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How to Make Old Furniture Look Exciting

by Tiffany in A Green Home

old furniture

Furniture and home decor can be a big expense. It is also not sustainable to buy new all the time, especially since so much of modern furniture is cheap and made with not-so eco friendly materials. Instead of buying new we can always reuse and recycle what is already out there. The best thing about going that route is that you end up with really unique and personalized furniture and decor…. stuff that no one else has.

So how do you spruce it up?

#1  Paint it.  Dingy, dull, or just plain UGLY furniture can get a whole new life with a fresh coat of paint.  If the furniture is already painted, you’ll most likely want to strip it first.  Old paint can contain lead and other harmful chemicals so where a mask, be careful of paint chips, and do this away from kids if in doubt.  Next, head to your local paint store and find your favorite color in low VOC or zero VOC paint. 

VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemicals released from the paint.  They can cause illness as they are released into the air for years after application so get it right the first time.  You can also strip and stain the furniture with natural and VOC free stains. 

#2  Reupholster it.  Have a piece of furniture that you like but that doesn’t quite match your current décor? Did you find an awesome chair or couch at a flea market that has tears and stains? Reupholster it with environmentally-friendly fabric like organic cotton or wool. Get creative too… you can shop for fabric remnants that cost only a couple bucks and do a patchwork upholstery job.

patchwork chair


#3  Add bits of finery.  Cabinets, drawers, and armoires can be greatly improved with a little bit of hardware.  You can purchase the hardware from a flea market, antique store, or a salvage store. They’re great places to find hardware with personality. 

Tabletops can be given a makover with mosaic tiles made from hammered porcelain or glass tiles.  You can find tiles at your local flea market or salvage yard and the project of hammering them into bits and then reassembling them on your tabletop into a beautiful pattern can be both cathartic and fun. 

mosaic tiles

A few years back I took a foyer table that my parents had bought shortly before I was born, and refinished it. I took out the wood tiles that were in the center of it since many were missing, and I put in fruit themed tiles. It now sits in my kitchen… and  it has sentimental value because it was one of the first pieces of furniture my parents bought.

You can also use sheets of scrap metal or recycled metal to create flash on tabletops or cupboard fronts.  The metal can be used as tiles or as an entire front to add an urban or contemporary touch. And old door can even become a kitchen or patio table.

People have used everything from chicken wire to astro turf to add flair and personality to old furniture. I actually LOVE chicken wire on kitchen cabinets.. it looks so country! There are a million green ways to make old furniture new again.  Take a look at what you have around or shop used and see how you can make good use of it in an eco-friendly way.

  • I’ve used colorful sheets from the thrift store to re-cover furniture and pillows. You can get surprisingly good fabric there, and it’s fun re-purposing things.

    For one very old rocking chair cushion, I just folded the sheet tightly around it and pinned along the bottom seams with curved quilting safety pins.

  • Stillrowdiee

    i love love love this