So, this week I’m going to give you some tips about looking for and buying furniture to paint and refinish. This is definitely an “opinion piece”, because people will tackle all sorts of pieces I wouldn’t touch and I’m sure the opposite is true. So, take all of this with a grain of salt.
1.) It’s a bit of a no brainer, but buy pieces you really like. If you buy a piece you are “eh” about, you won’t give it the time and attention it needs. It will most likely sit in your garage or basement for a long time until you dump it at a yard sale. I can’t tell you how often I buy pieces that others just “didn’t get to.” Buy smart and don’t be one of those people. I love French provincial style, so this dresser was calling my name. It was $30 on Craig’s List.
2.) Buy quality furniture. The three things I look for – dovetailed drawers, solid wood and good lines. I don’t buy anything that’s laminate, stapled, or poorly made. Your makeover will be much easier if you start off with a good piece.
3.) Know what’s a cheap fix and what’s not. This may seem like an odd tip, but I’ve learned the hard way. The hutch shown below was $35 on Craig’s List. It was missing the large pane of glass and the hardware, but I knew those were cheap fixes. The glass was $11.00 and the knobs were $6.00. The French dresser above was a different story. It was missing hardware and it cost $70 to get vintage hardware that would look right on the piece.
4.) Don’t buy beyond your skill. If you’re in love with a piece, but it’s falling apart or has a wicked wobble, don’t buy it unless you or a hubby/friend/dad knows how to fix it.
I’m fortunate to have a husband who’s a woodworker and I love it when he comes hunting with me. I’m always very optimistic about a piece and he brings me to the reality of fixing the piece. Sometimes it’s doable and sometimes it’s not.
Just know what you’re getting into and make sure you’re up to the task.
5.) Avoid pieces that are water damaged or have chipping veneer. When wood is warped or bubbled due to water damage, it’s going to have to be replaced. Chipped, bubbled, and cracked veneer needs to be either repaired, replaced, or removed. I’ll cover some ways to deal with this in the series, but I generally avoid it unless I know I can work around it or the piece is really special and worth the extra work.
These split vanity side tables were missing half of their veneer on the tops. So, my husband made new tops for me.
6.) Make sure the piece works properly. Does the chair sit on all four legs? Is the table level? Do the drawers open and close the way they should? Do the latches on the doors work? If not, can they be easily repaired? Fixing a warped drawer or gluing up a wobbly chair can be very tricky, so buyer beware. Also, check for any past repair work, especially on table and chair legs. If something’s been cracked and glued, watch out.
The bottom line of buying furniture is go with your gut, but be realistic. It’s so easy to fall in love with a piece and be blinded to the challenges. It’s always good to shop with someone who can counter your enthusiasm. Be patient and wait for the perfect pieces.
So, Donna, do you have anything to add?
Donna: “Unfortunately, the places I normally frequent when looking for furniture (thrift stores) don’t have the best quality. And when they do, the prices seem riduculously high. Because of that, the better stuff is very hit and miss. Before buying something, I know I should always try and wiggle it, look under it, take out drawers and look behind it but I admit I sidestep alot of those points and tend to be disappointed after I bring it home.
Anything upholstered can fool you too. Sit in it but don’t rush. Move around, get up and sit again. You’ll generally find the springs relax more the 2nd time and what you thought was an ‘ok’ sit now sags a bit more. Do NOT get it if it isn’t perfect, or it will turn into a cat/laundry holder! (ask me how I know)
You also gave me the best advice that you also included in today’s post. “Don’t get it if YOU don’t like it.” Couldn’t be more truthful! Even if you plan to sell it, the object may sit in your home for awhile before it goes, so you then have to look at and live with a piece that isn’t ‘you.’ I’m currently doing that now. I can’t wait to have a garage sale this summer. 🙂
I’m really looking forward to all the steps you’ll be covering in this run!”
Buying and reworking upholstered pieces is a totally different animal, so I’ll do a separate Workshop Series on that, but here a few tips:
1.) I’ll stress it again, make sure you love it and know your capabilities. If you’ve never done upholstery or slipcovering before, don’t start with a complicated piece. Start on a simple chair or ottoman.
2.) Like Donna said, make sure it’s comfy. Unless you want to have chairs that are only for decoration in your home, sit in it and make sure other people will want to sit in it.
3.) Give it the sniff test. If something stinks, don’t buy it. Musty and some mild pet smells will come out, though. If it smells like smoke, run away. You can try baking soda, four bottles of Febreeze, Odor-away, stink-b-gone, carpet cleaner, airing it out… It won’t come out. Trust me on this one.
Once you find those diamonds in the rough, there is a lot to do to turn it into a stunner. We’ll cover all aspects of that process, including stripping, sanding, painting, staining, distressing, antiquing, protective coats, equipment…all of that and more! Stay tuned!