10 Ways to Give Old Furniture a Fresh New Look

white room with light wood table
Photo: Annie Schlechter

From hand-me-downs to precious flea market finds, sometimes a fresh coat of paint (and a little vision) is all you need to bring out a piece's full potential. Let these crafty before-and-afters inspire your next project.

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white room with light wood table
Annie Schlechter

Maybe the table you bought last year didn't suit your space the way you thought it would, or that "vintage-chic" cabinet you found at the flea market seemed like a less of a steal once you brought it home. Perhaps you have an old dining set that you can't bare to part with, even though it's in desperate need of some TLC. Whatever your décor dilemma, we guarantee there's a crafty solution to help your pieces shine. That's why we're sharing our favorite before-and-after projects, which show that a few simple touch-ups can help bring drab accents back to life.

If you've ever doubted the power of a fresh coat of paint or the addition of shiny new hardware, we think these transformations will convince you that small changes can have a major impact on the look of your pieces. A plain old wooden table, for instance, can be upgraded into a modern countertop. A set of wheels below for convenience and a brand-new stainless-steel surface for easy cleanup post food prep are all you need. And if you think a chipped China cabinet might not see a second life, consider its potential to serve as a chic home office, with built-in shelves for books and files, and a pull-out workspace. Even a bulky vanity can be turned into a sophisticated retrofitted sink with the help of a stone contractor and a few plumbing adjustments.

However you decide to give your favorite (or soon-to-be-favorite) pieces a new look, we think these inventive upgrade ideas will provide the home improvement inspiration you're looking for.

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Before: Plain Table

Thibault Jeanson

This random assembly of furniture may not look like much. But with a few changes, these modest pieces can become a cohesive unit of interior décor.

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After: Modern Countertop

Thibault Jeanson

To expand the table's versatility, we added a brand-new stainless-steel surface (contact a metal fabricator to help make and install the top). It's a breeze to clean and, because it stays cool, it's ideal for tasks such as rolling dough.

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Pro Tip: Accessorize

Thibault Jeanson

For added storage, you can also install a lower shelf by screwing plywood to strips of wood on both sides. A polished-nickel drapery rod also holds towels while 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: China Cabinet and Chairs

Thibault Jeanson

This cabinet is beginning to show its age while the chairs, which lack seat covers, also look too far gone to be used as furniture.

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After: Sophisticated Home Office

Thibault Jeanson

With the top of the cabinet naturally ideal for storing books and supplies, and the lower cupboard for a printer and paper, we transformed the piece into a usable home office unit. 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. A pullout desk was also installed where drawers were missing.

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Pro Tip: Streamline Colors

Thibault Jeanson

To give it a fresh coat, we painted the cabinet a warm gray and embellished panels with wooden appliques in a lighter gray.

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Before: Display Cupboard

Thibault Jeanson

This ordinary display cupboard may be functional, but design-wise, it's lacking the grace of a desirable piece of furniture.

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After: Eye-Catching Cabinet

Thibault Jeanson

Our simple solution: Silver leaf! It not only lends luster to the interior of the cabinet, but is 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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Pro Tip: Add on Hardware

Thibault Jeanson

Crown molding and polished-nickel knobs complete the look.

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Before: Unvarnished Vanity

Thibault Jeanson

An admittedly graceful demilune is a bulky addition to a bathroom, especially because it only has a single use.

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After: Retrofitted Sink

Thibault Jeanson

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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Pro Tip: Consider Investing

Thibault Jeanson

While this upgrade may be one of the more labor-intensive projects, its final result is a beautiful and worthwhile piece that will last for years to come. We started by removing the top of the table and contacting a stone contractor (have all fixture dimensions on hand before doing so!). From there, we opted for marble cut-to-fit, though you can use other materials if you wish. Finally, 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: Dresser, Broken Chair, and Nightstand

Thibault Jeanson

These three ordinary finds look like a band of misfits, best fit for the curb.

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After: Dressed-Up Bureau Set

Thibault Jeanson

Say hello to our refurbished bedroom set, complete with a padded chair and stone-top night table! The bureau received brass knobs and ivory paint to streamline the palette, plus drawer fronts covered in toile fabric complete the look.

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Pro Tip: Add Upholstery and Molding

Thibault Jeanson

Instead of recanning 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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