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DIY Furniture Refinishing Ideas | Decorative Painting & Restoration Technique Tutorials

Updated on January 1, 2015
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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

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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.

Furniture Transformation

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Painted Chest of Drawers

I think the color combination of this paint project is very elegant, and the bird silhouette adds uniqueness.
I think the color combination of this paint project is very elegant, and the bird silhouette adds uniqueness. | Source

Shabby Chic Drawers Makeover

I don't know I would find just awesome and artistic ceramic knob handles, but all of the ones on this example are so interesting!
I don't know I would find just awesome and artistic ceramic knob handles, but all of the ones on this example are so interesting! | Source

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

* Oven

* 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)

* Superglue

* 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.

- Finished!

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!

Buffet-Turned-TV-Console

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Gradient Dresser

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Patchwork Upholstered Chair

This Parker Knoll chair has been re-upholstered with a patchwork design, and I absolutely love the result.
This Parker Knoll chair has been re-upholstered with a patchwork design, and I absolutely love the result. | Source

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.

Reupholstered Tufted Chair

Reupholstering can dramatically change the look of a chair, and I love the new modern fabric on this one.
Reupholstering can dramatically change the look of a chair, and I love the new modern fabric on this one. | Source

Glass-Top Table Revamp

Restyling of an IKEA table.
Restyling of an IKEA table. | Source

Dresser Makeover

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Craigslist Chair Makeover

chair-makeover-diy
chair-makeover-diy

Photo and chair revamp by DLThompson06 - Click here to read more about the process.

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?!

Applying Wood Stain

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Dreamy Cabinet Makeover

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Have you ever revamped your own furniture before?

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    • profile image

      josephlion 5 years ago

      it is really good ideas and skills showed here

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great ideas for revamping furniture as a diy project. Loved that gradient dresser!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is really top class work. Keep it up.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Awesome and very resourceful article! Thank you for all the links. I've refinished several vintage pieces I've purchased at second hand shops and flea markets and I'm always looking for more ideas. :)

    • profile image

      Moocha 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens and great restoring tips for furniture. Love the patchwork upholstered chair, very funky!

    • Todayhaspower LM profile image

      Todayhaspower LM 5 years ago

      So nice, I love it. Great lens. :)

    • profile image

      FineWineFurniture 5 years ago

      Great lens! Those restoration ideas on bringing old furniture back to life are fantastic.

    • profile image

      jeremykim2011 5 years ago

      Wow! You can make a career from revamping furniture!

    • Shana rios Chavez profile image

      Shana rios Chavez 5 years ago

      great lens thanks!!!

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 5 years ago

      I really want to paint a table I have aqua, but I was a little scared, so I'm practicing on smaller objects first.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm full of good intentions about restoring my old furniture, but never get round to doing it properly. Great lens!

    • KevCooper profile image

      KevCooper 5 years ago

      I paint old furniture, as long as it's not valuable!

    • profile image

      rally0012 5 years ago

      Dreamy Cabinet Makeover !!! Are very nice pic !!!

      Use this keyword for getting more knowledge about Hallmöble | Barnrum | Säng | Soffbord | Matbord | Sängar furniture.click on this hypertext.

    • teristazko profile image

      teristazko 5 years ago

      Great lens. I painted some of my daughter's furniture and it turned out so cute!

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      Some great ideas. People are too quick to throw away good furniture when all it needs is a bit of imagination and elbow grease to transform it.

    • profile image

      sellhousefastusa 5 years ago

      interesting what you can do with some creative ideas and painting of old furniture or newer ones

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very nice furniture ideas. when someone gets creative with furniture it can turn out to be beautiful. my favourite types of furniture are Mahogany Furniture and Cherry Wood Furniture

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      Love the furniture makeover ideas!

    • Emdagny LM profile image

      Emdagny LM 5 years ago

      I loved the ideas--it gives some great ideas for painting.

    • profile image

      jazziyarbrough 5 years ago

      Beautiful revamped furniture! I will have second thoughts before throwing out my old furniture now! Thank you for sharing great useful info that saves tons of money!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Fabulous furniture transformations. Appreciate these creative ideas for up-cycling outdated styles.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have several pieces of furniture that I would like to revamp. We hired a residential painting company to make some changes to our kitchen and living room. Once that's done I'm going to decide how I want to revamp the furniture. It's going to be such a fun project!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for making this cool resource for ideas! I don't know how I feel about the patchwork chair... My initial reaction is, "That's not what you're supposed to do to a chair!" But really, I like it for some reason!!

    • profile image

      treaclepie 4 years ago

      Great lens! I have just bought two Parker Knoll chairs myself to revamp so this lens has been very helpful. Maybe i will make a lens about my revamp too!

      Thanks for the inspiration :)

    • MrAdvice LM profile image

      MrAdvice LM 4 years ago

      I have been painting for 15 years and I still managed to learn a few things. Very creative!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 4 years ago from Kansas

      Love these ideas! Wish I had more time to do something like this. Great before and after pictures! Blessed~

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Love it!

    • newbizmau profile image

      Guided Abundance 4 years ago from Mobile, AL

      That dresser makeover before and after pic was pretty convincing to get started on some over due much needed makeovers.

    • elliot-small profile image

      elliot-small 4 years ago

      Loving this page!! I do a fair few bits my self, would be great if you could stop by my page so we can share tips etc. have a look at some of my work on http://www.facebook.com/thefurniturerecyclingshop

      I mainly import from France right now and paint up louis XV style furniture from 50's and am loving it!!!

