I was looking into pictures of my previous up-cycled furniture and I started wondering…<p class="has-text-color" style="color:#476e3b;font-size:30px" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">How do we know when it is best to leave vintage furniture as it is?
You are standing in front of a piece of furniture that you just finished up-cycling and you are feeling epic. You are proud of yourself and what you were able to do and how you brought back to life that piece of crap that you rescued from the damp. Have you ever felt like that?
I did, and there is this one particular furniture that I’m really proud of, an old rustic bookshelf with glass doors that would have ended up at the landfill if I hadn’t rescued and up-cycled. The guy that I’ve got the cabinet from listed on Freecycle and said, “if nobody collects it by tomorrow it will end up at the landfill.” Quickly my husband and I fetched it and with a few simple changes, I was able to turn a gloomy old bookcase into an industrial cabinet with a modern edgy.
When you do something like this, you know what you are doing is a real achievement, not only personal if you do the furniture for your own home or to sell it, but also you feel accomplished about the planet. You are working on a sustainable way by bringing old furniture back to life that would otherwise end up at the landfill. Obviously, you feel proud of yourself, your business and the attainment involved in it. But what do you feel when the up-cycling work doesn’t turn up the way you expected?
Sometimes you paint a piece of furniture and at first, it looks great. You feel happy and accomplished about the improvements you’ve made it. But as days, weeks or even months pass and you are looking to that furniture every day and you start to ponder, what if I had painted the other way, what if I had used a different colour, what if I had given a different finishing, OR what if I’ve just had left it alone? No shame to admit, sometimes we just have to leave the furniture as it is, others we just have to roll our sleeves, get the paint and brushes and do it again.
Here are a few examples of furniture that I have redone, sometimes even more than once to make it better. Others I simply regretted that I have done the “up-cycling” in the first place, but with mistakes, we learn and we improve our skills to achieve perfection next time. Perfection has a very complex meaning. What means perfect for me might not be perfect for you, because everybody has a different taste and way of looking at things.
This music sheets cabinet, I first painted white, then after a few months, I’ve decided to paint the frame olive green, to be honest, I don’t know why. When I finally decided to sell, the customer asked me to paint all white, so I went back to my first intuition. If I was to do this today, I would leave original because the wood is quite nice, or I would sand it down and stain with a lighter wood finishing. This was my first up-cycled furniture back in early 2014. Some furniture are just best if left untouched with their original vintage look.
The serpentine sideboard above was a bit of hate and love. I love the shape, very classical, elegant and the storage that offers is perfect for a dining room. What I didn’t like was the veneer, although it was intact, the colour was really faded, as you can see from the picture on the left. When I saw someone on Pinterest that have up-cycled a similar sideboard and painted only the frame and left the front original. I’ve decided to try it and see how it would turn up.
I’ve painted the frame with ASCP in Old Violet and sealed with waxed and on the fronts I’ve applied a coat of oil (I don’t remember which) to bring the wood back to life, which worked as you can see from the picture in the middle. The end result was quite nice, but for some reason, the furniture wasn’t a quick sell and I needed to sell, so after a few months I’ve decided to paint the fronts too and list for sale again. I didn’t sell straight away but eventually, I was able to sell it. Ufa! What a relief!
The purpose of restoring old furniture is to bring them back to life and to make them reusable for many years to come. These antique and vintage furniture are all solid wood, robust construction and classic shapes. In order to make them relevant to be used for many years, decades even is to give them a long-lasting finishing, beautiful look and relevant to contemporary lives. “Painting a piece of furniture just for painting is not enough.” We need to bring some value to it and make it better than it was before refinishing.
If I was going to refinish today the sideboard mentioned above, I would have done differently. Probably I would have painted using latex paint for smooth, durable finishing and also to create a modern look on an antique piece. Or I would have used chalk paint but give a deeper aged look by using dark or black wax to create depth, especially on the legs and crevices of the details. The third option would be to remove all the veneer, sand down to raw wood and work with a stain and a dark wax to give a beautiful aged look but showing off the natural wood. Any of these finishing options would bring a better result than the one I’ve made in 2015. Few examples below of how I could refinish this sideboard today.
Another example of a bad call on up-cycling that I’ve done in the past is the table below. First I’ve painted with blue chalk paint, but as I didn’t like I applied another coat in a washed yellow and then I sanded it to give the distressing look. When I look now at the pictures, I really don’t like it. I hate it actually. Today I would sand it down to raw wood, remove the leather finishing on the top then I would probably stain. The second option would be to paint with chalk paint and lacquer or latex paint for a durable smooth finishing and modern look. Like the navy table above on the left.
There is no shame to admit when something goes wrong and we have to redo the paint to make it better or sand it down to raw wood and start again. But, as I said before, some pieces are better if left untouched. Especially if the wood is nice, the colour is beautiful and the surface is not damaged. In my opinion, an original vintage piece with wear and tear brings more character to a room than a bad up-cycled one. I’ve learned the hard way not to rush in to start painting a piece of furniture. Let it sit for awhile, have a look, think what would make that furniture come to life and try to visualize how would look like in the end. If you can’t have a better visual from the current condition, it’s better to leave it until you are certain.
Here is a few examples of furniture that I’ve left untouched or did some minimal restoration on the original finishing.
I have bought about two months ago a spinet desk that I’ve found it on Marketplace. I’m currently using it as my makeup table but I intend to use it as a small desk in the future. I like the wood, but not 100%, but I’m not sure if I want to paint or stain either. For now, I will just leave it as it is. What do you think I should do? If you have any ideas please let me know in the comments below. Thanks
I hope you have enjoyed this post.