Avoid the curb & “refurb”

Photo: Photo courtesy of Rekindle Home
Old is the new “new”!

Over time, furniture and home décor will, no doubt, suffer wear and tear or become dated. More and more, people are opting to give old pieces a facelift rather than pitching them to the curb on garbage day, and here’s why:

  1. It reduces consumption; it is a thrifty way to do more with what we have. The greenest product is one that already exists!
  2. It can save you money. We talk about shrinking our eco-footprint by reducing the need for natural resources – but – salvaging furniture or enhancing the appearance of pieces you already own can save another precious resource – your money.
  3. Revived “vintage” pieces are a very popular trend in the world of design. Whether you pay a professional craftsperson or handle the refinishing yourself, it’s an opportunity to let your creativity shine. Customized furniture and findings will help you create a one-of-a-kind space

What to look for

According to Stephanie Hunter, owner of Rekindle Home in Hamilton, Ontario, the first thing you should look at is the structure of the piece you are considering for refinishing. Hunter prefers to work on pieces that are structurally sound and don’t require much repair (if any). “Whatever the piece is, look for a solid structure - no wobbling is a good sign - solid wood, and metal that hasn’t rusted out. Also, make sure that it hasn’t been too horribly exposed to the elements.”

Photo courtesy of Rekindle Home

Shannon Acheson, DIY enthusiast and blogger, suggests that you should turn a blind eye to design elements that can be easily altered. “Look past the colour ... and look past whatever hardware happens to be on it, whether it’s something that has knobs or handles. Look past that to the overall shape of it. You can change the colour and you can change the hardware and make it look fabulous.”

Is this your first time?

Both experts agreed that you should choose something easy for your first piece – don’t start with the family heirlooms. Keep in mind that some pieces are easier to refinish than others – for example, a simple dresser is easier and takes less time to refinish than a chair with lots of spindles. The more woodworking detail a piece has, the longer it will take to refinish and the more difficult it will be. Fully upholstered items, like couches, maybe be best left for seasoned pros or until you have several successful projects under your tool belt.

To paint, or not to paint?

The simplest and most dramatic way to give your furniture some personality is to paint it a bold colour! You could also try a rustic finish, or stencils. If you paint several pieces of furniture in a room with the same color, gloss and finish, even the most mismatched furniture can be made to fit well together in the same space. You could also consider going “au natural”. Stripping off old paint or simply refreshing the finish on a well-made piece of wooden furniture will show off the piece’s natural beauty.

Not the DIY type?

When choosing a refinishing studio, Hunter recommends checking into their process: “Some people really cut corners when it comes to refinishing – you want people who are open about their process, and willing to talk to you about it. Avoid shops that do “dip stripping” (where they immerse the whole piece in chemical stripper, affecting joints and the structure of the piece) or straight sanding (where they sand the whole finish off, and take off a layer or two of good wood along with it!). A quality refinishing process should begin with manual chemical stripping, and refinishing should take at least a week or two from start to finish – a good studio will probably be booked weeks in advance!”

A deeper shade of green

What’s so unique about Hunter’s Rekindle Home, is that it takes the already eco-friendly art of upcycling and repurposing to even greener heights. “We are a certified green business” she says, “ – ALL of the products used are non-toxic, biodegradable and contain little to no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Our expert use of wood stains and fabric dyes gives each piece a real one-of-a-kind finish. We like to use unusual combinations of products and mix our own custom colours using vegetable dyes, fabric dyes, wood dye concentrates, and pigment powders in linseed suspension. We’ve also used tea and coffee…and are planning future experimentation with turmeric and chili powder.” Yum!

Photo courtesy of Rekindle Home

Good to Know!

A hodgepodge of inherited furniture or interesting finds from yard sales, Kijiji or second hand shops can be salvaged through refinishing or reupholstering, thus reclaiming it from its destination as landfill!

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials into something new and useful. The upcycled product is generally of higher value than the materials used to create it. A cool example is wooden shipping pallets reconstructed into desks, end tables, or a stylish headboard for your bed.

To find a new purpose for something, as with Canadian designer Adrian Johnson’s “Fridge Couch”. With this very cool example of repurposed furniture, Johnson refinishes the outer metal shell of vintage refrigerators and outfits them with luxurious leather cushions, turning them into eco-hipster art.

Shannon Acheson
Rekindle Home

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