    • CottageHomestead profile image

      CottageHomestead 4 years ago

      LOVE this lens, so fun!

    • profile image

      NathalieM 4 years ago

      That patchwork upholstered chair is stunning!

    • profile image

      Dorindawang 4 years ago

      i love the idea about decorating and also that cabinet make over. The result is awesome. I gotta try it soon. Thanks for sharing.

      Anyway, please kindly visit my lenses abstractpainting. Its about decorating home. Hope it will be useful :) Thanks.

    • moanaparker lm profile image

      moanaparker lm 4 years ago

      interesting lens and your tips are very helpful...

    • profile image

      halloweencostumebuyingideas 4 years ago

      Fantastic Designs

    • Wendy Leanne profile image

      Wendy Leanne 4 years ago from Texas

      I really like the mosaic table.

    • wickerparadise123 profile image

      wickerparadise123 4 years ago

      Sending right off to twitter now. Loving this lens, so creative

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Really lovely site. Thank you!

    • earthybirthymum profile image

      earthybirthymum 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love the retro side tables :) I have a few projects on the go and to start this spring. Great Lense!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great lens on restoring furniture yourself. I have just added a link to this article on my lens regarding restoring and upholstering furniture

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      making old furniture new just excites me. I love the idea of just knowing when i look around my house or someone elses that I did that i want to learn more and more about this . God bless and restoring furniture is like taking an old soul and making it new and whole with the touch of Jesus Christ. Bless all of u that have sp much talent. God Bless

    • profile image

      adamluis 4 years ago

      Well i will call this Furniture Art :D Some Amazing work you have Showed, especially the Dreamy Cabinet Makeover *thumbs up*

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Haha, after reading this post I noticed that you also made a lens called How To Use Primer and I thought It was going to be about painting furniture. I was slightly disappointed but it did make my day a little.

      https://hubpages.com/style/how-to-use-primer-101-m...

    • wellingtonboot profile image
      Author

      wellingtonboot 4 years ago from U.K.

      @anonymous: Ha...maybe that's a good idea for another lens... :)

    • JeffGilbert profile image

      JeffGilbert 4 years ago

      Loved the shabby chic mosaic table and the patchwork upholstered chair. Great lens!

    • clevergirlname profile image

      clevergirlname 4 years ago

      I'm just now thinking about this - I lost my job and I need a new dresser, so repainting something from a thrift store, yard sale or flea market might be right up my alley. Thanks a lot!

    • mcsburlea profile image

      mcsburlea 3 years ago

      wow the after pictures look fantastic, this is super awesome.

    • profile image

      jasmints 3 years ago

      Great lens! Enjoyed the before and afters :)

    • GreenfireWiseWo profile image

      GreenfireWiseWo 3 years ago

      Very informative- thank you.

    • ToolHire LM profile image

      ToolHire LM 3 years ago

      I can just keep myself busy for eternity just revamping old furniture and objects. I found some brilliant ideas in your lens, thank you! :-)

    • profile image

      ryangflo 3 years ago

      Great article!

    • profile image

      JHarbourn 3 years ago

      I've always wanted to revamp old furniture! I don't really have the room to do it in my small apartment, but one day :)

    • girlfriendfactory profile image

      girlfriendfactory 3 years ago

      Some great ideas! I might need to do some of this soon! :-)

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 3 years ago

      I just love upholstery and have restored many chairs. It's a great feeling, especially when they are of superior quality to the ones that are cobbled together these days..

    • ireneporter profile image

      ireneporter 3 years ago

      This looks amazing. Plus it's unique and you can't find it in anywhere else!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      LOVE your lens and great ideas!

    • profile image

      rachael-goodwin1 3 years ago

      Have you ever used nail polish on furniture? I'm in the process of revamping a dressing table from stained varnished faux-mahogany to a dark charcoal gray - I'd like to do a multicoloured stripe effect on some of the drawers but don't want to have to buy a tin of gloss paint in each colour so wondered if anyone had tried nail polish as a cheap alternative!?

    • wellingtonboot profile image
      Author

      wellingtonboot 3 years ago from U.K.

      @rachael-goodwin1: Hi! No I haven't but I wouldn't personally recommend it, just because it would be pretty easy to chip off and wouldn't be very durable. Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      trustnotdust 3 years ago

      Very Knowledgeable! Creativity on furniture is a great idea. Of course, furniture looks great with the creativity.

      Highly recommended!

    • teelover profile image

      teelover 3 years ago

      Greta tips, thanks!

    • profile image

      christophergrapes 3 years ago

      another way of getting the old touch feel is by using natural varnish , this can be done by mixing gum copal and some alcohol solvents, or buy plastic varnish.

      a little information about gum copal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WikCL2te0Ek

    • profile image

      lionel-wayne 3 years ago

      Very interesting lens. thanks :)

    • Radgrl profile image

      Radgrl 3 years ago

      Great ideas!

    • profile image

      Toni 2 years ago

      I love these! Did you have to sand the piece first? I want to paint a coffee table but I'm aifrad to. Is there a special kind of paint you have to use?

    • profile image

      Ros 2 years ago

      I sanded and prmeid it first. I used acrylic paint and then a good matt (I don't like glossy but you might) varnish. It is really pretty easy, give it a try!

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