6 Ways to Update Old Furniture

Breathe new life into dated pieces with these creative tdeas from blogger Shaunna West.


white dining room with farm table

Blogger Shaunna West is a seasoned veteran when it comes to revamping old furniture. The “project gallery” section of her site, Perfectly Imperfect, is an education in DIY updates; from painting a vintage bread box, to recovering the seats of old dining chairs, to building a dining table out of reclaimed wood … and everything in between.

Throughout her quest to salvage vintage furniture, West has learned a lot about both spotting pieces with potential, and the best ways to reinvigorate her finds. Her number one rule?  “When shopping flea markets and antique fairs, stick to solid wood pieces with great craftsmanship,” West says. “Look for dovetail drawers, for example, and make sure they slide in and out easily. A little chipping veneer doesn’t bother me, but I don’t want to repair the entire piece, either.”

Once you find that diamond in the rough, it’s time to give it a makeover. Here, West shares few of her tried-and-true tactics for giving old pieces new life.

(Like her style? Be sure to stop by West’s curated collection for Joss & Main, launching Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 9:00 p.m.).

update old furniture

1_circlePaint it white
Sometimes, all it takes is a coat of paint to completely reinvent a piece. West’s go-to shade? White. “You can never go wrong with white,” she says. “White paint looks instantly fresh and good on almost anything.” (See her writing desk at left).

Change the hardware
“Switching out your hardware is the simplest and most affordable way to update your furniture,” West says. “Plus, it speaks volumes about your style.  Think of hardware as icing on the cake or the ‘jewelry’ to your furniture.”

3_circlePreserve its character
One of the most beautiful things about old furniture is its history. Which is why West suggests leaving some of that character intact. “Leave the top of a table as is, for example. I love painted pieces, but balancing out the look with a natural stained top is classic and timeless.”

4_circleGo slow
If you’re not sure exactly how you want to repurpose a piece, wait, says West. “Be artful—sit with your piece a while. Don’t be in a hurry to paint it; pay attention to where it will sit, what it should look like before you paint.”  But, don’t let fear of choosing the wrong color stop you from starting the project, either.  “It’s only paint,” West says. “You can always change it!”

gallery wall using wooden trays

5_circlePick a palette
Getting your creativity flowing is great, but don’t let it take over.  Tempering your artistic urges will yield the best turnout. “Stick to one or two colors, three max,” West advises. “Using more than that on one piece can make it look cartoonish.”

6_circleUse contrast
Remember your color wheel?  “Work with complimentary colors when painting furniture,” says West. “Remember to vary the saturation of color … a deep red dresser paired with pale green drawers will be a stunner.”

-Kaitlin Madden

Find your next perfect piece (at up to 70% off!) on Joss & Main: