15 Ways to Give Your Furniture New Life

Let’s face it, buying new furniture is expensive. So expensive, in fact, that I’ve never actually done it (besides couches, because I’m not awesome/crazy enough to DIY a couch). There is also the problem that new furniture is, well… boring. To me it all looks the same and  basically has zero personality. A great (and super cheap!) solution to this is to redo old furniture. But what do you do with your ratty old thrift store furniture once you get it home?

15 ways to give your furniture new life - Domestic Imperfection

1. Paint it a fun color

Paint your furniture a fun color

The simplest and most dramatic way to give your furniture some personality is to paint it a bold color. I know, it’s scary…at first. But the chances are that you will love it, and your fierce new furniture will become your favorite things in your house. And if it doesn’t…then you can just paint it again. That’s the great thing about painting furniture, it’s cheap and easy to change.

Fun colored furniture posts – green dresser, yellow command center table, paisley stenciled table, end table dog bedgreen porch chair, toy boxsmall yellow shelf

2. Paint it white

Paint your furniture white

If you’re a neutral loving kinda gal, or if bold colors just aren’t your thing, then you can never go wrong by painting your furniture white. It’s crisp, clean, and matches everything.

White furniture posts – the bed that almost killed me, crappy $5 table, hexagon leaf table, funky old side table, barstools, file cabinet makeover

3. Don’t paint it

Don't paint your furniture

This kinda goes again the whole idea of the post, but I love natural wood. I think each room should include some natural elements in the design, and a beautiful piece of wooden furniture is the perfect place to do that. I actually don’t have a ton of examples of this, but I am currently on the hunt for two vintage dressers that I can use and leave beautiful and natural.

Natural wood furniture posts – farmhouse table

4. Paint part of it and leave other parts wood

Leave some wood on your furniture

This is one of my favorite ways to redo furniture, it gives you the best of both worlds. Popular ways of doing this is to paint everything but the top, paint everything but the drawers, or to just paint the drawers and leave the rest wood.

 Paint and wood furniture posts – paisley stenciled table, Indian inlay stenciled table, small yellow shelf, funky side table, green dresser, porch entry table, union jack table, kids step stool.

5. Add a design using stain

Add a design to your furniture using stain

This technique gives beautiful results and is surprisingly easy. All you need is a flat surface, a few colors of stain,and some painters tape.

Stain design posts – union jack coffee table

6. Stencil it.

Stencil your furniture

Stencils are a great way to add interest to your furniture. They are simple to use, fairly inexpensive, and can be used many many times (on more than just furniture!).

Stenciled furniture posts – paisley stenciled table, Indian inlay stenciled table, dog house end table

7. Hand paint a pattern

hand paint a design on your furniture

Maybe you don’t have a stencil, don’t want to spend money on one, or just can’t find one you love.  You still have lots of options! If you have a steady hand and a little artistic talent you can just hand paint a design onto your furniture. Even if you have no artistic talent you can do something like I did on my toy box – that design is done with a pattern I printed off the internet, transferred to a cereal box, and traced.

Hand painted furniture posts – hexagon leaf table, toy box

8. Give it the dirty cowboy treatment

Give your furniture the dirty cowboy treatment

Yes, the Dirty Cowboy Treatment, you read that correctly. This is my own twist on distressing furniture and you can GO HERE to read a full tutorial. If you don’t want your furniture to look pristine and new, but don’t want to look like it’s been through a hurricane then this is the look for you.

Furniture projects that include The Dirty Cowboy treatment – tutorial, dog house end table, yellow command center table, paisley stenciled table, and (kinda) children’s stepstools and growth charts.

9. Distress it

distress your furniture

I’m not huge on distressing furniture, but I do like to give my my pieces a very slight distressing,…mostly because my kids are going to dent, chip, and distress it anyway, so I might as well be prepared. Distressing is incredibly easy to do, you literally just take sandpaper and sand the parts of the piece where paint would wear off after time (raised areas, corners, near handles, etc). You can do this lightly with fine grit sandpaper, heavier with gritty sandpaper, or you can take and orbital sander to it and distress the living daylights out if it…your call.

