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DIY Furniture Refinishing Ideas | Decorative Painting & Restoration Technique Tutorials
Furniture Revamp Projects Roundup
To save yourself some real money when decorating your house, you can buy old, dated or worn furniture at yard sales and thrift stores and then refinish them yourself with simple DIY skills. Creating a refreshed finish yourself is also very satisfying, and you can make your updated furniture to suit your personal taste and to fit in perfectly with your existing home décor and color scheme.
On this page I have listed many inspiring and creative tutorials for repurposing various objects into new furniture pieces, as well as for sanding down a surface and refinishing with varnish, wood stain or paint. Projects include makeovers for tables, chairs and dressers, plus there are step-by-step instructions for taking your revamping a stage further by adding upholstery; you can learn to restore damaged chairs or simply change the fabric to something more modern.
I hope that this page gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration :-)
Before & After Chairs
Introduction To Refinishing
Ideas For How You Can Revamp Your Furniture
Refinishing old and worn furniture by yourself can save a lot of money compared to taking it to a professional; and if you enjoy DIY it can be a very fun and satisfying project too. If you are actively looking for new furniture, especially if you have just bought your first home and you're short of money, tatty furniture you find for low prices at auctions, antique fairs, car boot sales etc. can be made to look like new with some TLC. You can also buy cheap new furniture and add your own unique twist onto it to make it unique. Before you have had practice with refinishing furniture though, it would be best to stay away from the antiques!
Here are some ideas for ways you can revamp your furniture:
- Upholstery: You can either add new foam, batting and fabric layers onto something like a sturdy coffee table in order to transform and re-purpose it into a stool, or (more often) you can re-upholster a piece of furniture to refresh and update it. Re-upholstering is a popular way to revamp old chairs, footstools and chaise longues that already have the padded seating. Tufting is a traditional style of upholstery where you thread through the foam, batting and fabric layers at regular intervals to create a pattern of depressions all over the upholstery.
- Re-purpose an object or piece of furniture: For instance, you could turn old doors or windows into tables, upholster a wood crate to make a footstool, or add legs to a metal storage box to make a side table. Many larger wooden items, especially box shapes, can be turned into a useful products for the home.
- Add a new tabletop: Attach new strips/planks of wood, mirror pieces, make a glass tabletop, add mosaic tiles and grout it, or even add a layer of resin and embed items in it - like buttons, glitter, plastic charms, glow-in-the-dark stars or anything you like if it's small and thin enough!
- Stencils: You can buy a huge variety of stencil designs, or you can draw your own design and cut it out of contact paper before sticking it onto your furniture and painting over it. This technique is very versatile because any pattern you think of can be achieved. Want a giant octopus on your chest of drawers? Easy! If you only want straight-edged simple patterns like stripes or chevrons, the edges can be marked by using masking/painter's tape as the stencil.
- Re-finish: This is where you re-do the finish that was already present on the furniture, and is mostly a method used on pieces where the wood grain is on show and simply is varnished. First the original finish is removed by using a chemical stripper and /or sanding the finish off by hand with sandpaper or with an orbital sander. Then sanding sealer is added before stain is applied along the grain. The top coat is either layers of polyurethane varnish or lacquer (with sanding in between each coat), or penetrating oil.
- Painting: This is probably the most popular way for revamping furniture at home because it's pretty easy to do, and the choice of colors is almost endless so you can match your furniture exactly to your color scheme. You can use brush-on paints or spray paints, whatever your preference (see the links below for tips and how-tos). Different paints and glazes can produce different effect such as crackle or distressed/vintage. Enamel paints, latex paint and chalk paint are popular types, and chalkboard paint is popular at the moment too for various projects. Sanding and an undercoat of primer is usually required before applying paint. Click here for a great summary on painting furniture.
- Wall decals: You can easily apply wall decals or stickers onto furniture for an instant pattern.
- Printing: This is a method of printing the same shape onto the furniture over and over - for instance by using a foam stamp and paint.
- Adding different hardware: You can add various brackets and metal corner pieces to your furniture, as well as changing the handles/knobs for something more interesting and unique - such as leather handles, or ceramic/handmade/antique knobs.
- Extra add-ons: You can cut-out simple shapes from wood to add to your furniture as a raised design, or you can add other uses to your furniture such as extra shelves, built-in lighting, curtains or jewelry storage.
