While DIY and re-purposing vintage furniture projects can be fun and a way to make extra money like turning that broken rocking chair into a usable and valuable Windsor chair, there are some real pitfalls, too. There are good choices to make when you are going to re-purpose and there are bad choices. Some objects are prime candidates for repainting or reconstructing, yet other items just can’t be repaired, restored, or even resuscitated. The final result of your DIY project and maybe profits when resold will be super as long as you follow these tips:
1. Don’t Try to Revive the Dead
If the piece you want to re-purpose has seen better days or even better years, face the facts. Bid it goodbye or try to use its parts for other projects like using the base of Pairpoint lamps when the shade is broken. But, if your piece shows evidence of mold, wood rot, burn marks, water damage, or woodworms, trash it and don’t waste your time. With some objects, there is just no turning back. Learn to recognize problems before you re-purpose. Know when to call it quits.
2. Odors Linger
Odors permeate furnishings for the long term. While I often say, if you can smell it, you can’t sell it when I’m appraising old books, it is also true that you should smell the entire piece before you start re-purposing it. That’s right, give it a good sniff. Smell the seat, armrests, back, and the cushions of that unsigned Chippendale chair or antique sofa. While you may think that foul odor is only confined to one seat cushion, it may actually be living in the old foam or horsehair stuffing too. Once you go to re-upholster or re-purpose that piece, you may be forced to trash the stuffing completely or the entire piece. When it comes to re-purposing, you should always sniff it before you snip it or stitch it.
3. Know your Skill Level
If you are new to re-purposing, don’t take on a really tough, complicated project right from the start. For instance, laminates and veneers are difficult to repair for the beginner. To re-purpose these items, specialty tools, experience, and knowledge of restoration methods are helpful. Vintage objects like Duncan Phyfe furniture style side tables and stools make for great starter projects for re-purposers who want to experiment with painting, staining, or integrating new fabrics into a piece of old upholstered furniture.
Either as a hobby or business, DIY projects can be fun and rewarding, but we careful before you start. Of course safety is always first, but make sure you are not ruining a valuable antique before you start stripping, staining, or painting. I have seen valuable mechanical banks, blanket chests, and even costume jewelry devalued. Get a correct identification and value first from me. I can help. Just stop by one of my events or send photos of the piece for my review. Read more of my refinishing antiques tips.