New Furniture from Old

Many of us enjoy our antiques and having them in our homes. But what about that odd piece that maybe isn’t quite antique – and not in the best of condition – but you like it anyway, and would like to either use it or display it in your home. The answer is to transform these pieces using various ‘craft’ techniques. Obviously you wouldn’t want to do any of the following to a fine piece of antique furniture, but that old wooden chair that’s missing its stretcher and has a deep gouge in the seat would look charming re-painted, holding a potted plant on the porch. Let’s look at how one might do this.


When re-working furniture you want to start with a clean surface (wood or metal).  This might be easily accomplished by lightly sanding and then using a tack cloth to dust. . . or it might involve stripping the whole piece followed by sanding and necessary repairs.

It should be noted, that you do not have to strip a piece of furniture if you plan on painting it. Just be sure the surface is smooth and there are no oily or greasy spots. A basic cleaning and preparation plan for prerparing wooden furniture to be painted is:

  1.  Wash with mild detergent (don’t soak the wood and allow to dry)
  2. Rub down all surfaces with mineral spirits (or turpentine) if there is a waxy build-up
  3. If the surface has already been painted or varnished – you’ll need to give it an overall sanding to rough up the surface so the paint will hold
  4. Remove any metal hardware & clean before returning to the piece

Also, if there are any gouges in the wood that need filling – now is the time to use a good commercial wood filler making sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.


Painting furniture can be accomplished using a brush or spray painting. In either case, you will want to use two coats of paint. If you are working with metal furniture to be used outside, once the piece has been sanded and re-painted – or decorated, you can use one or two coats of varnish to protect the surface from the weather.

Methods & Projects

There are many ways to use old furniture and furniture pieces.  You are limited only by imagination. We’ve listed a few methods and projects below to give you some ideas.



  • Use antique glaze to create an antique effect on any piece of furniture  (these can be purchased at your local hardware store or hobby center)
  • Paint or stencil old wooden chairs with colorful designs, or cut out your favorite pictures and glue them on to the painted surface once it has completely dried; then cover with 1-2 coats of varnish
  • Sponge glaze tables or chairs for a quick new look
  • Tole painting is a good way to dress up sections of a table or chair. Use acrylic paints on a solid background and then paint over design with polyurethane
  • Dress up the inside of a cupboard, cabinet or old trunk by lining the inside with fabric or colorful paper.


  • Use old splash boards or headboards for towel racks or attach some vintage coat hooks for hat rack you can hang on the wall, porch or deck.
  • Use old sideboards for garden tables (be sure to weather and water-proof).  These can be painted or decoupaged with cut-outs, and then varnished.
  • Convert old piano bench, trunk or linen press bottom into tables.
  • Old iron beds and metal springs make great garden trellises – paint or leave natural
  • Old porcelain cook stoves make great tables and plant stands
  • Old trunks with flat tops make great tables are are  useful to hold and hide a multitude of objects.
  • Birdbaths are good for holding potted plants or hanging baskets when you’re going out of town – just fill them up and set the plants into the water.

We all probably have bits and pieces of furniture around the house that could be transitioned into something other than what it is, and if you don’t, most often those bit and pieces can be had at garage sales, flea markets and estate sales for a minimal price.


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