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Everything Old is New Again


Driving past a yard sale the other day, some vintage furniture caught my eye, in particular, a chunky three-drawer chest.  Hmmmm… juicy, I thought, and my mind wandered to the “cottage” concept I’ve been contemplating for my bedroom decor.  That chest, painted white, could be perfect in my space. 


Too bad there was no time to stop – I think I passed up a plum.   My return trip, later that afternoon, revealed an almost empty yard - the sale was obviously a success - some lucky person went home with “my” chest.


We have emerged from a time of rampant consumerism into a time of conscious and deliberate conservation.  We re-cycle.  We re-purpose.  As prices go up and quality goes down, we see value in objects we once took for granted.  Suddenly it’s cool to celebrate yesterday’s issue.  Vintage furniture has a story to tell.  Most of it is well made.  Sometimes it’s perfect just as is.  Sometimes, though, it needs a face-lift.  With a little patience and imagination, dreary looking re-claimed furniture can enjoy a most beautiful reincarnation.


Naturally, we need new furniture in our homes as well.  But just about every room can avoid the “peril of the sterile” with the addition of one or two older pieces to warm it up and add some character.  


I’m not referring to precious antiques here, which, of course, you would want to leave alone so as not to diminish their value.  I’m referring to furniture from 30 to 50 years ago, utilitarian, sometimes quirky, but which doesn’t have great intrinsic value.  These are the pieces that are just begging for a coat of paint or a special textural treatment, and perhaps some new hardware before they begin their new life.


Check out yard sales, consignment shops, flea markets, or even your own attic for funky furniture, and get busy transforming them.


Here is a paint technique for “distressing” furniture to achieve a lived-in, rustic look, especially great for country or beach cottage interiors.


Experiment with color test boards before tackling your project.  There is some amazing hardware out there.  I’m particularly fond of glass knobs and oxidize metals.


Let charm, wit, and whimsy be your guide.


Many home furnishing shops are selling painted vintage pieces for high prices.  If you love the distressed look (as I do), take the following easy steps and create your own.  Take your time, do it right, and you’ll create a treasure.


Materials you’ll need:


Sandpaper – 100-grit

Oil-base Primer

Color #1 – Oil-base paint

Color #2 – Oil-base paint

Foam rollers

Block of wax (or unscented candle)

Turpentine for clean-up

Canvas throw cloth

Appropriate hardware of your choice.


1.  First, make 2 or 3 color boards, experimenting with two paint colors each.  Decide which will be the top color, and which will be the bottom color.  Once you arrive at a combination you like, you are ready to begin.


2.  Using 100-grit sandpaper, sand the entire piece to prepare it for primer. 


Prime the entire piece with a thin coat of oil-base primer.  A foam roller will give you even coverage.

Allow it to dry for at least 3 days.


3.  Pour a small amount of the under-color into a paint tray.  Apply a thin coat of this color with a foam roller to the entire piece.  Let dry for at least one day.


4.  Rub a block of wax (a candle will do) over the edges and any place you want to look distressed and peeled.


5.  Now paint on a thin layer of your top-color with a foam roller.  Let dry for 2 days.


6.  When thoroughly dry, sand the entire item again, especially areas where wax is present, allowing the under-color to come through.  Continue sanding until you are happy with the results.


7.  Screw in the new (or old) hardware.



Be sure to let the new paint set up for about a week before using your old/new masterpiece.


All done!

~ Karen Saloomey 


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