Refinishing Furniture – Lessons I have learned

Have you ever seen something and thought to yourself, “I could do that!” A long time ago I had ideas on creating crib toys with black and white graphics – but no sooner did I have my prototype completed a toy company beat me to it! I also thought of play centers for kids that were both educational and fun – lost out on that too – remember Discovery Zone and Gymboree?! Now, I decided I am going to join an already established community of people who refinish used furniture and morph it to look vintage or retro. I have spent quite a bit of the past months scouring over Pinterest and online magazines. I have visited resale/consignment shops and creative art centers. I am gleaning from various resources a plethora of fun ideas.

Enough reading – time to sand, prime, and paint!


TIP 1: Collect common sense and useful resources on how to refinish furniture.

Tip: Not all furniture uses the same materials or steps in the process of refinishing. Taking an old broken cabinet from a garage sale and painstakingly going through the process of repair, preparation, painting and, finishing – takes time. It is not a few hours of just slapping on paint.

I decided to go to the ReSTORE, owned by Habitat for Humanity. This is how one can buy get gently used furniture that isn’t too worn and also give back to the community. Here I bought my “practice piece” for $10 and one that I am most likely will just resand and use wood stain finish.


TIP 2: When you pick a piece of old furniture to “redo” make sure it has “interest” value.

For me, this means that the furniture has some cool features such as interesting etching in the wood, an unusual design or shape, and/or hardware that is really groovy!

I got this piece during my second visit to a second ReSTORE and bought it because 1) it was made by Ethan Allen 2) The handle knob was cool and visually interesting. Scroll a bit more to see how I transformed this sad little table to something a really “groovy”!


TIP 3: Add some pieces to your collection, but remember you only have so much space and time.

I spotted the piece below on the left at an Estate sales website. The lady asked for $75. I offered $10. We settled on $15. Now it sits in my living room. Milk paint on the top with a polyurethane finish. Resanded and refinished the wood on the sides and painted the interior of the drawer. It is pictured here drying in our very used and crowded garage. I could have picked up three or four more pieces in the set. I opted not to do so because I wanted to be selective. One was enough.

Until the next day.

That is when I picked up the lovely side table with drop leaves (right). Sure it needs some TLC – but I can’t wait to “sand this baby”! (Aww I am talking “DYI” speak!)


TIP 4: Let other’s know about your new creative venture and maybe you will make your hobby profitable.

I have been working out of our garage. So far, just by having people walk by – I have sold two pieces. One isn’t even started yet!


Below is the little Ethan Allen table that was kinda “sad”. Slide the arrow in the middle of the images below to see the “before” and “after”.

Here are the steps:

  • Sand the top wood with very light sandpaper. Preferably using a small electric sander.
  • Paint a primer coat (white) over the wood and let dry completely.
  • I used Benjamin Moore paint (eggshell) in the color WROUGHT IRON. I painted three coats on this piece. Thanks to the people at my local ACE hardware for being great resources and my “support” team for picking great colors!
  • I then used a furniture wax for painted furniture to give it a bit of sheen.
  • The old knob, which I liked, but didn’t think matched well with the new look, was replaced with this one from Home Goods. (Came in a set of four) I think this new knob gives it a more contemporary look.
  • Lastly, I lined the inside of the drawer with contact paper that does not stick (in case the new owner doesn’t like it and wants to replace it).

Voila! In a day or so this table will be ready for a new home (obviously not completed yet!


gold, black and white knob
The knob

I will be posting on my Facebook Louise Sattler Consulting updates!

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