From Ugly Duckling To Glamorous Swan (I)
PART ONE - FURNITURE REFINISHING - THOUGHTS & SOURCES
Repainting old furniture is on the rise. And, not only furniture but entire kitchens are being repainted. Bathroom cabinets are receiving new finishes and colours. People are talking about it. Magazines are devoting pages to it. Dealers are looking for bargains to sell at higher prices. People are looking for ways to save money and to have a personal feel to their homes. Some people have started to refinish furniture with the intent to make some extra money. I have always liked the idea of painting and reusing old furniture.
I remember when I was in my teens, I found a tattered high back wicker chair by the side of the road near an old farm house. The chair looked solid enough, although its finish was darn ugly. I dragged it home, cleaned it up and painted it white. I think my mom made a cushion for it. The fun was dragging it home, paining it and seeing it transform into a lovely piece. That chair lived with us for a long, long time!
Due to the many moves I have made, I regret to say that most of my furniture is not old or antique. I highly support reusing old furniture whenever possible, but the cost of moving is so high that most of my ‘treasures’ found new homes over the decades. During my last three moves I braved the cost and kept a few pieces that are dear to my heart. These pieces have a British-Colonial feel to them and eventually they may well lead themselves to some gorgeous refinishing. For the moment I love them for what they look like now.
In the past few weeks I have been looking for a vintage bedside table or small chest to refinish. While a lot of my present furniture is more contemporary I want to add some quirky pieces to give the space more personality. During my excursions at antique shops and markets I found a couple of lovely round tables in reasonable shape, but their pricing was exorbitant. One small side table was so wobbly that its price tag of $98 was not warranted. I had to start looking for some other resources.
Looking for some inspiration I found a number of sources and I was excited to find some amazing pieces. Beautifully restored and refinished. Some of them so exquisite that it made me drool, for instance the beautiful blue dresser above and the charming white table and blue chairs.
True antique stores are not a good source for vintage objects that I want to paint. A good antique piece has a beauty of its own and I feel I need to respect that. The thought that many people before me have used such a piece, reclined in it, dined at it, slept in it, is a fascinating one. Real antique pieces of furniture are very costly. Growing up in the Netherlands antiques were very much in vogue. Today not so anymore. Although a beautiful antique armoire or cupboard would look so spectacular in a contemporary or even modern, Zen home. These styles complement one another.
A few years back a friend of mine needed to downsize and she gifted me with two genuine antique George V carved walnut dining chairs. One of them had extensive repairs and found another home, but the other one is still in great shape and it still has its original needle point material on the seat. I will never depart with that piece, but I am thinking of giving it a fresh new look by reupholstering the seat with a gorgeous striped silk. To date I have not yet found the fabric I am looking for. It has to be very special and rich in colour to bring out the contrast between the old frame and the contemporary fabric.
So, next time a family member or friend is getting rid of some furniture, take a look at it and see if you can give it new life. You could well end up with a gorgeous new piece.
Other sources are second hand stores. It is fun to browse through them to see if there are any hidden treasures. Talk to the owners to see what they have coming in. Find out when they stock their store, so you can be the first to have a look. After all, if the look is in vogue it may fly out of the store. The other day I walked past a second hand store here locally. There was an unattractive open shelving unit sitting on the sidewalk which would be perfect for the storage room. It appeared to be solid, The size was right. I thought that if the price would be ten or fifteen dollars, I would purchase it. Not so! The price tag was $65. Too much money. I walked on.
Checking local auctions and garage sales can also provide treasures. My cousin has a very keen eye for all sorts of interesting old pieces. She always amazes me with her finds, large and small. One of her hobbies is to visit thrift stores, second hand stores and flea markets. I have learned that these can be great sources of good quality (albeit often ugly) pieces that are begging for a refinish job.
In today’s technological world, Kijiji, Craigslist or Ebay can be good sources as well. Usually the prices are much better than second hand or thrift stores. Someone else’s junk can become your or my treasure!
Another source which is easy to overlook is low budget furniture stores offering a range of soft wood and wood based furniture. Often these pieces have a minimal finish and are so much easier to prep for a refinish job. Especially when the style is unattractive, it is a fun challenge to give such pieces some glamour. At the same time the work is much less than used and vintage pieces because they don't need to be cleaned up or fixed. My motto is that old, vintage or discarded pieces of furniture need to have really low prices or free; they need to be in reasonable condition to make a masterpiece out of them.
In Part II I will let you know how to refinish a furniture piece. I will also give you some great paint options. Until tomorrow!