Welcome to my blog where my desire is to help people with Home Staging and redesign on a budget. I can offer some creative ideas to help you update, rejuvenate or even sell your homes! In Home Staging and Redesign, we do our best to use what homeowners already have in new ways to make their homes more desirable.
Whether selling your home or not, if you have pieces of furniture that look like you took them off the curb or out of your neighbor’s trash (don’t judge too harshly—I do it all the time), or if you have some mismatched pieces, give painting all your pieces the same color a try. I know it sounds too simple to be effective, but wait until you see my “before” and “after” photos.
I will be using black paint for this project since the piece I’m working on could use some sophistication, but I will be trying some more interesting colors in the near future as blues and reds are becoming popular choices for furniture as well. And if you read much about design, you probably already know that every room should have something black in it. Black will set off your other colors and make them more intense.
My current project is to bring Molly back to life, refine her and hopefully deem her adoptable by a family who will love and cherish her. Now Molly, in this instance, is a beautiful drop-leaf side table in need of an overhaul. I love to frequent estate sales, used furniture stores and garage sales, and rarely come home empty-handed. So here is the transformation of my latest and greatest find in a step-by-step guide. Hopefully you can rescue pieces of your own and add some personality to your home. Maybe I can inspire you look at some old pieces you own in a different way.
For the purpose of this article, I have named my piece of furniture “Molly”. I do realize you are now wondering if you really want to finish reading a blog about someone who clearly has been inhaling too many paint fumes resulting in named furniture pieces. But I’m telling you, if you would have seen her in her sad but beautiful state, you would have wanted to take her under your wing and name her too. Here is a close up of her pull—so detailed and unique! She’s very dainty.
I had my eye on Molly for a few weeks and visited her on occasion at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore. I would pull her out of her spot for a better look, marvel at her uniqueness, pop up her leaves, put them back down, decide I really didn’t have the furniture repair skills to fix her veneer and crooked legs, and I would push her back again. Well, one day I went for a visit and saw that she had been marked down. Poor Molly was unwanted. She had lost some more veneer during her stay which I’m guessing was part of the reason for the price reduction. So let me introduce you to Molly. She’s just so charming!
So step one is to fix her veneer. My plan for Molly based on her poor condition and my lack of hard core furniture repair skills is to paint, not refinish her, so I’m giving instructions accordingly. The process would be very different if I were stripping, re-staining and varnishing her.
As you can see, there are places where her veneer is damaged or missing completely.
The first step is to gather some foil or a paper plate, toothpicks, clamps, thin wood scraps, glue, a damp rag and some heavy items to use as weights—in this case, some old books.
Where the veneer is loose, I repair it by putting a glob of glue on my foil, slightly prying up the veneer without breaking it off, dipping my toothpick in the glue and pushing it into the areas where needed. The professionals use a glue syringe specially made for shooting glue into tiny areas which is much more effective than my toothpick method. Imagine that. If you decide to do a lot of pieces, you might just want to invest in one. Then before you clamp the veneer, you’ll want to press the two loose pieces together and remove the excess glue that oozes out as it’s harder to remove the glue once your clamp is in the way. I advise removing the excess with a damp cloth making sure to remove all of the glue as it’s difficult to sand off after it dries.
You will want to find some small wood pieces or very thick cardboard doubled up to put everywhere your clamp touches your furniture so you don’t leave an imprint on the surface with the clamp. I would use wood if at all possible. Here I used some scraps of plywood. It’s also very important not to put your clamps too tight or you will glue-starve the area; meaning you will squeeze all the glue out instead of just the excess and there won’t be any glue left to do the job.
In areas where it’s impossible to clamp, like in the photo below, you can use masking tape until the glue dries.
Now for the legs. These crooked legs have turned this table from a gem into a table no one wants to mess with. Including me. It’s hard to tell by the photo, but the front legs are definitely off compared to the back legs, which appear to be perfectly straight. The puzzling part is that they are snug without much gap, and when I was looking at her in the store, I would force the legs into the proper position and it would actually create gaps. And to add to the confusion, the table itself does not appear to be warped. And all four legs are even on the ground and there’s no wobble. So, here’s what I did.
After trying my best to place small shims in the appropriate areas to straighten Molly’s legs, I realize this isn’t working. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never grasp what exactly is making the legs so crooked, but that’s what you get when you buy old furniture, right? That just adds to the charm, RIGHT? I’m now taking a moment to go to my “happy place” because I can see my shimming idea isn’t working. I’m feeling quite frustrated (even after my imaginary trip to the beaches of Acapulco) because of my decision to “foster” Molly against my better judgment. I really thought I had a good chance at intervention by shimming. I didn’t have a Plan B when I bought Molly, but I will certainly make sure I have one next time I decide to venture beyond my area of expertise. So the after-the-fact Plan B is to add a shelf underneath to try to square her up. So I go back to the Habitat Restore to buy a piece of wood for the shelf. I decide it will also make her more functional.
Adding the shelf did straighten her out most of the way, but when a gal wants to lean, you just gotta let her lean. So that is now part of her character. You know…like we parents sometimes don’t see those little flaws that others might see in our children? So it is with Molly. I still think she’s beautiful and unless you have read this blog or stand and stare at her for a while, her small imperfection is really not noticeable.