Distressed furniture posts – the bed that almost killed me, crappy $5 table, yellow shelf, upcycled porch entry table, command center table ….

10. Add textured wallpaper

Add textured wallpaper to your furniture

This is another very easy way to add some subtle personality to your furniture. You can purchase the textured (and paintable!) wallpaper at hardware stores or you can buy it on Amazon. It’s simple to apply, I just used mod podge, painted it to match, and caulked the edges. For a full tutorial you can read the post below.

Textured wallpaper posts – crappy $5 table

11. Upholster with a fun fabric

Upholster your furniture in a fun fabric

Evidently for me, “fun fabric” means blues, greens, and white, haha. I like what I like! If your furniture needs some new upholstery then be bold and grab something fun. Look at that rocker, for example…. it wouldn’t be nearly as awesome if it had been upholstered something  solid or neutral.

Fun fabric posts furniture posts – dumpster rocker, big fat nursery chair

12. Upholster it with a dropcloth

Upholster your furniture with a dropcloth

Yes, a dropcloth…like the  scratchy fabric thing that you buy at hardware stores to catch paint. It makes a great material for furniture… it’s thick, durable, neutral, and relatively inexpensive. It almost has a natural fiber look, and if you throw it in the wash it actually comes out quite soft.

Dropcloth furniture posts – barstools

13. Add something unexpected

Add embellishments to your furniture

Add something to your furniture that wasn’t there before. In the picture above I used scrapbook paper to give my file cabinet a tiled herringbone look, and I added yardsticks to my kids stepstool (which I think looks awesome). You can seriously add anything -nailhead trim, expanded metal, pennies, buttons, new hardware, photos, mirrors, tiles, stones, fabric, washers….do I need to continue?

Furniture embellishment posts – file cabinet makeover, kids step stool, and penny countertop (not really a furniture project, but still applicable).

14. Give it a new purpose

repurpose your furniture

Before you get rid of an old piece of furniture take a closer look and see if it can serve another purpose. Dressers in particular are great for this, they are super versatile. I made one into a bathroom vanity and I have sitting in my garage waiting to be transformed into a media center, but you could also use them as buffets, changing tables, benches, bookshelves, sofa tables, potting benches, hall tables, kitchen islands, and a variety of other things.

Furniture repurposing posts – dresser into bathroom vanitybroken vanity harp into porch entry tableend table dog bed

15. Combine any of the above suggestions

I’m sure you noticed that most of my projects were repeated a few times, and that’s because I usually do a few techniques on a single piece of furniture. The paisley stenciled table, for example, was painted a fun color, had natural wood, was stenciled, distressed, and dirty cowboyed. The hexagon leaf table was painted white, had a hand panted pattern, distressed, and glazed. Oh my gosh, glazed! I forgot to add that one. Surprise bonus way #16 – glaze your furniture. Haha. But really, just have fun with it. Break the rules., try new things you’re not sure will work, and make it yours.

Furniture makeover ideas


  1. Great post Ashley! Love the way you put this all together! You are truly a pro! I have pinned it again!
    Cindy recently posted..Spring Fever is Here!!!My Profile

  2. Hi Ashley! You are one talented girl! I love this post and how you compiled all of your techniques! I found you at the Haven page and see that we are from the same area. Would love to meet you!!! Can’t wait for August!
    Janis@All Things Beautiful recently posted..The {Wooden Horse} that wasn’t meant to be…My Profile

  3. This is such a great round up and there is definitely some furniture in my house that needs to be updated and spruced up! Pinned for when I’m ready to tackle those projects!
    keri @ shaken together recently posted..{taste this} key lime pie cookie cupsMy Profile

  4. Love having a collage post of all the awesome things you’ve done to furniture! I’ve only done one piece myself (our ugly bathroom vanity, which turned out amazingly with a can of spray paint, gold stenciling, and some gold distressing), but we love to repurpose furniture! Our entertainment center consists of three bookcases, and I love it.

