Friday, 11 March 2011

FABULOUS Furniture Finishes

Here in New Zealand we love to make treasure out of trash.

Even in Home and Garden Magazine articles, home owners proudly point out a piece of furniture that they have upcycled.


Often it is an iconic 70's piece that looks a million dollars once reupholstered, found during their suburbs Inorganic rubbish collection.


Other times it is a hand me down from Nana that has been given a new coat of white paint and subtly distressed. With new knobs, all of a sudden it is a Shabby Chic master piece.


Trademe is often mentioned as the source of one of their Upcycled treasures and that is the reason why we also sell our knobs on Trademe. Customers can buy second hand a piece with potential and then purchase a set of our gorgeous vintage style knobs to help complete the transformation.



Furniture Finishes 


Flea Markets, Craigslist and garage sales are great for used furniture deals, but what if the table of your dreams happens to also be an annoying shade of fuchsia? Don’t let a poor or unattractive finish deter your purchase! If you love the shape or lines of piece and the price is right, snatch it up! There are lots of options to revamping the finish of any piece of furniture. Read ahead for a few basic tips and ideas to get you started on your own DIY project today:

Sanding: If you have a piece of furniture made of wood with a finish you hate, you’re probably going to want to take that finish off. Sanding by hand is your best option. Go with finer grain sand papers to ensure that you don’t take off the details or edges of your piece along with the finish.
(Tip: remove the old finish completely before adding a new one to prevent splotchy color or an uneven surface.)
Natural wood is the perfect bare canvas, no need for primers or sealers. If you are working with other surfaces like metal, you will need a primer first. Look for primers that specifically say for metal or “high adhesive”. If you have rusty metal, make sure you look for primers that are especially formulated to seal rust. They also have paints designed to be placed over metal or rust without a primer as well as primers for people who want to forgo the sanding step altogether.
(Tip: The best choice is always to remove the old finish as much as possible and then add a new one.)

Wood furniture finishes come in lots of basic types and provide different levels of protection and aesthetics. Before choosing a finish option, go to your local hardware store for help in evaluating your furniture’s finish needs. For the novice, a stain with a top coat can be the easiest choice. Stains come in all sorts of colors options and can be applied fairly simply with a rag or brush.
(Tip: Depending on the color richness you desire, you will want to wipe off the excess stain while you apply.) I also recommend a protective top coat of polyurethane to accompany your stain job. 2 in 1 products that have the stain and polyurethane together in one product are available.

Painting is a great and fun way to add color and freshness to an old or unwanted piece of furniture. After you’ve properly sanded and/or primed your piece of furniture, choose the type of paint based on your furniture’s needs. If it’s an indoor piece use indoor. If it’s going to go outside use exterior, etc. Paints that are glossy will give a little more protection than matte versions, but it’s highly recommended that you also use a protective topcoat finish, like polyurethane, on your painted piece. (Tip: Applying a topcoat on with a brush may add a slight texture to your piece, to avoid brush strokes use a spray-on protective.)

After sanding and before finishing you might be interested in distressing your furniture. Use a hammer, old nails, screwdrivers—anything that you can poke, bang and drag along your furniture’s surface to create an interesting look.
(Tip: Remember that if you decide to stain your piece, the stain will accumulate and appear darker in the distressed spots. Be careful as to step back after each go with the tools, you can’t undo the marks if you put too much!)

Plaster and gesso are materials that you can slop on with a brush and let dry to create thick or interesting textures.
(Tip: Keep in mind that both gesso and plaster can create chalky and flaky surfaces, which can become delicate. You might have to apply paint carefully or even use a primer made for chalky surfaces.) You’ll definitely need a protective topcoat with these materials.
Metal leaf, decorative papers, fabric—all can be glued or “decoupage” to your furniture’s surface to give it a new finish. Metal leaf is fairly expensive and delicate and needs to be applied with a special adhesive
(Tip: let the adhesive dry a bit before applying leaves; glue needs to be a bit gummy first). Metal leaves commonly come in gold and silver, but are available in other patinas such as bronze or copper. They can add an amazing level of texture, depth or interest. Decorative paper can be glued onto a surface by using decoupage glue. You will want to apply many layers of a topcoat finish, as paper can be easily damaged if scratched.
Don’t forget the transforming effects of new hardware on a piece of furniture. Just updating the knobs on drawers can drastically change the look of a dresser. 


(Tip: Use wood putty to plug any holes left from knobs with different hardware needs than your new knobs.)
Important protective supplies one might need for finishing:
Drop cloth (plastic works best)
Thick paper towels
Latex gloves
Painter’s tape (for protecting fabric)

Remember to always perform your furniture finishing in well ventilated, dust and moisture free environments. It’s best to use finishes in a temperature-regulated space, so as to allow the finishes to dry properly.
Happy refinishing! If you have any questions, need advice on a piece of furniture or want to mention your favorite finishing technique I’ve left out, leave a comment or send me an email!

*Photographs are from the Better Homes and Gardens website

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