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5 Ways to Refurbish Vintage Furnishings

Save money by turning timeworn objects into beautiful decor.
by Barbara Jacksier


Storage items are essential to any cabin, but large, simplistic pieces can easily serve in a display capacity as well. A lighter color keeps this hutch from overpowering the room while artfully showcasing the owner's bath items. Potted plants add to the distressed vintage furniture's earthy appearance. Credit: J.K. Lawrence photo

You’ve calculated the price of the land, the materials and the builder for your dream cabin, and put some money aside for unanticipated costs. Nothing will surprise you, right? Wrong. Even if you’ve paid meticulous attention to the math, you may have overlooked one very important expense — the interior furnishings.

Solution: Reusing your old home furnishings is frugal and helps you create a casual ambience that’s easy to maintain. These affordable recycling suggestions will help you sidestep sticker shock.

Take Stock
Tour your current home with a pencil and paper, a tablet computer, a smart phone or a camera, and record each seating option, storage unit, table and bench. Don’t forget items that reside on your porch or are hidden in a shed or barn either.

Determine what each serviceable piece needs to make it worthy of reuse. Would a slipcover, a fresh coat of paint, or stripping and re-staining do the trick? For example, a slightly beaten-up old trunk that’s no longer needed for storage might become an unconventional coffee table.

Prep School
Inspect each piece for loose joints, broken parts and other defects. Remove old finishes, and sand items you plan to repaint or stain, as years of dusting and cleaning products leave residues that prevent new paint from properly adhering to previously painted surfaces.

Once the piece is primed for its upgrade, try one of these five suggestions for different furniture items you might refurbish.


Wood is an easy medium to manipulate if the piece is still in good condition. Faux finishes can rightfully update and antiquate your furniture to appeal to you cabin's aesthetic. Appliques can also add texture to an otherwise standard item. Credit: Cindy Thiede photo

1. Color Coating: A fresh coat of paint is usually the quickest, least-expensive way to give timeworn furnishings a new lease on life. To create a woodsy bedroom suite for your cabin, paint mismatched chests that currently reside in several different rooms in one or two natural shades of gold, green or brown. If you prefer contrasting colorful log cabin decor, choose a soft white, or your favorite bold and bright colors. For a long-lasting finish, allow the paint to dry thoroughly, and add a top coat of clear sealer or natural paste wax. Create an aged or distressed appearance by roughly sanding corners or small flat areas to expose a bit of bare wood before applying the top coat.

2. Easy Add-Ons: Wood appliques can cover small gouges or add dimension to plain tables, headboards and other flat surfaces. (Note: For very deep gouges, the applique may not have enough surface area to adhere properly. In this situation, it’s best to use wood filler first to create a larger surface.) To apply, sand the area where the applique will be placed, then use a quick-setting glue to attach the motifs. When dry, apply primer and paint.

3. Rustic Illusions: Faux finishing can refurbish wood and metal home goods to match trends in rustic furniture. Imagine a plain cupboard or desk painted so that it appears to be crafted of white birch, bird’s-eye maple or barn siding. The necessary glazing mediums and specialty brushes, along with instructional videos, can be found online.

4. Fabric Fix-Its: Rambunctious pets, careless kids, sunlight and spills take a toll on upholstered furniture. Before getting rid of your current sofas and chairs, try lifting stains with a heavy-duty spot cleaner. A loose-fitting slipcover is often a good investment to cover up torn or severely faded upholstery. Investigate the back and undersides of couches and chair seat inserts for pieces of useable fabric that can be recycled into accent pillows or patchwork coverlets.

5. Creative Recycling: Take a fresh look at your accessories. Repurposing what you already own can be as simple as grouping several ottomans together into a modular coffee table, turning a retired window shutter on its side to form an awning above a bed, or using a metal floor grate as a pot rack in your kitchen.

Published in Country's Best Cabins
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One Response

  1. 34 years living in and appropriately furnishing an 1896 Victorian farmhouse meant most of it fit perfectly well into a rustic log home. The white wicker got a coat of sage green paint and more muted cushions and look great on the porch. The red velvet heart back Victorian side chair did stay with the old home but everything else is oak or primitive walnut. A twig table and a pie safe were the only additions. I was lucky to have collected for so long.

    Sharon SceperJanuary 24, 2013 @ 7:06 pmReply

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