How can you revamp old things to make them look more modern?

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ARTICLE: Donna White

Not everything in your home has to be pristine. The battered and tired state of old wooden furniture can add to its appeal. Damage to an old chest of drawers, for example, can enhance its character.

Begin by examining the shape and proportion of a loved piece of wooden furniture. Is it worthy of a change of colour? A coat of paint can take it to a new dimension, especially if the piece has lived its past life in a varnished or stained state. Metallic paints provide a new, fashionable look. Often the most unpromising piece can blossom into a beauty when it’s painted the right colour. However, do remember that a good paint preparation procedure is important to achieve quality results.

Components of furniture and accessories that date include lampshades, picture frames, furniture and door handles, as well as the feet of sofas and chairs. Sometimes it is not necessary to treat the whole object, only the offending component. Reupholstering an old chair or sofa can make a huge difference to its look. A plain, heavy, neutral-coloured fabric allows most pieces to fit into most rooms. Equally, contemporary-coloured, patterned and textured fabrics are suitable and look stunning on old furniture. For those working with a tight budget, slip covers are a less expensive option.

As an interior designer, I have some clients who do not want to start again from scratch, so giving old furniture a new lease of life is at the heart of my philosophy. My starting point is to understand what they want to retain, then reupholster, restore or replace.

However, not everything can or should be saved or updated. Top of my hit list is upholstered furniture, especially if the frame is not made from a hardwood. Borer beetle damage can affect the quality of a frame, but a good upholsterer will recommend whether replacing the affected timber is possible. However, this could be cost prohibitive. The expense of purchasing new fabric and paying for new upholstery isn’t worth it if the frame is inadequate. You’d be better off to buy a new piece.

A good upholsterer can swap saggy inner cushions with new foam, or top up the volume of feather. Replacing damaged or old coils with modern springing methods is cost effective, and does not compromise the style and shape.

My last word of advice is from William Morris who once said: “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” If everyone followed the words of this famous quote, we would never see clutter, or unwanted furniture and accessories anywhere!

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