There’s a chair in Dawn DiLorenzo’s Charlton home that had nothing going for it when she bought it besides an interesting shape.
It’s Edwardian-style, which she didn’t like; the wood was a pecan color, which wasn’t her favorite, and the upholstery could only be described as ratty.
But something about the chair called to her, so she rescued it from a yard sale.
After it knocked around her house for seven years, she finally decided to give it a makeover. She painted it a cheery yellow, reupholstered it with material from an old duvet cover, and now it’s one of her favorite pieces.
Whether refinished or simply added to the decor as-is, used furniture has many pluses.
“It’s cheaper. Let’s just be real — it costs a lot less,” said DiLorenzo, an interior decorator who owns Locust Grove Designs.
She hunts yard sales and thrift stores for treasures to decorate her modern country home.
Not only is it kind to her pocketbook, but old furniture adds interest to her home’s interior.
“I find that when everything is store-bought, it just kind of lacks the personality I want to portray,” she said.
Vintage furniture is also often of superior quality to the stuff that’s sold new in stores, noted Amy DeBiase, owner of Bliss Gifts and Home Decor in Schenectady.
She suggested shopping for pieces that are at least 15 or 20 years old.
“I typically look for much older than that because I’m just an old soul,” she said. “I like the look and the feel and the smell of those old pieces. And I like to think about where they’ve been and who’s used them.”
When shopping for vintage furnishings, DeBiase recommended giving the prospective purchase a careful once-over. Pull out drawers to make sure they function and aren’t falling apart, make sure the bottoms of drawers are made from solid pieces of wood and check to see that all joints are solid, she advised.
DeBiase looks for vintage treasures at auctions, yard sales, flea markets and also on the curb.
“I’m not proud. I’ll pick stuff off the side of the road if it still has good bones and I think I can bring it back to life and give it another chance,” she said.
Good-quality used furniture shouldn’t be overlooked simply because of fears that it won’t go with your decor, DiLorenzo said.
“Kind of stepping outside the comfort zone makes your house really more interesting and more fun to look at when you don’t have one of everything in the same style,” she said.
With a little imagination, old furniture can also be repurposed.
DiLorenzo has an antique upright radio in her home that’s used as a side table. She and her husband also transformed what she called a “sad, inexpensive” vintage cabinet into a handy shoe closet by adding shelves and a new coat of paint.
Fresh paint can do wonders for a less-than-lovely piece of furniture. Home improvement stores also stock a variety of refinishing products that can provide an amazing face-lift.
“If the surface isn’t too far gone and it doesn’t need to be stripped and redone, you can just brighten it up with a refinishing product and a little bit of steel wool,” DeBiase said.
Such products can help to eliminate surface stains and fill in grooves with a minimal amount of hassle.
Replacing the hardware on a dated piece of furniture is another easy and inexpensive way to give it a fresh look, DeBiase noted.