Friday, March 1, 2013

Refinish, Repairing & Re-Purposing Furniture

It's seems to be the latest craze in the furniture world today; taking old furniture and finding a new purpose for it.  Over the past few years I'm seen a drastic change in how we look at old furniture, it used to be we either repaired and refinished an old piece of furniture or simply got rid of it.

Now I'm seeing new life brought back to furniture by not only doing a little repair or some creative refinishing, but re-purposing it completely.  Take an old night stand for example, with a little imagination, simple modifications and some fresh paint and hardware and you can have a very unique Vanity!

Now grant you, I've seen some pretty crude interpretations of furniture re-purposing, but then again, I've seen some really great ideas.  Pinterest is a fun place to search and find ideas.  That's how I got involved in all of this.

I no longer design and custom build furniture and cabinetry.............well, not as a business anyway.  With a small work shop here at home and time on my hands, I thought it would be fun to take my years of experience as a designer and builder and see what I could do with a couple of old pieces of furniture.

My first challenge I set for myself was to find "FREE" furniture to start with. (Since this is suppose to be more of a hobby). 

My second challenge was to repair, refinish and even re-purpose this piece of furniture for as little as possible.

My third and biggest challenge was to reprogram myself from designing and building new furniture to working with old worn-out furniture that you may want to change it's purpose totally.  I spent years building a reputation of building high-end furniture and cabinetry.  I sold to a very small targeted clientele base  and very seldom was any of my work "painted", other then some cabinetry now and then.

What a switch; from high-end custom to "shabby sheik" or "cottage cute" or whatever else they're calling simple painted, refurbished furniture. I'm not sure where this is going, but let's get started.

When we acquired this property about a year ago, there was a bunch of furniture in the house and even upstairs in the garage.  Well, we got rid of most of the furniture ( before I came up with this brain storm of mine), but there was one old desk upstairs in the garage for whatever reason I decided to keep.  I've been looking at this thing for almost a year now and kept wondering why I kept it?

This desk is probably from the 50's or 60's, made of oak, (but painted black), dirty, dinged up and downright ugly.........but there was something about the design that made it a little interesting to me, so I guess that's why I kept it.   So I've finally decided to make this my first project!

As you can see, nothing fancy or spectacular, but I thought it had good "bones".  Solid as a rock, (other then some veneer peeling off the drawer fronts.

Re-purposing was not part of my game plan for this particular piece; a desk is a desk and I really like the overall size of this one.  Not a huge desk, in fact the top is approx. 24" x 44", which gives you a nice work surface but small enough that this desk could be used in many applications.  For a teenager in their bedroom, a small home office or simply having a desk in a great room or bonus room.  Small enough to go to collage or maybe even an office for a small business.

Since this desk was painted black from the factory and it's make out of oak, I knew I would not be able to strip it and get all the paint out of the open grain of the oak.  There was no need to even go there, so what could be some other options?

Well, I decided to keep it black, but I wanted it to stand out a little more than simply putting a fresh coat of paint on it and besides, I had to deal with this peeling veneer on the drawer fronts.

A couple design features I really like about this desk is the curved edges, the unique single leg on the one end that supports the open shelf and top.  I also liked how the desk top looks like a slab mounted on top of a frame that supported it.  Even though the drawers where actually an overlay type drawer front, it gives the appearance of being inset drawers,because of the rails being proud between the drawers.  Somehow I wanted to accent all this and still keep the desk black.

I really didn't take pictures during the transformation of this desk, so I'll briefly tell you what I did before I show the final results.  I started by getting rid of those huge drawer knobs that looked more like hub caps for a 1950 Desoto!.

The desk itself I simply sanded.  I did not try to get every little ding or dent out, but wanted to make sure I had a good surface for the fresh coat of paint to adhere to.  The drawers required a little more work.  The drawers didn't open or close very well, but that can be expected from older furniture especially when they use wood on wood slides.  After a little trimming and sanding, the drawers fit and worked perfectly.

Since the veneer on the drawers fronts was already peeling and some was missing, I decided to remove all the veneer from the drawer fronts.  Once that was removed, I filled any and all voids with a wood filler and sanded smooth.

I removed the desk top ( the very top slab), and painted the rest of the desk with a fresh coat of black paint.(Satin).  Since the desk had a little more of a modern or contemporary flair to it, I didn't want to go with a flat back and high gloss as far as I was concerned would have been all wrong.

After scrounging around my shop for a while, I found a couple pieces of veneer left over from previous projects ( benefit of being a furniture and cabinet builder for 27 years).  I had some curly maple and another piece of cherry.  I had enough of either one to do what I wanted to do with the desk, so it was a tough decision which to use............but I decided that cherry is the perfect combination to use with black.  A lot of today's contemporary furniture will incorporate cherry with black.

How about a black desk with a cherry top and cherry drawer fronts?  So here's what it turned out looking like after a little veneering and some clear finish on the cherry.  Added new hardware and finished!

No re-purposing, but I did bring some new life to an old desk.  Since I already had the veneer and some left over clear finish, my total cash outlay for this project was less then $18.00. 

I'm already working on my next project........................this is fun!

1 comment:

  1. Love the new lease on life you gave to that tired looking old desk, John. Fantastic job! Whoever gets this piece, will have a treasure.