15 Cheap and Ingenious Ways to Upgrade Your Furniture

by Camilla Cheung on 27 March 2014 0 comments

Don't have the money to buy a new sectional for the living room? Still making it work with hand-me-downs from your parents? Don't worry if you can't spend the big bucks on updating your furniture yet — there are plenty of fast and easy ways to refresh your home on the cheap. Use these thrifty finds and innovative solutions to make the most of what you already have. (See also: Where to Find Cheap, Good-Looking New Furniture)

1. Add Trim to Curtains

Plain white IKEA curtains (or equivalents from other stores) are cheap and go with everything, but don't always pack the most stylish punch. Update that $20 pair of curtains by adding a few yards of trim — be it pom-pom trim, craft store ribbon, or a strip of colorful fabric. You don't even need to know how to sew — attach the trim using iron-on hem tape or easy-to-apply fabric glue.

2. Create Cushion Covers Out of Napkins

One of the easiest ways to update an old couch is to add accent pillows in a fun and trendy print. And one of the easiest ways to make new cushion covers is to make them out of cloth napkins! They are cheap, brightly colored, and already cut into squares! You can sew them of course, but iron-on hem tape is again your friend. Here's a great tutorial for creating your own no-sew napkin pillow covers.

3. Refresh Wood With Mayonnaise

I love finding old wood furniture at thrift shops or estate sales, but often the wood is dry and stained with water marks. One easy, old-fashioned, cheap, and non-toxic way to refresh wood is to rub in some mayonnaise! Yes, mayonnaise! Simply apply the mayonnaise in a thin layer, and let it sit for a couple of hours before wiping it off. The oil in the mayo helps to cover the water marks and brings out the depth in the wood. (See also: Surprising Home Uses for Mayonnaise)

4. Skim-Coat Countertops With Concrete

Those old laminate countertops might be worn out and dated, but new countertops aren't cheap. A great interim solution is to skim-coat your laminate countertops with a concrete product manufactured for this specific purpose. The materials are cheap, and the method is surprisingly easy. This tutorial on how to skim-coat your laminate countertops with concrete is a great place to start.

5. Paint With Chalkboard Paint

Chalkboard paint is enjoying a renaissance in home decor these days. It's not surprising; chalkboard paint is cheap and even comes in spray-on versions. If you've got an old table that numerous generations of kids have destroyed, why not paint the top with chalkboard paint and let the next generation go nuts with the chalk? Lately I've even seen dressers, chairs, and walls painted with chalkboard paint!

6. Spray Paint Almost Anything

Spray paint is a great way to revitalize old pieces of furniture that you're about ready to toss. What have you got to lose? These folding chairs look amazing with fresh coats of colorful spray paint, and these brassy builder-grade doorknobs now look way more upscale with a coat of bronze paint. Small pieces of furniture like stools and chairs, and accessories like lamps and vases, are perfect for spray paint. I love the look of a wood table paired with spray-painted mismatched thrift store chairs — just make sure all the chairs are painted the same color for a cohesive look! (See also: 40 Ways to Use Spray Paint)

7. Change the Legs

For a fun and modern update to an old couch, try removing the skirt and painting the sofa legs a bright color. The same goes for an old coffee table or outdated dining chairs. Or switch out the legs altogether with something more updated (here are a few great ideas). Slim tapered legs are much more trendy now than the fat blocks that were popular 10 years ago and are easy to swap out.

8. Paper It

Another easy way to update old furniture is by applying patterned paper. A roll of wallpaper goes a long way when used to cover the back of a bookcase or an old hutch. For an even thriftier update (albeit not as durable), use wrapping paper. Contact paper now comes in lots of beautiful patterns and can even mimic the look of natural stone. Stick marble contact paper on top of a laminate nightstand or use it to gussy up a cheap Ikea side table. Or, as in this project, use stone-patterned vinyl wallpaper to cover your cabinetry for a unique and luxe look. (See also: Clever Uses for Leftover Wallpaper)

9. Paint or Stain It

If you're just sick of the honey oak finish on your hand-me-down wood furniture, the best thing to do may be to paint or to refinish it.

10. Reupholster It

Sure, reupholstering your grandfather's wingback chair might be a bit out of your reach, but chances are there are plenty of simple upholstery projects that you are more than capable of taking on. Recovering the seats on your dining chairs with a fun fabric is easy and can make a huge difference, and all you need is some fabric and a manual staple gun. Turn a cheap or thrifted coffee table into a plush ottoman. Find a cheap stool and upholster the top with a fuzzy (real or faux) sheepskin, making it perfect for a vanity or foyer. Once you start, you'll be looking at everything in your home as a potential upholstery job!

11. Swap Hardware

Like jewelry, adding a little bling in the form of new hardware to your old furniture is one way to update its look. Sometimes you don't even need to add new hardware — just shine up old brass pulls and knobs with a little salt and elbow grease. An old dresser or built-in cabinetry can look new if you add modern hardware, and a couple of fun knobs can really dress up plain closet doors.

12. Cover It With Mirrors

Don't like the finish of your old furniture? Try covering it with inexpensive acrylic mirror material, which you can have cut to size at the hardware store. For example, cover a cheap dresser with mirrors for a high-end, glamorous look. Or cut a piece of mirror to fit the top of a worn-out coffee table.

13. Add Molding

An old set of bookshelves can be spruced up by adding some chunky molding to the bottom and top and then painted. By doing this, you can make them look like built-ins, especially if you create a whole wall of bookcases trimmed out with molding.

14. Stencil It

Stencils nowadays come in all sorts of trendy patterns. Apply paint with a sponge roller for a quick and easy update, like this stenciled table top that looks like bone inlay.

15. Cover It With Fabric

A fun way to update a dresser is to cover it with grasscloth or linen fabric, with nailhead trim to complement the texture of the fabric. You can also use fabric as the backing for a bookcase, or in this case, a cleaning closet.

Do you have any old furniture that would benefit from a little innovative updating? What's your plan?

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