Refinishing Old Furniture

I have been refinishing old furniture for years. At first it was because I was broke and it was all I could afford. Then it was to make a little money on the side. But now I do it because I love the look and style of vintage and antique furniture. Many pieces grace the rooms of my house (almost every room). I have refinished Art Deco Waterfall Vanities in the my children’s bedrooms, a Waterfall Buffet in the dining room and a gorgeous antique Queen Anne Secretary Desk in the family room, just to name a few. All these pieces were a few chips and cracks away from a dumpster before I swooped in and did my best to save them. I would never think to ever take a paintbrush or sandpaper to a nicely maintained piece of furniture. I love the look and like to mix them in with some Mid-Century Modern reproduction pieces. I really enjoy not having my home look like a Pier 1 catalog. I like to be different and have a nice mixture of current styles with touches of vintage decor.

Chalk paint seems to be all the rage these days for giving furniture the shabby chic look and it is a good product, but not always necessary. A lot of the time all you need is a gallon of regular house paint. Preferably one with a primer added. Heck I have even painted furniture with a couple of cans of spray paint. It really depends on the look you are going for and what type of furniture you are working with. Here are a few examples of projects I have done and the different methods I used to achieve the looks:

Refinished Art Deco Vanity
Refinished Art Deco Vanity

This is an Art Deco vanity that I rebuilt and repaired. This vanity came to me in 3 pieces with huge chunks of veneer missing. I reattached the sides to the desktop and braced it in the back. Then I rebuilt the missing veneer with wood filler over and over again with a lot of sanding to make the surface appear even and smooth again. I did not sand or prime this piece before I painted it because I decided to use a handmade recipe for chalk paint. I made this mixture by using 1 part Plaster of Paris mixed with water and 4 parts regular house paint. I find this ratio works the best for me. I always use regular latex house paint. The better the quality of paint the better the recipe will turn out and it will last much longer as well. I’ve found that painting with this method in very hot temperatures is not a good idea. The plaster separates and becomes clumpy. These clumps will roll onto your furniture and ruin the finish!! After a few coats I lightly distressed and then sealed it all with a clear lacquer to give it a nice sheen.

Refinished Dresser
Refinished Dresser

This dresser was a bit sad and well used. After I filled in some deep gouges and completely sanded and stripped the top; I re-stained the top in a darker color and chalk painted the rest of the dresser. I had a minor setback with this dresser though…sometimes but not very often you can experience bleeding through the new paint. This can come from the previous stain or maybe an ink spot coming through the new paint. No matter how many coats you put on it can still bleed through. This can be avoided by priming the furniture beforehand, but does not always work. I originally had no intention of distressing this dresser but because of the stain bleeding through, I felt like I had no choice. I hid the bleeding from the previous stain by subtly distressing in the areas where the bleeding came through and then here and there to make the look even throughout the dresser. It all worked out in the end though and I think it looks fantastic. I decided to seal this dresser with furniture wax. I like to use the clear wax on my refinishing projects but it does come in different shades for the different antiquing looks you may want to achieve.

Mid-Century Modern Teak Credenza
Mid-Century Modern Teak Credenza

This gorgeous piece of Mid Century Modern Teak is my most recent project. We found her in a dirty dust filled barn a town over from where we live. She was dirty and scratched up and dried out. As soon as I saw her I felt sorry for her. She had been neglected and really needed some love. I took her home and gave her a good cleaning with some warm water and mild dish soap. I let her dry and gave her a very generous rub down with Coconut oil! I went to my pantry and pulled out the jar of coconut oil that I cook with and a clean rag. I rubbed the credenza down first against the grain and then with the grain. The wood was so dried out that I really wanted the oil to penetrate into it. I then walked away for a few hours to let it soak in. I came back with a dry, clean rag, and rubbed it down again with the grain to absorb all the excess coconut oil. The results were amazing. All the scratches were virtually gone. All the little imperfections disappeared. The color went from a dull dried out look to vibrant and rich looking. I am so in love with this piece of Mid Century Modernism. It showcases my Jadeite collection perfectly.

Top 10 Up-cycling Ideas for Your Broken Vintage Glass or Pottery

Although it’s heart breaking when you accidentally knock that precious piece of Grandma’s old depression glass off the counter, all is not lost. You can still enjoy having that gem in your daily life. If you’re a creative or artistic person, the sky is the limit in terms of things you can do with those glorious shards of glass. The following is a list of my favorite ideas for getting the most out of those broken vintage dishes:

1)     Using some grout and glue or tile adhesive that you’ve picked up at your local craft store, you could create a glass mosaic on top of an old table that’s seen better days.

2)     Using that same grout and glue, you could refresh an old serving tray to jazz up your dining room or coffee table.

3)     Again with the grout and glue, you could create a set of mosaic coasters. This would be a great project to do with the kids. Just make sure they’re careful with the broken glass. Some gloves might help.

4)     With a little silicone you could cover an old vase with the glass shards and sit it on your window sill. The sunlight shining through it will create a beautiful effect. Add some flowers and you have yourself a nice handmade gift for someone special.

5)     With some cement and a few old cake pans you could make stepping stones for the garden. Careful not to leave any sharp edges exposed.

6)     Using some clear silicone to adhere the broken glass pieces, cover some large glass jars or canisters and use them in the kitchen or bathroom to store bath salts or cotton balls or pretty much anything…

7)     Large pieces could be used for creating up-cycled stained glass windows. If you are not this daring or lack the necessary tools for this DIY you could contact your local Art Center or Stain Glass Guild and have a local artist create something for you.

8)     A pendant made from old patterned glass makes a very unique piece of jewelry. There are artisans who do this very thing. You may even be able to strike a deal with someone to buy your broken glass from you or even create a piece for you in trade. Lora from Divine Spirit Creations has a shop on Etsy where she sells the funkiest pieces of jewelry from broken Pyrex, Jadeite, Milk Glass….you name it…Check her out here

Here are some examples of her work:

Friendship Birds Pendant



I LOVE IT! She’s the ultimate Up-Cycler.

9)     A glass mosaic picture frame made from an old frame that you found at a garage sale or thrift shop is a great project and would make a lovely handmade gift for someone.

10)     If you have a rock tumbler you could create your own Sea Glass…

If you’re looking for supplies for any of these projects, take a look on They have a whole section dedicated to Mosaic Making Supplies. Here are some of the things you might need:

Of course there are so many more things you could do. The only limited by your imagination. Have fun making the most of that broken glass!