Standing in my garage covered with paint, I’m almost done refinishing the chest I’ve been working on the last two weeks. With my spray paint can in hand, the original knobs are set out before me washed and ready for their new color to be applied. I hesitate, though; I actually like their copper patina. Should I paint them the black I had planned or should I leave them be in their original state? Decisions, decisions…
I think this is the hardest part about refinishing furniture. What do you simply repair and let be and when do you do a complete overhaul of the piece? The stakes are high, time is short and decisions are not easily reversed and sometimes permanent. What’s a girl to do and how do you make these difficult decisions?
Most pieces that I acquire need major work, but occasionally there will be some aspect of an item that really draws my eye in and begs to be left alone. Here’s a top ten list to help you decide what to do with an old piece of furniture before you refinish it.
1. Have an end goal in mind before you start working on a piece. Sketch or write out what you are going to do and how to implement it step by step. This will help you avoid unnecessary work.
2. Evaluate the various elements of the piece. What drew you to pick out that particular piece of furniture? Was it the fluting or delicate molding, its modern lines or is it the original hardware that really accents it? Pull out the beauty of the piece by honoring the style of the piece. A distressed finish does not complement a mid-century credenza, and one simply doesn’t put Danish teak oil on Victorian pieces. Honor and respect the style of the piece.
3. Think about how the piece will be used. What is the end purpose of this project? Anything used in a kitchen or with children will need a durable finish. Maybe instead of fixing these damaged drawers, I’ll just case in the drawer boxes and add baskets to allow more storage. These are the things you must think about – you get the idea.
4. Look at the damage (if any) that the piece has & plan your redo around that. For one example; if the veneer is heavily damaged and it’s going to be ridiculously expensive to replace maybe it just needs to be removed and painted over instead of staining it.
5. Always strip and sand the piece before fixing any damage. Chemical strippers and the actual action of sanding can damage the piece further. Repair any problems immediately after stripping and sanding. This will also allow you to further inspect the quality and shape of the materials underneath any existing finishes.
6. Fix any damage properly. Be very detailed here. There is nothing worse than achieving a beautiful paint or stain finish only to notice a warped drawer or cracked veneer ruining your hard work.
7. Take the time to really let your pieces dry between coats. This allows the finish to harden properly and make it longer lasting.
8. Apply a protective coating onto your stains and paint finishes. There are many different applications available for your particular look. Glossy, satin, matte, polyurethanes, lacquers and waxes are just a few of the many options available to you!
9. Take care to stay safe while reworking your pieces. Use proper ventilation and cleaning practices, which can be found on the back of the actual products.
10. Don’t be afraid to be bold and take chances. We learn best from our mistakes and sometimes you can pleasantly surprise yourself!
In the end, I decided to keep my hardware the way they were, beautifully aged and intact just the way I found them. Not only does the hardware add to the overall beauty of the piece, but this saved me time and honored the original design of the chest. I hope this list was helpful to you! Happy Designing!