  5. Oh my gosh, I love this post! These ideas are awesome, especially the one about leaving a bit of wood showing. My dad freaks out every time I tell him I’m going to paint something because he thinks it’s a crime to cover up gorgeous wood. :-)
    Jessi @ Practically Functional recently posted..Minky Baby Blanket TutorialMy Profile

  6. I love that bathroom vanity!
    Vanessa recently posted..Homemade Body WashMy Profile

  7. what a great pist, Ashley! love those stools!
    jocie@TheBetterHalf recently posted..Behind the Scenes Tour of the John Deere FactoryMy Profile

  8. hahah aPOST not pist…that would be weird. :)
    jocie@TheBetterHalf recently posted..Behind the Scenes Tour of the John Deere FactoryMy Profile

  9. My favorite.. Paint your furniture… Don’t Paint your furniture! I LOVE it!

    But really… you are amazing. Every piece is just perfection.
    Gwen recently posted..A Chalkboard Desk Makeover, baby!My Profile

  10. Wonderful Post!
    We’ve recently moved into a SEVERE fixer upper, and every dime is being stretched five different ways. While my Fiancee is worried about ripping down walls, and laying new flooring. I’m way more excited about finding new ways to decorate the place! Your post, inspired me to start revamping the furniture I have in the garage, waiting for a makeover.


  11. What a great article! You have been inspiring me for the last 14 months in my efforts in restoring furniture. I have loved your low-budget, real life approach to home restoration and life in general. It remains one of my favourite blogs to read.
    Dee recently posted..I Have CurvesMy Profile

  12. Sharon says:

    Ashley…great post! I’m one that has always loved picking up cast-off furniture and remaking them into something for our home. When we were first married, we didn’t have the money to spend on new furniture because we put everything into getting our small farm paid off as quickly as possible. Then 5 children later….still not a lot of money for furniture…but I’ve always been one to love the old, used and something with a story. I love your blog and you always crack me up with your down to earth style of writing! Great post!

  13. What a great post!! I’m going to share this on my Facebook page. Love it!
    Jennifer @ Town and Country Living recently posted..Country Roads of Kane County IllinoisMy Profile

  14. Another great post Ashley! The fact, I keep coming back to this blog because of the useful tips you always shared. Just like in your latest post which I think can help lots of homeowners to save big money from furniture. They can do some make-over job to their old furniture instead of buying new ones which can cost them thousands of dollars.

  15. What a great grouping of tips!! I love to paint everything!!
    Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke recently posted..Master Bedroom MakeoverMy Profile

  16. I love these ideas! I know many times that if an item just had the “new look you’re going for”, that many of us would keep our existing items, saving space in landfills and saving ourselves money! Great article with awesome pics; thanks for sharing!

  17. What great ideas! I know many of our items would stay in our house if we all just “repurposed” them and gave them new life. We would save landfill space and definitely money! Thanks for sharing your creativity ~

  18. I’m really impressed with the Union Jack coffee table. You don’t always have to strip and refinish furniture to give it new meaning. As the flag inspired coffee table shows, you can add a few dashes of color here and there (while maintaining the integrity of the unity) to completely transform the look of your furniture.

  19. Furniture can make or break the overall look of your home. So, it is very important for you to keep your furniture looking new and stylish.

  20. Some great ideas there, I’m not to keen on the distressed look of furniture… but each to his or her own I suppose, makes me wish I had some old furniture around to spruce up…
    Carl recently posted..Bathroom Floor TilesMy Profile

  21. Diane Bellora says:

    I love your ideas, but I do think that there should be a disclosure that if you suspect that the piece of furniture is in good to fair condition and may be an antique, have sentimental value or may be made of fine wood, don’t do anything to it until you’re contacted someone knowledgeable to determine if the value of the piece would be diminished by redoing it.

  22. Some ideas I love, and some I’m not so keen on.
    The stencils look really cool, and I also like the contrast you’ve got going on by painting part of the furniture and leaving the top surface as natural wood.
    Ryan J. recently posted..Add a Zen Touch to Your Shower with an Asian Shower StoolMy Profile

  23. Fantastic ideas @Ashley. I am almost in love of this post. Laughed a bit while having a look at the new kind of puppy house. :P

  24. Jan Elizabeth says:

    What a useful collection of tips. Also reminded me of a bunch of your projects I’d forgotten. I’m partway through refinishing my son and DIL’s dining room set, which used to be my parents’. (Paint and wood!) So the inspiration is helpful!


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