For a few days now I have been going around the house looking to give a second life to some old pieces. Strong of the experience I had a few years ago, I am ready to repeat the artistic experience with a new piece. Sundays are perfect days to go bargain hunting around garage sales and flea markets. I love flea markets! In one of those excursions, I found a few old pieces of furniture and ventured through the refinishing process.
There are a few things you need to do before you tackle a refinishing of a piece of furniture. First, you don’t know where the piece has been before you and how the previous owner used it, unless someone tells you the history. Disinfect, clean it really well and keep it in an open and well-ventilated place for a few days to eliminate previous odors. While you are deciding on the transformation of the piece, the new design, color, pattern or the overall new look, I would suggest taking pictures of the piece and visiting some reputable antique dealer who will tell you just by looking at the photograph if it is a valuable piece or not. If it is a value piece you might want to leave it as is, just give it a good clean, otherwise if it gets restyled into a new life, the piece will lose its antique/historical value.
The refinishing process is very easy. Strip old paints and varnishes with a coarse sand paper by using a sanding machine or plain elbow grease, which I like better as it is another way to exercise muscles. The plain wood grain will surface again in all its beauty. At this point you can decide to leave it natural to emphasize the wood grain and apply only transparent varnishes, or you can paint it in your favorite colors. My photographs show painted examples, découpage and antique finishes.
Dust off the remaining of the sanding with a soft cloth; make it really clean, you must not feel any grain under your fingertips. Apply a coat of primer paint to cover all the imperfections, wait until it dries well, sand it lightly with a less coarse sanding paper, and dust it off again. The surface must be really clean every time another coat of paint goes on.
Apply the first coat of the paint color of your choice. Let it dry. If the result is good, then the piece is almost done, but if it needs another coat of paint, sand it lightly again, dust it off and apply a second coat.
Most of my pieces have been speckled at the end. With a small brush I splashed a dark varnish here and there for interest. Highlighting all the details is the fun parts. The style of the piece of furniture will dictate whether the highlights will be antique or contemporary style.
Découpage is always done as the last detail. The only items needed are a flat brush, a découpage glue and an image, nothing to it.
If you like to draw an image free hand, that step is also done after the piece has received the last coat of paint. Trace the image with a carbon paper; with a brush go over the line drawing and paint your image with the selected colors. This is the easiest way to apply a design. Stenciling a design over the top coat is another way, but this takes a good skill. Seal the découpage, stencil work or any drawing with a non-yellowing water base varnish.
Now it is time to apply the jewelry. Get your fantasy in motion, use anything and everything for drawer pulls, or door knobs. One of my cabinets has a pair of hearings as drawer pulls. Others are a mix of style, colors and textures. Arts and craft store sell wood knobs and pulls, which can be painted in any style you like; that will satisfy your artistic vein, other than saving you money.
There are professional artists on the market who make excellent money in producing elaborate faux finishes. I know this process as I have described might sound simplistic. If you don’t have velleity of taking your refinished piece to the Guggenheim exhibition and you just want to give a second life to something old with interesting shapes, then don’t make the refinishing process complicated. Follow these simple steps and you will produce an attractive piece just like those in my photographs.
A few years ago I helped a person in France restyling her piece. She contacted me through Facebook, asked me questions about the furniture she wanted to refurbish, liked my answers and hired me to assist her in the production. I did not move one inch from my desk, our communications developed through Skype calls and emails. She purchased the knobs from my selection photographed in a store. Her French piece turned out beautiful. If you are stuck, let me help you or anyone you know in restoring your piece, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are. Ciao,
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been in business as a designer since 1990. She has helped a variegated group of fun people realizing their dreams with homes, offices, interiors and exteriors. She is a designer well-known to bring originality to people’s homes. As an Italian designer and true to her origins, she provides only the best workmanship and design solutions.
She is the author of ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors, her forthcoming book on the subject of colors.
She is also a published author of two regional Italian cuisine books. Find her books on