Finding & Restoring Old Furniture


This blog is testament to the different activities we all participate in and enjoy. Each of us tends to have at least on hobby or activity into which they devote the majority of their time; mine is finding and restoring old furniture.

Old furniture has always been a passion of mine since when I can remember the look, feel and sometimes even smell! It wasn’t until my mid 30s that I started actively searching for and buying old/antique/vintage items, as a direct result of there being nothing new (and affordable) which had the look or build quality I was after.

Since then every item you can think of has been through the garage; desks, chairs, lamps, coffee tables, the list goes on… Sometimes I restore or update them, sometimes I just move them on to a new owner after letting them gather dust. This article is just a quick overview of where I find items and what I do to them.

Finding Vintage Furniture
Everyone has their own techniques or routines when it comes to finding old furniture. Unfortunately for people like myself the general public’s appetite for antique/vintage items has meant a general rise in price and their difficulty to find.

Yard sales and estate sales
Probably the best source of old furniture and lightest on the wallet, yard sales and estate sales can be a treasure trove of items. You can find anything from vintage Victorian front doors to wardrobes, the art is to arrive early and plan out what you could do with an item prior to purchasing it. Yard sales and estate sales are often listed in the local paper or use any number search engines to find you closest location.

Keep your eyes open
What is the saying “one man’s junk is another man’s gold”? Well when it comes to old furniture that is really the case. I have found a number of great items (including antique school chairs) left outside by a dumpster ready to be taken to the recycling centre. Now there is no way of knowing where these are (unless you keep an insider at the garbage company sweet), so it does boil down to luck.

Charity shops
Charity shops (especially furniture specific ones) usually carry a number of excellent pieces at any one time. They can be on the more expensive side of the market so never go into a charity shop looking to get a perfect item. As you are most likely going to be restoring it chipped paint or marks on the wood shouldn’t bother you.

Restoring techniques
When I say ‘restoring’ I really mean ‘changing from its original state’ as the majority of the items I work on are never going to be back to their full glory. However a few of the below techniques will have your piece of furniture ready for home in no time at all.

Lots of old interior and exterior doors or larger cabinetry will require you to strip them of paint, varnish or any other treatment prior to doing anything. You will need to firstly make sure the item is made from solid wood or metal; composite materials really don’t look good naked. Secondly you will need stripping tools and a butane blow torch (both of which you can get from any DIY centre). I sometimes leave items untreated (especially doors) depending on the quality of the look, otherwise paint or stain to your heart’s desire.

Now this is something I can’t do myself and outsource to a professional. Re-upholstering a chair, sofa or anything else for that matter allows you to transform a beaten and average piece into something totally different. I tend to paint, stain or distress the piece first then pick out fabric, but whatever process means you get the piece finished is the right one for you.

I had to make myself stop distressing furniture because I was doing it too much. Distressing refers to the act of making a piece of furniture look like it has been aged and gives it that ‘shabby chic’ look. I always follow the same process when I distress an item:

– Strip paint, varnish etc (unless you like the base colour)
Paint – I sometimes do two coats one different colours (looks great when sanded down)
– Sand – use different grads of paper for different effects
– Knock, chip, bash – using different hard objects

These restoration ideas were brought to you by Yale Composite Doors, who manufacture period style front doors. Not only does every Yale composite door look great; each door is manufactured to adhere to strict security codes.

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One Comment

  1. The article on finding vintage furniture to restore as a hobby

    I have a two tier side table that needs repair and restoration

    How can I find someone who might want it for free to restore for themselves.

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