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Guide to repurposing furniture

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Recycle and reuse

Furnishing your home can be an exhausting and expensive undertaking. Consider making the process a little less painful for your wallet and the environment by repurposing pieces you already have or can find. With a little creativity, you can turn a worn piece of forgotten furniture into a custom showpiece for your home.

Repurposed Furniture

Tap into your creative side

Repurposed Sofa

The key to repurposing furniture is to look beyond the item's current sad state to imagine what could be. Don't let some worn fabric, chipped paint or broken drawers stop you.

If some aspect of a piece speaks to you, listen! Repurposing is an eco-friendly way to show off your individual style, so pay attention to what attracts you. If you love the intricate curved arm of an otherwise ugly sofa, imagine what it would look like with fresh upholstery. If the clean lines of a drab art deco-inspired dresser pull you closer, prepare to give it a facelift.

Find your treasure

You can find furniture to repurpose just about anywhere, including alley dumpsters. Don't want to get that dirty? No problem. Discover domestic treasures at architectural salvage yards, consignment stores, thrift stores, yard sales -- even in your own garage or your grandmother's attic. There are also a number of eco-friendly web sites that connect people looking for stuff with people getting rid of stuff, such as Freecycle.org.

What to look for

The most important thing to consider is whether the "bones" are in good enough condition to be given a second life. For sofas, couches and chairs, make sure the frames are sturdy and the springs are intact (if applicable). Fixing the foundation of the furniture is a much more expensive process.

For wood pieces such as dressers, tables and armoires, you can repair hinges and legs, but major cracks in the wood can be difficult to fix. You will be amazed by how a little sanding and painting can reveal a diamond in the rough. Also, consider grabbing interesting drawer pulls, old cabinets and picture frames. You can find some surprising uses for these little discoveries.

Define the furniture's new purpose

Repurposed Sofa

Take inventory of the furniture you have and decide how your new piece fits in. Maybe you need a new bookshelf or a dresser to compensate for the lack of a linen closet. Perhaps a comfy couch is just what your living room needs. Have a vision and determine a plan. This could require shopping for some new fabric, contact paper, paint, stencils, etc. Rather than allow the furniture's current purpose dictate where you place it in your home, allow your home to tell you what it needs and then create it.

Roll up your sleeves

You can refinish wood furniture yourself with a sander, new paint and shellac. Wood filler is a great tool for covering up old nail holes or repairing cracks. Some reupholstering projects are also easy for the do-it-yourselfer. Benches, headboards and dining chairs can be updated with a new fabric using a staple gun. More elaborate projects such as sofas may require the work of a professional, which will likely be less expensive than buying a new sofa.

Repurposing ideas:

  • Recover a traditional leather sofa with a fun, graphic print for a modern look.
  • Refinish dresser drawers, line their insides with pretty paper, and mount them on the wall for bookshelves.
  • Paint and shellac two old end tables for new night stands. Even if the tables are different, a common paint color will unify the look.
  • Paint an old cabinet panel and add drawer pulls on each end for a new serving tray.
  • Replace the broken glass on your grandmother's china cabinet with chicken wire for a shabby-chic storage unit.
  • Mount an old door to a bedroom wall (horizontally) for a unique headboard.
  • Cover a dresser or buffet with a slab of remnant granite or marble for a new kitchen island.
  • Paint some picture frames and fill them with old pieces of fabric, aprons or cork. Voila!! Instant art or a corkboard for displaying pictures.

Sources: LifeIsSuite.co.uk, Craftynest.com

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