I had some grey-blue cabinet paint left over from my bathroom remodel project (see my $250 remodel here) so I figured I might as well get my money’s worth and use up the can (if you don’t have paint laying around like I did this will set you back $18 for a quart). I purchased 2 cute cup pulls (very farmhouse style) to replace the knobs that were on there.
I applied 2 coats of the cabinet paint using a foam cabinet roller (I had one from my bathroom project but they are only about $4 if you have to purchase) to avoid brush marks. I now think my nightstands are adorable and I can see them staying with me a long time as they are great quality and good solid wood.
Paint= $0 (if you have to buy $18)
2 cup pulls= $6.50
Total for this project= $6.50
Finally, I took on the biggest furniture challenge I have tackled to date. My armoire. We bought this at Lowe’s 18 years ago and it came unassembled and unfinished. I never liked the stain we used on it either.
It was very big and I wanted to do something with it for years but I shied away from it because I knew how much work it would be. As it turned out, it was only about an hour for each coat applied and I allowed it to dry overnight in between. I really feared sanding it but I spent extra money on Valspar Furniture paint ($26). It promised that no sanding would be necessary. Save your money here, folks! This stuff was sticky, drippy, and very poor coverage. I ended up returning half a can to Lowe’s because it was so hard to work with. I picked up a quart of basic interior satin paint instead (much cheaper) and this was a big improvement; however, I was forced to do a total of 3 coats (1 furniture paint, 2 interior) because of the furniture paint fiasco.
Of course, I changed out the knobs as I always do for impact ($3 each) and when the paint was dry I took sandpaper and roughed up spots to make it look older. I think it turned out great!
Interior Paint (got my money back for the furniture paint)-$16
Total for project=$28
If, like me, you are living with ugly furniture, don’t despair! For just a small amount of money you can turn these pieces into items that would be worth much more if you went out and purchased them that way. Once you try it, you’ll be hooked! You’ll start stalking yardsales and flea markets with a new-found passion for salvaging the ugly!