As you know, we love grabbing a bargain and there’s nothing better than finding a great piece of furniture or fabulous piece of art at a knock down price.
The only problem with picking up pieces at these kinds of places, is that they’re usually not in the best of condition. They’re always dirty, they’re usually scratched or dented and in general are in need of a bit of TLC.
You’ve probably already seen the little cupboard in our guest bedroom that we found at our local antique/ reclamation shop.
It’s been in the bedroom for about a year now, but we have a bit of a confession to make. Except for a quick clean, we haven’t really bothered to repair and restore it.
Whilst it looks fine from a distance (and it isn’t really in an awful condition), it is a bit scratched and could just do with a general tidy up.
Having purchased more than our fair share of used furniture, we’ve developed a go to method of refreshing the pieces before they make it into our home and, unless we buy something with the purpose of taking it to pieces, we usually pick things that are in a fairly good condition, which obviously makes our “restoration” work much easier.
The 3-Step process
#1 Clean, clean & clean
For us, the most important step before starting to work on anything, is to give it a really good clean. When we know that we’ll be painting the furniture, we always use sugar soap. In this case, as we’re keeping the natural wooden finish, we used natural soap for wood (like this one) which is much more gentile to the wood.
Just wipe down your furniture with your cleaner and some water. It should be patted dry straight away to reduce the risk of any water marks. You also shouldn’t use microfiber cloths – because of their structure they can leave little scratches in the surface.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that sugar soap is really gritty, so can damage delicate surfaces. If you’re concerned, try it out on a test area first.
If there are any scratches or dents, these need to be repaired before polishing and treating the surface. Any small dents can be removed by using the same method we used to remove the dents in our floor.
Small scratches can be polished away with a polish that’s specific to that type of wood. You shouldn’t polish it too often (less than once a year) as the polish will create a film on the surface of the furniture that will become greasy and attract dust.
Alternatively you can use shoe cream in a matching colour or, when treating light furniture, even use Vaseline.
#3 Rejuvenate, feed & polish
After carrying out any repairs, it’s time to refresh the furniture. Old wooden furniture that hasn’t been taken care of can be quite dry and really thirsty. How to treat the furniture will depend on the type of wood and how it’s been treated in the past (varnished, oiled, waxed, etc.).
Because of the quick and refreshed look that polishes can achieve, they are a popular choice, but are something you should be wary of using. You should also avoid polishes with silicon oils or other mineral oils, as these penetrate the wood and can’t be removed, therefore making any future surface restorations impossible. You should also only use products that are specifically designed for your type of wood. Otherwise, if you’re working on a proper antique, you could do more harm than good!
We decided to use a wood oil to treat the cupboard. Oil is great, as it penetrates the wood and permanently protects the surface from dirt and moisture. Oil is also great, as it doesn’t close the pores of the wood which means that it can still breathe.
Considering the little cupboard (it’s actually a record cupboard) didn’t look too bad to start with, we were really surprised at what a massive difference a bit of cleaning and polishing made.
It’s hard to capture how big difference it actually is. The colour of the wood has changed slightly and is much more vibrant than before. The natural texture and grain of the wood is also much more visible now.
Do you love to shop at flea markets and antique fairs, too? Have you recently restored a piece of furniture?