Thursday, November 4, 2010

top 9 tips for revamping furniture

top 9 tips for revamping furniture


I’ve been known to revamp furniture – new, old, broken, ugly… whatever! I’ve even been known to revamp revamped furniture – several times. In fact, I get very satisfied when I’ve put some muscle and time into making over a piece of furniture and putting my own stamp on it. And that’s the beauty with decorating:  it doesn’t have to be permanent. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You just need a little creativity, a few tools and some handy tips and tricks. I chatted to two revamping gurus whose names you might recognise – Shannon Fricke and Natalie Walton – and got them to share their top tips for working their magic on tired, old, worn or just not-quite-right pieces of furniture and transforming them into statement pieces. I also twisted my own arm to share some of my ideas.


SHANNON FRICKE – interior decorator/stylist/homewares designer/author/blogger/mother. Has a way with colour and is an expert at transforming something so-so into something so-wow – many of which are published in the pages of The Australian Women’s Weekly each month, as these three furniture revamps were above.
1. Be bold in your colour choice “Revamping old furniture is a great opportunity to make a statement and I generally begin with a ‘wow’ paint colour to get decorating mileage out of the piece. Favourite colours are turquoise – as it tends to pair beautifully with old-style furniture – and mint, which is my colour of choice for everything right now.”
2. Use pattern in upholstery “For upholstered pieces such as single dining chairs or armchairs, I love fabric that is patterned in a large floral or that is boldly striped in ‘notice me colours’ – particularly if I’m dealing with a single chair and an otherwise plain interior.”
3. Take up arms “A paint spray gun is the best investment you’ll make particularly if you’re revamping cane furniture with lots of nooks and crannies. It will cut your revamping time in half and give your piece a better finish. Just be sure to spray in a well-ventilated area and surround your piece with plastic back drops.”
Find Shannon: website  blog  shop ♥ twitter


NATALIE WALTON – the busiest person I know. She’s Real Living magazine’s deputy editor and does soooooo much more than I ever did in the role! She writes, she edits, she styles, she blogs, she started a Selby-style website called Frontliners, she writes novels, she travels and has many other extra curricular activities. AND she’s mummy to adorable 2-year-old C. She’s also often up late at night painting furniture for various styling and personal projects. Here are her top tips.
4. Choose pieces with good bones “When it comes to interiors people often talk about homes that have ‘good bones’. Ie, spaces that offer buyers/renovators with plenty of potential. This usually comes in the form of high ceilings, towering door frames and a great aspect. When looking for a piece of furniture to revamp similar principles apply. You want something that has great shape and a solid structure. However, what you plan to do with the piece affects what you should look for too. For example, if you want to create a trompe l’oeil design (or something along the lines as this table) then you will need to look for furniture that is shapeless. Alternatively, ornate pieces can be toned down with simple or subdued paint colours.”
5. Be aware: not all revamps are bargains “People revamp furniture for one of two reasons (or a combination of both): because it’s cheaper than buying something new, or they would like to have a one-off item. While you can definitely find bargains on eBay, at your local charity store or on the side of the road, keep in mind the cost to actually bring your found object back to life. This is especially true when it comes to restoring timber and/or having furniture reupholstered. If you’re not doing it yourself it’s not always a cheap exercise. And if you do it yourself, you want to be confident that you can do a good job otherwise you’ll end up with something that looks lacklustre. That said, painting (as opposed to stripping timber back and varnishing) almost always looks good.”
6. Get personal “Yes, you can paint older pieces of furniture in sophisticated (if a little safe) colours – some of my favourites are Porter’s Paints Rococco and Grey Chintz – but if you’re going to the effort to revamp an item then you might want to have a little fun too. After all, you can always revive it again in a few years’ time. That’s the benefit of working with older pieces: they are made to last. So why not incorporate a stripe or a spot into your paint scheme? Or use found objects as stencil designs (such as doilies, gum tree leaves, palm fronds…) and completely repurpose items (the queen of this is Suzie Stanford – who uses teatowels as fabric for armchairs, teacups and saucers as upside down lights, and beach towels on retro office chairs, as featured in the latest issue of Vogue Living). The only limit is your imagination.”
Find Natalie: blog  work ♥ frontliners ♥ twitter