- Lining: You could line your furniture, e.g. inside the drawers, with wallpaper/wrapping paper/maps/fabric etc. using decoupage techniques in order to add an interesting design feature.
- Artistic license: If you are artistic you can add your own painted murals or doodles.
Tools of the Trade
Whether you want to remove the original surface finish with an orbital sander or a piece of sandpaper it's up to you; if you can afford an orbital sander then go for it, but otherwise sandpaper will do the job!
With wood you have a choice of finishes including wood stain (to keep the natural grain pattern showing through if using a solid wood) or paint (which is best on manufactured boards like MDF), and I've included both options below.
Lastly, I've also listed an excellent staple gun for anybody who is keen to take on an upholstery task. A staple gun is essential for a professional finish and a much quicker making time.
How to Paint Furniture - Advice, Tutorials & Tips
- Amazing Furniture Painting Resource
Lots of projects involving regular brush-on paints as well as spray paints.
- Painting Step-by-Step
Useful tips about sanding, waxing and more.
- Painting Furniture 101
Advice about different types of paint you can use, plus project examples.
- How to Paint Furniture
Another walkthrough of painting a table in the right layers.
- Painting Laminate Furniture
What to do when your furniture has a shiny veneer.
- How to Paint Metal Furniture
A simple guide to applying paint to metal.
- How to Paint Plastic Furniture
Simple to do using paint designed for plastic.
- Super Smooth Paint Finish
A few recommended products to get a smooth, brushstroke-free layer.
Painted Chest of Drawers
Painting Designs, Techniques & Ideas
- Stenciling a Dresser
How to add any pattern to a surface using contact paper.
- 3D Geometric Effect
How to paint a funky triangle pattern on a dresser.
- Chevron Stripes
How to transfer a zig-zag pattern to your furniture with a template.
- Painting Stripes
Use painter's tape to paint crisp parallel lines.
- Better After
Loads of ideas given by showing before and after photos.
- Crackle Finish
Add a cracked paint effect to make it look like your furniture has aged.
- Distress Wood With Vasoline
How to make a worn effect with vasoline and paint.
- Blueprint Cabinet
Filing cabinet with a fun blueprint style paint job.
- Stenciled Bathtub
Make your free-standing bathtub unique with a sophisticated stencil.
- Painted Glass Tabletop
Fun and funky geometric pattern painted onto glass.
- Tribal Leather Foot Stool
How to add hand-drawn designs to a leather surface.
Shabby Chic Drawers Makeover
Furniture Revamp Projects
- Rocking Chair Makeover
How a damaged rocking chair was stripped down and built up again.
- How to Make Slipcovers
A temporary revamp for sofas and chairs.
- Nail Head Embellishment
Add beautiful swirls on your dresser drawers using upholstery nails.
- Furniture Decoupage
Tutorials on how to add paper or fabric to furniture.
- Fun Resin Tabletop
Awesome effect created by embedding all kinds of things in resin.
- Mosaic Table
How to add tiles to a tabletop and grout.
- Bamboo Veneer Decoration
How to add veneer cut-out shapes to tables.
- Mirror Side Tables
Vintage medicine cabinets transformed with mirrors.
- Embroidered Wardrobe
Unusual idea for adding yarn embellishments.
How To Make Clay Drawer Knobs
Changing the knobs/handles on a piece of furniture is a quick and creative revamp that anyone could try.
What you will need:
* Polymer clay; I would recommend white Sculpey, but any clay that you have to bake in order to harden it will work
* Parchment paper
* Baking tray
* Non-stick surface such as a ceramic tile
* Kitchen scales
* Machine screws with matching nuts (one screw, one nut and one washer for each handle).
#8-32 is the usual size but if you find matching nuts and screws of a different size but which work on your drawer then great!
Screws that are 1 1/4" should work for most drawers but to make sure measure the thickness of the drawer front that your screw will go through and add at least 1/4".
Since you are probably replacing existing handles, when you take those out have a close look at the screws and nuts to give a better idea of what to buy. You should be using the same diameter as the existing screws so that your handle won't fit too loosely or too tightly.
* Wooden skewer/dowel/rod, or a pencil, or a paintbrush (handle), or a crochet hook etc. - just something long and thin to put a straight, narrow hole in the clay.
