Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old furniture, new style: Oliver Heath's tips on refinishing furniture

One of my true pleasures is finding old pieces of furniture and giving it a new lease of life; it’s the excitement of the potential, the burst of creativity and finally it’s appreciating what you’ve made – knowing that its totally unique to you. Vintage furniture will add character and identity and it can help make your home feel more human – taking the harder edge off contemporary design.

I often scour markets and thrift stores for classic pieces such as chairs, bureaus or cupboards– older furniture won’t have any of the chemical nasties found in their modern counterparts and they are often built to last with solid timber – so all it takes area few ideas and a little work to give each piece a new lease of life.

Why not try a few of these:

Sand the piece down (to give it a key) then re-paint it using natural paints- which won't have toxins.

If the piece is covered in layers of paint, sand it down a little to give it a distressed look.

Or even create the distressed look yourself by adding layers of paint and gently removing them once dry– tonal shades of the same color work best.

Paint the interior drawers a vibrant – even shocking- color for a real burst of life.

Paint a section in natural paints to match your room, and then cover other areas in patterned wall paper, although wrapping paper or squares of origami paper will be cheaper as they are available in smaller amounts.

Apply gold or silver leaf over sections of the unit to give it a soft but rich reflective glow.

Replace the handles and legs with something more contemporary and if there is a lock with a key, fit a decorative tassel for a touch of glamour. These smaller details really work wonderfully.

Use stencils – such as flowers, leaves, or historic patterns to add color and texture. It could even have a graffiti feel for a children’s bedroom.

Cover the piece in blackboard paint and then use it as a memo board by writing on it with chalk – which can look fantastic although it’s best done over a solid floor as it can create dust.

Use a paper decoupage (cut out images or text from magazines) and cover the piece – choose similar colored images or even just black and white for the most coherent effect.

For chairs simply recover fabric sections in something retro, vintage or even really contemporary – the change will work wonderfully.


monikads said...

Hello there,
I am a practicing interior designer and always advise my clients to follow these principals.. however today most of them are after the clean, modern, contemporary look and they would happily get rid of their inherited, tired looking and worn out pieces.Even after I rescue, clean up, restore and re-upholster them, they would prefer to buy brand new.. I start to believe that creativity and crafts have lost the plot...And my house looks like a furniture warehouse now...

andrea said...

Perhaps with the current global economic recession people will start to re-think the way they furnish their houses.

I am also noticing that as a society we are (if painfully slowly) becoming more aware of our impact on our environment, and are trying to make positive changes in our everyday lives (for instance: http://green.cbc.ca/).

I don't work in the business, but I can imagine your frustration with clients Monikads. I think it's great when designers help their clients make 'green' choices and I hope that more people really start to embrace eco consciousness as more than a trend. Books like Urban Eco Chic certainly seem to help! :-)