7. If you love it, you can make it work “It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t quite fit your style or is waaay out of date – even the unlikeliest of items can be made to suit your style and space with a little DIY. Paint, paper, fabric, new hardware or a little elbow grease can do wonders for any item.”
8. Don’t just stick to the old “There is no law against changing a new piece of furniture. I do this often. I’ve spraypainted a lamp a different colour, and painted and wallpapered a wooden dresser – all brand spankin’ new pieces. It doesn’t have to be major – new knobs on a wardrobe or desk drawer can make all the difference. As can swapping doors for curtains or roughing up perfect paint with some sandpaper on a new chair.”
9. Get creative “A paint job and new fabric are the most common ways to revamp, but look to other materials too for a new spin on things. Try woodgrain contact paper on tabletops, wallpaper or gift wrap on cupboard fronts or desktops, use coloured masking tape (as I did in the children’s table and chair set, above) and fabric in unique ways. Stencil, draw, stamp, sticker, carve, stain, veneer or cut-out. There are so many ways you can make an item look different – if you’re slightly original, it’s bound to be the statement piece in a room.”

Shannon says, 
“Generally I use a satin finish – never a matte as it shows up lots of little finger marks! However, some items require a high gloss such as a more glamorous piece, and it’s always best to choose a high-gloss enamel if you are dealing with timber…”
Natalie says, “A low-sheen paint finish can hide a multitude of sins.”
I say, “For any piece that will be used by children or that will attract other mess (like a dining table), high gloss is your friend as it simply wipes clean. And sample pots are a really cheap way to buy paint for small projects: my local hardware sells a 500ml as a sample pot for under $10 – making most projects inexpensive.”

I hope this was useful – feel free to add your own revamping tips or secrets in the comments! Also, the “top 9″ will be a new regular feature on The Happy Home – sometimes products, sometimes expert tips, sometimes ideas, sometimes a mix of both. If you have a topic you’d like covered, let me know in the comments or via email at
{images: Shannon’s work via Shannon Fricke, courtesy of The Australian Women’s Weekly. Natalie’s work courtesy Real Living magazine (upholstery by the clever Renee Anne);

16 Responses to “top 9 tips for revamping furniture”

  1. Julie-Ann says:
    Some really great tips. I love the idea of painting furniture in bold colours:)
  2. Jane says:
    Thanks for the great tips. I have a coffee table I am going to revamp now. Just a question though, do you have a preferred primer? There seem to be so many on the market!
  3. Georgy says:
    Perfect timing, just thinking about revamping an old wooden coffee table and small bookcase. Great before and after photos and has given me some ideas. I like the white conversion but also love that side table in the very first photo, what a great colour. G
  4. Fiona says:
    I remember seeing the Shannon Fricke chair and storing it in my memory for future reference. I am now definitely going to use that stripe to recover the seat and cushions on my little cane sofa. Thanks for the reminder and all the other great tips!
  5. Marnie says:
    OMG, I love that boys room, how cool is the chair and wardrobe, sooo funky – love it all!
  6. Maria says:
    Great post Belinda, thanks for the info – it will definitely be useful when I finally put paint to Bentwood one of these days!! (I have sanded one leg…and that’s as far as I have got..!!)
  7. fiona says:
    thank you so much… i am all excited about finally starting the dining room chairs. if they turn out half as good shannons white ones i will be thrilled.
  8. Belinda says:
    Hi Jane! I’ve found any old primer is fine for raw wood, but for anything else, Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 is pretty darn good – esp pre-painted-or-finished surfaces. it covers and seals really well – I even used it on my cabin floor!
  9. lanne says:
    Just felt the need to add.. I have every single issue of real living and i greatly appreciate the work both you and natalie have done over the years. The magazine was so new and fresh when it started and you did a great job!
  10. belinda says:
    Lanne! That’s so sweet! thank you xx
  11. Tracy Monroy says:
    Great tips! Going to yard sales is another great place to find inexpensive furniture. Most of the time the furniture can be restored and end up looking beautiful. I enjoy purchasing chairs where I can redo the upholstery. This way I can have it match any room I want and it is much less expensive than buy a new one from the store.
  12. Sophie says:
    Great tips indeed. I just posted yesterday about some great revamps. Will be sure to add a link to this post. Just found a few goodies during the local council clean up, will be sure to follow your advise!
    I’ve used ESP in the past and it does wonders. No more sanding – which I hate – and not a problem with it so far.
  13. Great article. I am going to mention you on my blog tomorrow.
  14. [...] The Happy Home:  top 9 tips for revamping furniture photo from The Happy Home [...]
  15. Amelca says:
    They all turned into beautiful things. :) )

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