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It takes some vision to see the potential in unfinished furniture. But because these basic furnishings can be completely customized, they offer a great opportunity. Raw-wood tables, chairs, and dressers are generally less expensive than finished ones, and upgrading the items requires less time and skill than you might think. Pick a piece with great lines. Then choose one, or a combination, of these techniques. In an hour or two, you can turn a humble stool from store-naked to room-stealing.
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Any entryway would gladly welcome this pine piece with plenty of underseat stowing room. For this fix, use milk paint, a historical material for colorizing furniture. Milk paint dries matte, giving pieces like this colonial-style bench an antique character. Eco-friendly and free of volatile organic compounds, it has a powder formula consisting of milk protein, lime, and pigment. Sand lightly with a 220-grit sandpaper to open grain, and then use a three-inch-wide natural-bristle flat brush to apply two coats of paint. Mix and match shades for a customized hue.
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The scooped seat and contoured back make this alder hardwood bistro chair comfortable during long meals. Mixing both stain and paint gives you the best of both finishing worlds -- a hint of color, plus a rich finish that shows off the grain of the wood. To start, lightly sand entire chair, then squeeze stain onto a disposable paint palette, dip a cloth into it, and apply to seat and slats; remove excess in direction of grain. Add more coats of stain, which dyes the wood's grains, to deepen the color. Prime and then paint the frame using a two-inch angled synthetic brush.
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Cheer up that lonely corner with a graceful table -- this one is a veneer of solid birch and hardwood. A combination of oil and paint gives a traditional piece an unexpected, modern update. It's practical, too, since a painted surface is easier to wipe clean than an oiled one. After sanding, pour tung oil onto a white cotton rag and rub onto base and feet; remove excess in direction of grain. Use two to four coats, depending on how much of a sheen you desire. Sand top, prime, and then apply two coats paint using a three-inch flat brush.
One can definitely defend this dresser with rounded dresser with rounded edges and flat-front drawers -- it has a unique 1930s sophisitication (plus lots of storage.) Painting one part and waxing another adds dimension to furniture while maintaining and protecting the wood's natural beauty. Lightly sand the entire piece. After removing the drawers, use a four-inch roller to apply a single coat of primer to the exterior of the dresser, followed by a coat of paint. Scoop wax onto a cloth an rub onto drawer fronts, removing excess in direction of grain. Reapply wax as needed (about once a year.)
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This desk and hutch, which has six drawers and four cubbies, can turn a modest amount of free space into a home office. With its soft whitewashed look, pickling is a perfect choice for a dainty desk such as this one. After sanding lightly, follow this process: Using natural-bristle brushes, apply one coat each of prestain conditioner, stain, and clear sealant. For a chic look, replace standard wooden knobs with oil-rubbed bronze pulls.
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Don't Be Afraid of Spray Paint
Spray paint: It's not just for graffitti! This trio of stools can prevent a seating crisis or serve as mobile mini-tables. Its glossy finish is upbeat, and it comes in many colors. To re-create these stools, lightly sand each one. Next, apply a coat of spray-on primer and two coats of color to the stool using a sweeeping back-and-forth motion. Dry thoroughly, and then apply a strip of painter's tape to the legs and cover the stool in a plastic film, leaving tips exposed. Spray tips in a contrasting tone.
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