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Continuing on with our goal of discussing affordable decor on this blog, we’ve reached the point in our “Choosing Secondhand Furniture” series when it’s time to think about if you should consider refinishing when you see used furniture.

A lot of people have a really hard time finding the potential in a piece. Also, some just ride it off entirely because they don’t find themselves handy enough. Well, here’s some tips on how to see the potential in a piece that just needs a little TLC.

Condition of Current Finish: What’s the current finish like and what shape is it in? Is it chipping, just dingy, multiple layers of paint? We discussed this some when we talked about recognizing quality in a piece of used furniture, but it definitely plays a part in whether or not you should buy. If it’s something you can paint over and you like then by all means purchase the piece. But that’s the easy answer, right? But, sometimes this might not be that easy. For instance, my Lane end tables first looked like this:

And our coffee table was way, way worse:

To some, this damage would seem too much and the tables wouldn’t be worth it. But, it was only only $30 for the two tables and I figured the risk was worth it. After lots and lots of sanding and some spray laquer, here’s the end result:

We also purchased a second end table at Room Service Vintage when they were having a sidewalk sale. It was in the same condition as the others and so Brendan gave it some TLC, too. All of the table lost their original finish, because of the sanding but I honestly love how the refinishing brought out the dovetail details ever more.

Use your imagination: What would this piece look like painted? Or stripped to the original word? Or what if you styled it right, how would it look in your space? Ask anyone who purchases used furniture and they will all tell you this, “Everything looks worse in the store”. It’s so true. So when you see a piece just stare at it and think about how it might look with a fresh coat of paint.

Professional Refinishing: If you get them professionally refinished you have to ask yourself if spending the money is worth it? For our Lane tables, it wasn’t. It would have cost a couple hundred and at that price we could purchase them in really good condition at a local vintage shop. But, for a great couch, it might be worth it. Recently, I received a pair of 1950s shellback, patio chairs. They were my grandmothers and my mom had them professionally repainted in the 80s. So, when I got them this last summer they were in desperate need of another refinishing. At this point, the cost to have the chairs properly done was way more expensive than what it would cost to buy the reproductions. But to me, these were my grandmother’s and so I loved them more than just trying to get a good deal. In fact, after talking to my mom when trying to decide if we should have them powder coated, she gave me the best advice for thrifting, “Not everything has to be a good deal.” Do I love, love, love a good deal? Hell. Yes. But in this case, the chairs and their history were more important.

Do you have any other tips or advice to share? If so, send it over! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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For the past several weeks Jess and I have been posting about things we think everyone should know about purchasing furniture secondhand. Just to recap: We wrote about why we buy secondhand in the first place here and here. Also here’s a quick recap of our previous posts.

  • Know Your Shared Style: Jess wrote about figuring out what works for both you and your partner. This leads to a happy home.
  • Reality versus Vision: Jess gave some great advice about taking a step back and not falling in love with a piece right away (some advice I should heed).
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Welcome to So Eclectic

So Eclectic is a blog dedicated to great ideas for home design. Austin, Texas-based writer Mary Marcum and Savannah, Missouri-based writer Jess Rezac feature affordable decor, decorating solutions, and inspiration. At So Eclectic, we experiment with design together. So Eclectic posts new content every weekday.

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