House of Lori: ‘Upcycling Furniture – The Old New Trend’

by Lori Matzke
Home design blog
Furniture can be an expensive investment.  Even poorly made furniture can be not-so-affordable these days.  But before you toss out the old stuff, consider ‘upcycling’ to create a truly one-of-a-kind look for less.  So what exactly is upcycling, you ask?  Well back in the day, it might have been called ‘sprucing up’, ‘re-finishing’, or simply ‘recycling’.  But with a new push towards greener living, making furniture that was once old new again has become a hot new trend to save the earth by reducing waste while beautifying your home.
This Regency-style cabinet is a good example.  Purchased on for $25.00, it had great detailing, was incredibly sturdy, and deceivably quite heavy.  If not for the dated finish, I have no doubt this piece would retail new for at least a few hundred dollars or more.  Upcycling the cabinet gave it new life, created a unique design statement, saved the owner some cash, and offered stylish storage for video games and DVD’s.
After cleaning the entire piece with a good old-fashioned soap and water solution, I removed the doors from their hinges, then sanded down the old finish and wiped away the dust particles with tack cloth.  Once dust free, I smoothed on a coat of flat black primer, then gave it two light coats of Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch paint in a matte black finish, allowing for thorough drying time between each application.
To create a distressed look and to ensure the details of the cabinet really stood out, I used a medium-grade sandpaper to remove paint from the doors, corners, edges, and creases of the cabinet allowing a glimpse of the natural wood to show through.  I then went over the areas I had just sanded with a finer grade sandpaper until the wood was smooth.  TIP:  A good method to making newly painted furnishings feel authentically distressed is to consider where the finish on a piece might genuinely wear away over time.  This will give it more of a natural vintage appearance rather than looking too contrived or fake.
Once I was satisfied with the way the distressing had taken shape, I again wiped everything down with tack cloth to get rid of the fine particles of paint I had just sanded off, then used a soft, lint-free cloth to apply a one-step, water-based sealant with a silky sheen.  When the cabinet was completely dry, I  re-attached the doors using the original hinges, then dressed up the front with new knobs.
For an overall investment of about $40.00 including the cabinet, paint, stain, and hardware, the end result is a unique and useful piece the homeowner can enjoy for years, and one less heavy piece of junk taking up space in our already over-crowded landfills.   Rest assured, if this cabinet ever starts feeling old and dated again, it could easily be ‘upcycled’ once more and embark on yet another entirely new life.
Note: Lori Matzke is the owner of and She has been staging and redesigning homes professionally since 1999, conducts classes and seminars throughout the US and Canada, and is an author and contributor to many publications on the home staging and interior redesign process. She may be reached [email protected] or (952) 412-0566.