Making old furniture good

by Faye Knows Best22nd August 2015

My house is kind of old – only like 1930s, but aged enough that a brand new ‘footballer’s wives’ style decor just isn’t going to sit well into it. I like the feeling of an old house, like you can’t escape from the history that comes with it. I’m intrigued to hear the stories of the former owners whom I have that unavoidable connection with that is so much more than just having the same taste in property. I discovered at the back of an old cupboard with great delight an old New Year’s Eve party invitation a former owner had sent out in the 80s. Such a shame it didn’t come with pictures – or better – a film of that night’s antics. I’d love to know of the experiences my little home has been through previous to my purchase of it.

So whilst I’m a very modern miss, I have an ultimate respect for the history of a thing that extends beyond the ‘I love vintage decor’. I want older furniture to sit in my house because that’s what belongs there, not ’cause I’ve made a retro style choice based on it presently being in fashion. Sure I have modern gadgets in my home, but I want the loudest voice in the house to be an age-appropriate one.

With that in mind I try and adopt older pieces of pre-loved furniture where possible, and sometimes may need to fix or update bits of them to make them good. Another benefit of up-cycling is that it’s often cheaper than investing in new. I found this chest of drawers in a charity furniture shop for £35.00, which is less than any of us would pay for new high street stuff. I kept it in the house as was for a while, but then a badly placed vase of flowers caused a ring mark on the top surface, so the makeover opportunity presented itself.

What you need: A handheld sander with sanding paper, paint, paint brush.
If you have wooden floors you’ll possibly want floor protector pads, but these are optional (and cost less than £1.00 for a packet).
Chest what you need
1. With a sander like this one the sandpaper itself is attached via Velcro, so you’ve no worries about how to load it up. So treat your sander to a fresh piece ready for the task ahead.

2. You’ll probably want to undertake this task outside as dust gets all over the place. If you have a shed or garage that has enough space that’s ideal as will protect you from the elements. You’ll want to wear a dust mask too so you’re not inhaling any nasties.

Chest before

3. Start by running the sander over the top of the chest. Just go lightly and slowly rather than heavy handed and quickly – I’m all for being speedy and efficient but if your chest is only veneered (only a very thin top layer is the expensive wood, disguising a cheaper wood underneath) you risk taking the whole of it off.
Chest sanding
4. Lay the chest down and undertake to do the same on the front and sides. Don’t forget you’ll need to do all four sides of each leg. I’m not doing the drawers on mine as I’m looking for a contrasting effect on the final item, but if you want to do a full coverage now’s the time to remove the drawer handles and sand the drawer fronts.
Chest sanding front
5. Once you have it back to normal standing position you can start with painting the first coat. It’s up to you what paint you use – I went for this deep wood colour as I already had the tin, but you could always go for a bright colour if it suits. Leave this coat to dry before applying a second. I left mine overnight to be sure it had plenty of time.
Chest painting
A word of warning is to keep pets well away from the furniture – a cat took a walk across mine which is bad news for them as there’s a risk they lick any paint off which their paws pick up.
Chest kitty prints
6. Once the second coat is painted and dry you can add floor protection pads if you have wooden flooring like me. This means if you move your furniture around you’re not going to mark your floors so easily. If you have all carpets you can skip this step.

7. You can place your chest into its new home and admire.

So now you too can start saving the world by up-cycling one chest of drawers at a time.

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