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So the table you bought last year turned out not to be The One. Or the "adorably worn" cabinet you found at a flea market seemed like a less of a steal once you got it home. Not to worry: With new hardware, fresh paint, and other adjustments, almost any piece of furniture can be customized to fit your taste and needs exactly.
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Before: A Humble Table and Its Companions
This random assembly of furniture looks like three pretty useless pieces. But with a few less-than-conventional changes, these modest pieces can become a cohesive unit of interior decor.
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The Table Becomes a Countertop
All the humble table needed was a brand-new stainless-steel surface. It's a breeze to clean and, because it stays cool, it's ideal for tasks such as rolling dough. (Ask a metal fabricator to make and install the top.)
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You can add a lower shelf for storage by screwing plywood to strips of wood on both sides. A polished-nickel drapery rod holds towels; pot holders are kept handy on a hook attached to the leg. Locking wheels make it easy to position the table where it's needed. A simple nickel-plated drawer pull completes the transformation.
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Before: A Weathered China Cabinet and Chairs
This cabinet is beginning to show its age -- the chairs, which lack seat covers, also look too far gone to be used as furniture.
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The top of the cabinet is ideal for storing books and supplies, while the lower cupboard can house a printer and paper. We replaced the glass door with panels that are wood on the outside and magnetic board on the inside; the latter are galvanized steel covered in linen.
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A pullout desk was installed where drawers were missing. The cabinet was painted a warm gray and embellished with wooden appliques in a lighter gray.
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Before: A Bare-Bones Bureau
This ordinary display cupboard is functional but lacking the grace of a desirable piece of furniture.
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Silver leaf lends luster to the interior of the cabinet; it's also an excellent accent for the doors. Just a thin line of silver within the molding is barely noticeable but so beautiful.
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The pale-green base color matches the walls for a built-in effect.
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Crown molding and polished-nickel knobs complete the look!
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Before: An Unvarnished Vanity
An admittedly graceful demilune is a bulky addition to a bathroom, especially because it only has a single use.
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After: A Retrofitted Sink
To make the bathroom look more refined, we turned the demilune into a retrofitted sink. Plan to put it where a sink already exists or you'll need to run new plumbing. Buy a basin and faucets -- or use pieces you already have.
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A More Elegant Demilune
Remove the top of the table and bring it with you, along with the dimensions of all your fixtures, to a stone contractor; there, you can have a piece of marble or other material cut to size with holes in the proper places. Hire a plumber to install the sink and cabinet. We painted ours eggplant to harmonize with the walls and added brass Federal-style drawer pulls.
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Before: A Bulky Dresser, a Broken Chair, and a Nondescript Nightstand
These three ordinary finds look like a band of misfits, best fit for the curb.
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After: A Dressed-Up Bureau
The bureau puts on its Sunday clothes; brass knobs and ivory paint streamline the bureau; drawer fronts covered in toile fabric look distinctive.
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A Padded Chair and a Stone-Top Night Table
Instead of recaning a missing seat, we made a wooden one and topped it with a matching cushion made by an upholsterer. The frame is painted a burnt gold here. For the night table, molding adds character and serves as a border for a new cut-to-fit limestone top. A coat of pale-yellow paint is the finishing touch.
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