Original article by Mike Cahill
with excerpts from knot too shabby and other experts

Still have that hideous worn-down sofa from senior year of college? What about the hand-me-down recliner that you bought for $5 from the Salvation Army? Many of us look at antiquated, unattractive furniture as just that – a piece of trash that’s managed to avoid being thrown to the curb for far too long. Well, today, we’ve gathered experts who will encourage you to look at that recliner or old sofa with a fresh set of eyes. Read on to discover the endless ways you can breathe new life into an old piece. Whether you’re in Golden Valley or Miami Beach, we’re sure you’ll find something to inspire you. Enjoy!

Update, don’t replace

We speak with many customers who have updated the interior of their home and now their old furniture doesn’t fit the decor.  We can generally update their existing furniture to match the color scheme of the new look.  With a new color, finish or upholstery, we can make out of date styles and color, current. – Sacramento Furniture Restoration

Yard Sale Finds. Trash Day Rescues. Grandma’s Relics! So many of us have them lying around our house…sometimes out of sentimental obligation and other times out of functional need. Whichever the case, those pieces of furniture can be transformed into something beautiful and beloved! If you have a mis-mash of design, paint can pull together varying styles and eras off furniture together by giving it a consistent color palette. Or, take that favorite piece of furniture and make it a stand-alone statement piece with a decorative paint treatment or pop of unexpected color! If you’re struggling with color choices, pull from your textiles…like throw pillows, drapes or rugs. We know that picking color can be a challenge, so bring in your pictures, fabric samples and idea boards and we’ll help you with a cohesive design and color plan for your furniture pieces!  – Knot Too Shabby


Questions to ask yourself

You’ve got that old leather couch or high quality (be it old) fabric chair that needs to be replaced. Or maybe you’ve found a wonderful piece at a vintage shop that is begging you to take it home to refinish it. Easy and affordable right?

Before undergoing the journey of such furniture repair you need to ask yourself a few key questions:

  1. What would the replacement cost be vs. restoring it? (might take some homework)
  2. What type of fabric is it?
  3. What is the furniture worth? This usually includes a sentimental value as much as a monetary value. – Color Glo

Add a splash of color

First sand with 180 sanding grit and work your way up to 220.  Finish prep by vacuuming, a tac cloth, and lightly steel wool (grade#0000) in between coats of primer (using a good primer like Benjamin Moore). Then use high-quality cabinet paint like Benjamin Moore Advance.  This paint is amazing and great for high traffic, heavy use and kid’s grimy fingers.  This paint doesn’t need a top coat and can be wiped down when dirty! – Everything Karupped

Paint can magically transform almost anything in your home, from furniture to decor items, and even fabric. It’s an amazing way to save old furniture that’s destined for the dump, or to restore sentimental heirlooms and give them a whole new look that will be loved by a new generation. So before you spend all your hard-earned money on brand new furniture and decor, get creative with paint and relove what you’ve got instead! But be warned, it’s addicting! – Country Chic Paint

Looking to give your kids an activity table to play on? Simply find a used table online, whether an old activity table or a coffee table, so long as it is made of wood and is sturdy it doesn’t matter how it looks.  Just head down to the hardware store and pick up a can of spray paint, which not only will add a splash of color to your kid’s room, but will make the table look brand new as well.  If your kid is into Legos, you can take the project one step further and use a double-sided gaffer tape to attach Lego baseplates to the table top, and now they will have a surface that they can build on as well. – DSA Factors

Customize your pillow selection

There are limitless ways to give furniture and living spaces refreshing, unique updates that can change the entire look and feel of an interior. In fact, I’ve built my entire business around teaching students how to create their own high end, hand made home furnishings and accessories. If you think you’d like to reupholster your sofa yourself, get that idea out of your head. You’ll die of boredom before you reap the rewards. Instead, create (and I mean make them yourself) very chic, trendy pillows filled with down inserts. Lush cushions will scream ’style and quality’ and nobody will notice your well-loved sofa. Choose small pieces if reupholstering is your goal. DIY-ers can do a good job of reupholstery if they do some research and watch come videos. I have a group of online upholstery courses and it surprises some people that teaching upholstery online really does work. A unique textile thrown over the back of a chair or sofa is a clever disguise for a tired old piece of upholstery. Keep big pieces neutral, add punch with pillows, an ottoman or a bench, and of course, art—even your own art. Clear out the clutter. Less is more. Allow your space to showcase who you are and what your life is, but restrain yourself. A few interesting pieces will always be showstoppers compared to a room full of every piece of your treasured stuff. Have fun with it and learn the tricks to creating the kinds of spaces you like to see. And most important of all, stop and realize how great you feel after creating a warm, inviting, stylish surrounding for you and your family. That’s the gold. – Homeroom

