Sure, that wood chair may be a hand-me-down from your grandma's kitchen and that midcentury flea market find needs a little love. But you can make a piece of old furniture work for you with a few simple steps. Caley Coleff, owner of Heck's Revival in Cleveland, helps us sand down the rough edges and breathe new life into a vintage piece.
When combing thrift stores and garage sales for furniture to rehab, look for promising contours and shapes. Don't be discouraged by goofy colors or ratty upholstery. "A good shape is pretty much it. You just have to know what it's going to look like when it's done," says Coleff. "You have to be able to see the potential."
Begin by scrubbing off all that built-up grime with simple soap and water. "You just mix it like you'd do the dishes and not drench the piece," says Coleff. "Make sure you dry it." Break out the hardcore cleaners — Coleff recommends TSP degreaser — only for stubborn gunk. "That will get rid of any grime or anything on it, and also take off any shine," she says.
Keep your belt sander where it belongs — in the garage. Give the wood a quick sand by hand instead, then use gel stain — thicker than the traditional liquid kind — that's made to spread over what's already there. "If you don't want to go through the process of stripping, sanding and everything, gel stain is easy because you can just put it right on," says Coleff.