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Technique >> New ways to use your furniture

chair-detailLast year I worked with a client who had a big decision to make. Should she reupholster two chairs as part of her living room update, or start fresh?Ultimately, she decided to recover the chairs because they fit the design direction she wanted, the frames were solid, the springs were in great shape and the chairs had strong sentimental value. However, for the price, she could could have bought something new.Why keep them? She liked the chairs, they worked in her home and she valued their history. Using the chairs in a new way also kept good material out of the landfill.It is rare that a client has nothing they wish to bring forward into a new design. There are almost always a few pieces of furniture to re-use or re-invent.I really like to work with existing pieces provided they are of good quality and in good repair. Having objects and furnishings with history and personal meaning gives a home character.Here are a few approaches for using your things in a new way.ReupholsterReupholstery is a good option for sofas and love seats, lounge and dining chairs, bed frames or head/foot boards.It involves stripping a piece of furniture down to the frame and rebuilding. Often, it involves more than just replacing the fabric, it may also involve replacing springs and foam, tightening the frame and re-staining the wood. Costs will always include both materials and labour.The great thing about reupholstering is that you can maintain the style and look of the original piece, or play with different elements like piping, tufting or stain colours to give it a whole new look.RefinishRefinishing is a good option for wooden items such as coffee tables, side tables, wardrobes and dressers. When you refinish a piece of furniture, you are stripping the paint or varnish down to the wood grain as well as fixing minor repairs.Simple changes can give an older piece an entirely new look and feel, or allow you to customize a piece for a new purpose.Choosing a new colour or fitting it with different hardware can give an entirely different look.Don’t be afraid to refinish a reproduction of an antique piece, even if the reproduction is itself quite old. Reproductions are never as valuable as original antiques.When choosing a new paint colour you should have the piece professionally sprayed for the best results.RestoreYou may consider restoration for family heirlooms and antiques. This does not mean you are returning them to their original condition, which would involve refinishing.You want to keep the marks and patina that have developed over time because this is part of what gives them such character. It’s part of the story.Restoration should ideally be done under the care of a professional who knows how to identify the finish: lacquer; varnish; or shellac and how to work with it. Often this starts with simply cleaning the piece correctly to reveal the original finish.RemoveIf you have old, worn or broken furniture that is not worth the effort or cost to use again the best option is probably to find it a new home. It makes space for new furnishings and results in less clutter.Pieces that are still functional, if outdated or worn, can be donated or given away. Broken pieces should be disposed of appropriately. What do you have in your home that could be re-imagined or re-invented?