Hand-Me-Down Furniture

Hand-Me-Down Help

While it's wonderful to move into a larger living space, sometimes you can find yourself a little short on furniture to fill those additional rooms. Leftover family furniture is often the natural place to locate additional pieces. Although the phrase "hand-me-down" doesn't exactly conjure up visions of great beauty, it does possess one superior attribute: the implication of the word "free." Don't be tempted to throw it away--breathe new life into secondhand furniture with these surprising transformations.

Armed with some sandpaper, paint, furniture stripper, fabric, and the help of a few experts, we set out to give a set of hand-me-down furniture, a thorough makeover. So, for those of you with do-it-yourself deficiencies, the following tips may help if you attempt some makeovers of your own.

Before & After: French Chair

French Chair

Who'd guess that this French chair cost $40 at a flea market? We stripped the paint, applied a washed-out green finish (latex paint diluted with water), and rubbed on furniture wax for an aged look.

Sometimes paying a professional is actually an investment in your sanity. Stripping furniture is time-consuming, difficult, and exhausting. It only cost $75 to pay a pro to strip the French chair.

Before & After: Headboards


After intensive stripping, these metal beds were painted a creamy shade. We used the headboards as footboards to give more presence.

If you are stripping multiple layers of paint, use a heavy-duty stripping agent. You can't get away with the low-fume, milder versions. They simply aren't powerful enough, and you will become frustrated with your lack of progress. Put on some thick gloves, and go with the strong stuff (Do this outside, of course).

Before & After: Luggage Rack

Luggage Rack

Pillow fabric covers the old straps of this spruced-up luggage rack, while the base was painted with two coats of green paint.

Befriend home decor experts and ask tons of questions. Hardware, furniture, or home design stores are invaluable resources for stylish inspiration. You can copy a trend without spending a lot. This luggage rack is transformed from a flea market find into a shabby chic room accessory.

Before & After: Lamp


Brass into stone? It's possible with a spray paint that provides a textured stone finish. A lampshade gets a custom look with grosgrain ribbon attached with fabric glue.

Explore the wealth of craft products that are easy to use. For example, fabric glue is great for certain projects such as attaching ribbon or covering an item when sewing isn't required. A simple coat of spray paint can really transform an item as in the stone finish I used on the brass lamp. Furniture waxes can impart an aged look when lightly rubbed on pieces.

Before & After: Bedside Table

Bedside Table

The bedside table had good lines, but a dull finish. With black lacquer, it really shines and ties in with the dresser on the other side of the room.

Don't use a cheap paintbrush. Go ahead and spend a few more dollars. Inexpensive brushes shed, leaving little bristles that are difficult to pick up when imbedded in the wet paint. And if you miss some, they become an unplanned part of the finish.

Before & After: Old Dresser

Old Dresser

Black lacquer, applied by a professional, gives this old dresser a modern and sophisticated look. The whimsical, oversized drawer pulls stand out against the shiny black finish.

When painting furniture, paint like a professional; don't skip any steps or get in a hurry. You need to sand the piece before painting and sand again between coats. Use a pretreated tack cloth to pick up any dust after sanding. The coats of paint will go on more smoothly, and you'll be pleased with the results.

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