* Any paint/glaze/paper/water slide decals/fabric/rhinestones or any other embellishments you wish to decorate your handle with (optional)
* Sandpaper (optional)
* Clay cutting tools (optional) such as a cutting blade or a knife/cookie cutter that you don't use for food purposes
- Take an amount of the clay which is about the size you want your finished handle to be. Knead the clay in your hands to warm it up and make it softer/easier to work with. If you think the amount of clay is too little then you can add more, and if you think it's too big you can remove some and put it back in your packet. Leftover clay should be stored in an airtight container so it doesn't dry up.
- Work the clay into a ball.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on your scales (you don't really want to mix clay with anything that will come into contact with food...just to be on the safe side) and weigh the ball you have just made.
- Now measure out the same amount of clay on the scales and make another ball from it. Keep doing this until you have the number of handles you want. The weighing keeps the handles equal in size.
- Make a small ball of clay for each handle to use as a flat 'platform' to separate the clay ball from the drawer front. Take one of the larger clay balls you made before and, making sure it's a smooth spherical shape, press it on top of one of the smaller clay balls. Shape this base to how you want it (if necessary) and make sure it lies level against a flat surface.
- Use a wooden skewer/rod (or whatever else you have to hand) to make a thin straight hole in the clay by pushing it through the flat surface into the larger clay ball. Make the hole reach about halfway through the clay handle and widen the hole with your skewer so that a screw can be inserted easily. Test the screw in the hole to make sure - it shouldn't touch the sides.
- Take a nut and push it into the clay at the opening of the hole so it lines up. The top of the nut should be flush with the surface of the clay. Lightly push the clay surface (which now has the nut embedded in it) onto a flat surface again to make sure it's flat. If pushing the nut into the clay has caused clay to block the hole at all, use the skewer again to push any clay out of the way.
- Put a sheet of parchment paper onto a baking tray and spread the clay handles out on the tray. Put them in the oven by following the directions on the packet. It might be wise to do a test run with just one handle first to check that all goes smoothly.
- When the handles have cooled, the nuts will probably be quite easy to remove and so you should add a small amount of strong glue to the bottom and sides of each one and fix them permanently in place. Do the same for each handle. If you can't remove the nuts then you won't need to glue them as they are quite secure already.
- If you wish, you can sand the surface to create a smoother finish and remove any small bumps. Wash off the resulting dust.
- You can then choose to decorate the drawer knob in any way you like (or you could leave it as it is). Options include decoupaging the handle with a thin fabric or patterned paper, or painting the handle; perhaps using lace as a stencil or using another creative technique. It's up to you. Just make sure that the clay is completely clean and dry before decorating.
If you choose to paint the clay, I recommend using acrylic paints and sealing (after the paint has dried) with a few layers of Sculpey glaze. The glaze is not vital but gives a nicer finish.
This project is very versatile and there are lots of different variations you can try. You could make any clay shape for the handles including stars, hearts, flowers, trains - in fact cookie cutters would be ideal to use for cutting out these kind of shapes. Making a 3D geometric handle like this looks good as well.
There is also a variety of polymer clay colors and effects (like 'granite') available to experiment with, and you can mix clay colors together too to get different shades. Have fun!
Restoration & Finishing Techniques - French Polishing, Wood Stains and More
- Re-stain a Wooden Tabletop
How to transform a scratched and worn wooden table.
- Varnish a Dining Chair
Simple steps to giving a wooden chair a refinish.
- Restoring an Antique Pew Chair
Tutorial for using chemical stripper and a dark stain.
- French Polishing Info
A walkthrough of the technique used on fine furniture pieces.
- Guide to Furniture Finishes
Information about each of the categories of wood finish.
- Selecting a Finish
Even more details about the types of finish available.
- Tips on Staining Wood
Advice for adding a stain to bare wood.
- How to Stain & Finish Wood
A video tutorial showing you the basics of staining.
- Identifying The Old Finish
A guide on how to work out what finish the furniture has.
DIY Upholstery How-Tos
- Simple Chair Re-Cover
How to fix new and stenciled fabric over the existing chair cover.
- Upholstery Basics
Articles on tools and other upholstery advice for beginners.
- Reupholster a Wingback Chair
Step-by-step instructions for revamping an armchair.
- Upholster an Ottoman
How to add a lovely plaid fabric covering to an ottoman.
- Reupholster an Antique Footstool
A tutorial for reupholstering an old stool that has seen better days.
- Upholstery Tips & Projects
Inspiring examples of different pieces of furniture being reupholstered.
- Detailed Step-by-Step Instructions
A 3 part tutorial on stripping, painting and reupholstering a chair.
- Reupholstered Steelcase Chairs
How to add new fabric to your office chairs.
- From Springs to Foam
Recreate a chair's seat and cushion.
Patchwork Upholstered Chair
Best Furniture Craft Books
These useful books are perfect to dip into when you need help and advice with your furniture project, and they provide lots of expert guidance in one place.
Furniture Transformations - Inspiration and Instructions
- From a Bed to a Bench
How to use the ends of a wooden bed to make a bench.
- Pallet to Coffee Table
Transform a wood pallet into a stylish striped table.
- Desk from a Dresser
Interesting idea for tranforming a wooden dresser into a work desk.
- Ottoman from a Side Table
Turn a 2-layer side table into a funky upholstered stool.
- Table from an Old Door
Create a sturdy table with solid wood and concrete.
- Coffee Table to Ottoman
How to add padding and tufting to a wooden coffee table.
- Martha Stewart Furniture Center
Lots of how-tos for desk, table and chair projects.
- Mirrored Sewing Table
The addition of mirror tiles makes this desk uber modern.
- Wooden Crate to a Footstool
Turn a wooden crate into a rolling footstool/coffee table.
Reupholstered Tufted Chair
Creative Furniture Makeovers
- Ship Stencil
Reverse stencil a fantastic ship design onto a dresser.
- Woven Belt Chair
Fix a broken chair with an upcycled belt seat.
- Paper Lined Bookcase
Line a bookcase with wrapping or decorative paper.
- Leather Drawer Pulls
Recycle belts as handles for your drawers.
- 2-Tone Table
Nice idea for leaving the top natural and painting the rest.
- Ruler Collection Table
Whether it's a collection or rulers, stamps or coins, it can create a fun makeover.
- Workshop Ordinal Dresser
I love the stenciled numbers and weathered look.
- Vintage Dresser into Media Centre
Transform an elegant dresser into something modern and useful.
- Neutral Union Jack
Take a classic symbol and use it to inspire an attractive dresser revamp.
Glass-Top Table Revamp
More Project Examples & Tutorials
- Furniture Remodeling
Lots of photos showing the transformation of furniture items.
- Etched Glass Tabletop
How to add an impressive etched top to transform your table.
- Union Jack is the new Black
How to paint a union jack design onto the front of a dresser.
- Using Wall Decals
There are oodles of wall decals available that you can use on furniture.
- Woolly Bench
Easily revamp a slatted bench with just colorful yarn.
- Lace Makeover
How to use lace to add an elegant print.
- Decoupage With Fabric
How to add fabric coverings to your dresser front.
- Painted Upholstery
I never knew you could paint on upholstery fabric!
- Campaign Dresser
I love the slate blue colour combined with the polished brass.
Craigslist Chair Makeover
Upholstery & Furniture Restoration Videos
Making Furniture From Scratch
If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, and you'd like to practice your basic woodworking skills, then instead of revamping old furniture, why not try building your own completely from scratch?!
- Vintage Desk
Wooden table with distressed paint effect and a lovely stained top.
- Outdoor Planting Table
Chunky table project for gardening enthusiasts.
- Woven Leather Foot Stool
Wooden frame with a top made by weaving leather strips together.
- Upholstered Toddler Beds
Lovely wooden beds with an upholstered border.
- Furniture Plans
Amazing resource for a whole array of different furniture projects.
- Birch Plywood Armoire
Large storage unit with a wooden slat front.
- Rockin' Chair
A salvaged wood and cardboard tube chair.
- Pure & Simple Side Table
A good beginner's project of a basic table and drawer combo.
Applying Wood Stain
How-Tos, Ideas & Inspiration
- Patchwork Chair
I love the colour combination of this reupholstered chair seat.
- Crewel Embroidery Chair
Beautiful idea for re-covering chair backs.
- Painted Geometric Dresser
DIY triangular design printed using a sponge stamp.
- Beautiful Paisley Tabletop
Use a paisley stencil, then apply stain to really bring out the pattern.
- Reclaimed Window Table
Awesome looking coffee tables with a window as the top.
- Wrapping Paper Night Stand
How to decoupage furniture with patterned paper.