Revamp Old Furniture Instead of Replacing

Dresser painted with low-VOC stain.
[Freshly stained dresser. Photo by Lenore MacLeod-Bickley]

We’ve all got pieces of furniture that look like they’re on the way out. When I first moved to Atlanta, a friend gave me a coffee table. I had no money and very little furniture, so I was grateful even though the table was sort of…well…it was ugly, alright? It was an ugly, ugly table. Rather than pitch it, I decided to give it a fresh coat of white paint and try my hand at a mosaic. We still have that little coffee table living out on the front porch! It’s a little bit dusty at the moment, but I’ll show you a picture if you promise not to judge my housekeeping skills:

[Mosaic coffee table. The measuring cup is for watering the veggies you see in the background.]

Even though it’s a little bit worn now and the colors have faded from sitting in the sun, I love that little table like no other. I can’t look at it without thinking about the time spent carefully laying out the pattern until the design was just how I wanted it and the rewarding process of painting the wood and laying the tile. What started as an ugly hand-me-down is now a treasured piece! Here are a few options if you’re looking to do your own furniture revamp!


If you’re trying to spruce something up that can support a little bit of weight, mosaic might be a good option! Not only can you salvage a scratched tabletop, you can divert some trash from the waste stream while you’re at it! You might cover your project with recycled glass, old bottlecaps, or broken ceramics or tiles that would have headed for the landfill. Check out this tutorial from eHow for mosaic instructions.


Mosaic is a little bit labor-intensive and requires a whole lot of materials. If you’re looking for something a bit simpler, decoupage might be what you’re after! You can even decoupage fabric onto a worn out chair to give it a whole new life! What a great chance to raid your scrap bin! For some more decoupage inspiration check out this post over at Ikea Hacker. They show a lovely combination of paint and decoupage and a beautiful table decoupaged with paint chips. Here are some helpful decoupage instructions from Gothic Martha Stewart.

Paints and Stains

Whether you want to simply change the color of your piece or add a fancypants design, there are a bunch of great options out there! Check out these vibrant stains that Lenore used to spruce up an old dresser. If paint is more your speed, hunt down a low- or no-VOC variety. Jessica Gottlieb has a few eco-friendly paint options over at Eco Child’s Play. For some tips on painting furniture, This Young House has you covered!


If you’re sewing-inclined, you might consider recovering or slip covering an old piece. An old table or trunk can look brand new if you put together a fitted slip cover for it. Feeling really ambitious? You might try recovering the whole piece, like the famous IKEA chair revamp by Minouette. For a simpler, no-sew recovering option, check this video from ReadyMade on reupholstering a dining room chair. You can keep this eco-friendly by using a low-VOC spray adhesive, like this one from 3M:


So have you guys spruced up any old pieces? Tell us all about it in the comments!

14 thoughts on “Revamp Old Furniture Instead of Replacing”

  1. I love re-vamping old furniture! I work for a non-profit and we had all hand-me-down office furniture so we took a table and decoupaged copies of historic photos, it turned out fantastic! I have also re-painted my bedroom side tables twice now, they were hand-me-down from my grandparents to my parents to me.

  2. I love refinishing furniture and taking old pieces and give them a new function. I took a found dresser, removed drawers, added some leftover wood for slats and top and made a new kitchen island! The best part was the dresser had great wheels and was easy to move around! I loved this piece for several years, now that I am downsizing and moving, my kitchen island has gone to an artist friend to enjoy! I have pics at

  3. you did a nice job on that little table. i also like what your doing to the dresser? I have such a hard time doing that, not the process but the color,which i really love the one you chose. I guess I am a natural wood sorta person. I am not sure if that is good or bad.

  4. Natural wood isn’t bad, lori… it’s just you! and certainly it’s eco so that makes it good.

    My favorite redone piece is a little curvy dresser with flowery handles that I found at a thrift store … it had crayon drawings on the side and a gross pseudo-cream-colored (yellowy) melamine top which I wanted to replace with real wood, but decided to keep because it fit the curvy bits on the rest of the piece. I sanded the heck out of it, primed it with a high-adhesive primer, and painted the whole piece white (except for the handles, which I removed because they were nicely distressed.) Came out great. Had to do some repair on one of the tracking thingies, which were wood… I glued it together and it works well for gentle use.

    One day I’m going to mosaic something… not sure what yet.

  5. So glad to have found your website. This post on re-vamping old furniture is just the inspiration I needed to keep from throwing out a perfectly good (but UGLY) kitchen table!

  6. Bethjc – I love the idea of revamping office furniture! I bet those new pieces gave your workplace lots of character!

    tremundo – That kitchen island is fantastical!

    lori – Thanks much! I can’t take credit for the dresser, just the table. The dresser is a previous project from Lenore. She did happen to pick my current color obsession, though!

    MiCo – That’s wonderful to hear!!

  7. I LOVE the idea of revamping old furniture. My home is filled with old pieces that are now fun! With a touch of low-VOC paint and a little imagination, we can all bring unique pieces into our home and keep them out of the land fills:) Win-Win! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Revamping old furniture is fun! Though, not having a place of my own, I don’t get the chance to do it very often. I do have a mosaiced nightstand in my bedroom– I did beach glass on the top of it. And I also have some dressers from my childhood that I spruced up a bit with some Celtic designs painted on the stained wood in silver. (I’d love to get some replacement hardware for them too– both because the antique gold drawer pulls don’t go with silver paint, and because one of them broke and fell off and got lost. πŸ˜› But apparently the standard size drawer pulls don’t fit relics from the early 90s, and I haven’t found any to try at the thrift store yet…)

  9. I am so new to decoupage and need help badly. I love all the ideas and comments but what I have a question about is this….Can I use children’s crayon drawings or marker drawings when decoupaging? I didn’t know if the colors would run or bleed once the glue is applied. Can I spray something on them to keep this from happening? I am in charge of 2 class projects where we will be adding decoupage to a chair and a table that will be auctioned. We are wantinng to do it in the childrens art work. I can use advice as well as step by step instruction as well. Thank you

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