If your neutral-colored sofa is making your room feel neutered, throw a pillow (or ten!) on it. Nothing more instantly and effortlessly refreshes a sofa or armchair than a smattering of decorative pillows. Create a bespoke (and budget-friendly) look by mixing store-bought and custom-made pillows. The sky’s the limit with custom pillows–bold fabrics, varied shapes and sizes and funky trims are our go-to design details. – Revitaliste

Upgrade your hardware

New hardware can make a world of difference on wood furniture. From yard sale finds to out-of-fashion hand-me-downs there are a ton of ways to revamp and reuse otherwise great furniture pieces. Have no fear, it’s not hard either. Remove any handles or knobs and add a coat of primer. Once dry, add at least two coats of your color choice. Go with white for simple and classic or bold colors like green or blue to make a statement. Grab a new set of knobs or handles from your local hardware store and… now you’ve got a whole new piece of furniture that will last for years to come! – Big Sandy Superstore

Don’t forget to accessorize

Accessorizing can transform a room. It can bring color into a drab or boring room or tone down a room that is too busy or in need of reigning in. Throw pillows and throw blankets, rugs, greenery, florals, artwork, interesting sculptural pieces and other home décor items can be all that your room needs and it doesn’t require a costly new furniture investment. There are inexpensive options available for all of these items, but sometimes you can look no further than your own home- do some swapping room to room or “shop” your basement or attic for cool hand-me-downs from your grandma or souvenirs from your travels. Just be careful not to overdo it- a cluttered room is not calming or beautiful. I work with clients on a limited budget quite often who hate their rooms and think they need to invest in replacing the large furniture items, and it turns out they have good bones to work with, so we do an accessory makeover instead and the rooms just shine! – Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design

Give modern flair to traditional pieces

I always say that a traditional piece of furniture upholstered in modern fabric is the best way to give old furniture new life.  Another way to transform an old piece is to just change out the legs. There are beautiful acrylic (screw in) legs that can be purchased for sofas and chairs that will transform any piece from blah to fantastic. – Ruthie Staalsen Interiors

Make it match

Older furniture is often built sturdier than the MDF pieces you’ll find in stores today so don’t throw it away! Remember that wood can be stained, painted, or resealed. Fabric can be updated with simple craft dye. If a piece of furniture doesn’t match your home, you can even update the style by adding custom appliques, new legs, or removing gaudy trim details to modernize it. Take a step back and look at the item to determine specifically which parts don’t jive with your taste. By updating just those parts, you could have a brand new piece of furniture you love in just a few simple steps! – Teri Moore Home

Reupholstering your furniture

Furniture upholstery done well should first take the item down to bare-bones and then build it back up. The wood frame or corner blocks may need reinforcement or repair. Springs may need replacing to give better support and comfort. This will ensure the chair lasts for another two or three decades.

Finally choose the upholstery fabric wisely, keeping in mind how frequently the piece is used, where it is placed, and how much sunlight it will get. For durability, choose a fabric with a Wyzenbeek score of at least 20,000 for furniture that will be used daily. Avoid red colors, as these typically fade quickly in brighter lights. Finally, choose a pattern that fits well with the chair style.

When all this is put back together by a professional upholstery specialist, you will have a chair to cherish and will last a long time. – D&N Upholstery

Leather furniture treatment

We recommend applying a cleaner/conditioner product specific to that particular type of leather once or twice a year.  For example, a Full Grain Full Aniline Nubuck leather requires a Nubuck cleaner/conditioner but a Full Grain Full Aniline Berkshire or Brompton leather requires their own respective cleaner/conditioner.  It’s crucial to use the correct treatment for the leather you have or you’ll risk discoloration or in a worst-case, destroying your leather.   Using the right product can reinvigorate your leather to bring it back to life for years to come.  When you have the product in hand, always follow directions and apply it first to an area on your piece which you cannot see like the underside of a cushion before applying to the entire piece.  This will show you how the rest of your leather will look once applied. – Leather Groups

Billiards care

Time to blow the dust off the cover and rack’em up.  The cleaner your balls are the longer your cloth will look like new (a good brushing won’t hurt either.  Sometimes it’s best to get a new cloth applied on your table to inspire the family back into the game room.  If shuffleboard is your style, change it up with some wax. – West Penn Billiards

Consult with the pros

I think the best way for someone to tackle a project is to contact a local expert to see what supplies they could purchase from them. This will also help them learn what they will need and can possibly get remnant fabric at a discount. Caning can be covered over or carefully cut away to look as if it was never there. Leather can be touched up and recolored using the right methods. – Kristin Ottesen Upholstery


Originally published on Redfin