Now the end is in sight!! Painting! Since I am a painter by trade, I have painted a lot of furniture. Actually, I was painting furniture way before I became a professional painter. It’s such an incredible way to update or re-purpose your old pieces. Paint is my very good friend.
I had a dresser for years that the knobs had been painted more colors than a clown’s face and was always in my childrens’ rooms. Then I wanted to use it in a guest bedroom and wanted it to look more grown up. I just painted the knobs the same color as the dresser and it was perfect. Of course you can also change out your hardware with new hardware if it’s in your budget.
On Molly, there are several cracks on the end pieces and a few dings on the top that I won’t be happy with if I just paint over them, so I fill all of them, let them dry and sand with 200 grit sandpaper. I also apply wood filler where there are chunks of veneer missing. I do this with a putty knife, and I always overfill slightly and then sand it down as opposed to trying to fill them perfectly the first time. The filler usually shrinks and then you’re left with a divot if you don’t overfill. Or you have to refill the low areas a second time and wait for it to dry again, and that’s ok too. For surfaces that need to be very flat, like my table top, I wrap my sandpaper around a block of wood so the patched areas become perfectly flat and blend in.
The next picture is of Molly all prepped and ready to be painted.
Any time you use wood filler, you will have to prime the piece before you paint it or the filled areas will have a different sheen than the rest of the piece. I also lightly sand the whole piece since it has been varnished which will give the piece a white, sort of cloudy appearance. You don’t need to sand off all the varnish. Don’t put your muscles thru the unnecessary trauma unless you have some built up aggression you just want to get out of your system. All you need is a light sand so the surface is no longer slick and provides a better surface for the primer to adhere to. I always brush the sanding dust out of the nooks and crannies with an old paintbrush (not the one you plan to use!) and then wipe with a damp cloth before I prime or paint. Here’s Molly all repaired and ready to paint before I added the bottom shelf.
You should make it a rule to prime over old varnish in case it’s oil-based, as latex paint, which is my personal preference, will not adhere to oil. Oil however, will adhere to latex. The jury is out as to whether oil is more durable than latex.
I painted all the bathroom vanities in my last home as well as the home I currently live in. That’s a total of eight vanities—with the constant abuse of three children. I have done some in oil and some in latex and there is no difference in the wear between the two in my houses. Latex has come a long way in the last several years. I also don’t like having to use mineral spirits to clean up my brushes, and I don’t like to worry about how to dispose of it after I use it. I also primed some of the vanities prior to painting and just painted some without priming as an experiment. Again, there was no difference in wear. If you decide not to prime, it’s very important that you remember to sand before painting. My advice would be to prime first because that’s what manufacturers recommend. Sooooo do as I say, not as I do!
So now I just paint the piece with a good quality brush and a foam roller, being careful not to leave drips or runs. If you use a brush and your brush strokes are too noticeable or if there’s too much texture left by your roller, you can add some water to your latex paint or add mineral spirits to your oil paint and that will help keep them to a minimum. I use a latex paint which is an indoor/outdoor product that has a pretty strong smell, but it’s a nice, durable paint that will adhere to many surfaces.
For Molly, I used Rustoleum’s American Accents smooth satin finish paint in “Canyon Black”, which is a premixed color. It was about $8 for a quart which is more than enough for my project. I still asked the clerk at Menard’s to put my can in the shaker for me since who knows how long that particular can had been on the shelf! This is my first time using this brand so I can’t speak for its durability, but I’ll keep you posted. Here she is after one coat of paint.
Tip: if you have animals that shed and you are painting in an area where they like to hang out, you might want to do a massive cleaning before you paint. I swear the dog hair falls like rain in my house. I once turned on a ceiling fan to help dry a refrigerator I had just painted. Imagine my frustration when dog hair from who knows where blew up and into my beautiful finished project. I had to stop, count to ten and go to my “happy place” yet again. (I should have quite a tan by now.) Then I got the tweezers and started plucking—the refrigerator, not the dogs.
So here are Molly’s before and after pictures, and I think I’m going to adopt her. My initial purpose in buying her was to find her a foster home, but I love her too much to let her go. Molly’s purchase price was $10 at the Habitat for Humanity Restore.
Check out some other used pieces I recently rescued. The secretary was purchased at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $45 and the night stand was purchased at a garage sale for $8. All it takes is some time and patience to transform something dated into something incredible. It’s well worth the impact it’ll have in your home!
Central Illinois residents can visit the local Habitat for Humanity Restore website at ReStore@HabitatMcLean.org for information regarding location, store hours, donating items or volunteering your services. I visit our local Restore two or three times a week, and can tell you that their inventory changes daily. I’m glad they’re here in our city because in the Midwest, we bargain hunters get a little cranky when the weather doesn’t allow for garage sales. It’s a wonderful substitute, and I would encourage everyone to support your local store.
This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner (Home Staging Resource at http://www.HomeStagingResource.com) and a Journeyman Painter (Local 209) in the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.
And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.