Reupholster, refinish old furniture to refresh home decor

Design experts weigh in on how you can refresh your home's décor by giving your existing furniture a new look.
by Heather Warlick Published: October 15, 2012
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“The average DIYer can embark on upholstery, but patience, precision and a very simple project to start with are key to a positive end result,” Fulton said.

Here are some tips and tricks of the trade from Fulton, Jenkins and Clements for successful refinishing and reupholstery. These recommendations are based on a simple wood framed chair with a drop-in cushion.

Find a good specimen. Whether you find it at a garage sale, thrift store or on the side of the road waiting to be picked up by the garbage truck, pick a chair with good, solid structure. “Glue joints that are loose and make sure all repairs to frames are thoroughly dry before starting,” Jenkins said. “Fill any holes left by previous tacks, nails, etc. This will ensure you have a good base to tack into.”

Removing the chair's cushion is often as simple as removing a set of screws. Remove the old fabric cushion cover to use as a template for the new one.

Choose a proper fabric. “Viscose and polyesters will be most durable,” Clements said. “Natural fibers usually are reserved for table linens, window treatments and clothing. You don't want to use them on furniture.”

If you are starting out on your first project, be sure to choose a plain fabric — one with no pattern, Fulton said. “This will make the project less complex and easier to complete as you will not have the added task of matching up and aligning the patterns on the piece you are upholstering.”

Choose your paint and prep your surface. Before you do any painting, rough up the surface by sanding off any gloss from the previous paint or finish, then prime the surface. Many paint retailers will tint brush-on primers so they provide better coverage underneath bright paint colors.

Clements said latex paints are the most widely used for painting furniture. You can either spray the paint on or brush it on. The method you choose should be based on the structure of the furniture you're painting. Spray painting is often best for furniture with ornate frames and smooth surfaces on which brush strokes would show. “The trick to that is in the application,” Clements said. “You've got to apply multiple light coats.” To achieve a shiny, glossy spray paint job, Clements said to very lightly sand in between coats spray paint. Of course, be sure the paint is completely dry. Wipe off any residue from sanding, apply another coat of paint, lightly sand again, and repeat. After your final color coat has dried, spray a quality clear coat to seal the paint.

Make sure your tetanus vaccinations are up to date, Jenkins said. You might cut yourself on rusty tacks, nails or staples.


by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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