Vintage Revival

Some of my favourite things in our house are items that I picked up at second hand shops or garage sales. Every room in my house has one of these treasures, they add character and you can’t beat the price.  With so many items coming from big box stores, it’s nice to set your home apart by including some vintage finds. I love upcycling vintage finds because you can make it uniquely yours to fit your space and decor perfectly.

Dec 2014 036

My latest upcycling project was this bench. I saw it in a local antique store and it was love at first sight. With the curved base and the $50 price tag I knew that with a little makeover it would be the perfect piece for our main bathroom.

I enlisted the talents of Jenney Gates-Ucci at Ucci Upholstery ( to help me. First, she stripped the fabric, then I painted it with the following steps:

  1. Lightly sand and wipe.
  2. Prime with Zinsser Odorless Oil-Based Stain Blocker. This can be used on top of either latex or oil paints. Since it’s almost impossible to know if a piece has a latex or oil finish, it’s best to play it safe with a product that will cover both.
  3. Paint with an oil based paint designed for furniture and cabinets. This will give you the smoothest, most durable finish.

I handed the piece back over to Jenney to upholster in this grey and white animal print and voila! The total cost of this bench with the makeover was $135. If I were to find this in a store the price would likely be at least double. This is a piece I will love forever and if I need to move it to another room then for less than $100 I can buy new fabric and get it professionally reupholstered for a new look.

 Professional Spraying vs. Painting Yourself

Having a piece professionally spray lacquered will give you the smoothest, most durable finish. However, it’s more expensive than painting yourself and touch ups can be tricky. I always ask for some extra lacquer for touch ups, but this will only keep for a year or two, after that you’re out of luck. Since most of my pieces are white, I have done small touch-ups with the oil-based primer I mentioned above and it seams to do the trick, at least it is less noticeable than chipped white furniture showing dark wood underneath. Sometimes I paint a piece myself, for example this bathroom bench. It had a textured finish to start with so the smooth finish of a professional sprayer didn’t matter.Jan 2015 004

Things To Consider When Buying Vintage

  1. The structural integrity. Is it well made? Do the joints need to be reglued? Does it need new foam? The more work a piece needs the more the upcycling costs will add up.
  2. Ignore the paint finish and the upholstery, changing these things are what will make the piece uniquely yours. if it were the right paint finish and the upholstery was already beautiful the price tag would not be as inviting.
  3. Is this something you can makeover because you have the skill, time and initiative to do it or do you need to hire professionals?
  4. Upcycling takes more initiative than buying something new. Before you bring something home honestly ask yourself if this is going to be another item that just sits in your garage and will forever remain on your “to do” list. If so, walk away.


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