Impressive Before-and-After Furniture Updates

These before-and-after furniture makeovers used paint, fabric, and other upgrades to transform thrift-store finds.

cornflower blue painted chest of drawers artwork chair
Photo: Carson Downing

Thrift stores and garage sales are full of budget-friendly finds, but those secondhand scores often need a little TLC. Take a look at how we've transformed common thrift-store finds into statement-making furnishings. These before-and-after makeovers use fresh paint, new fabric, and other cosmetic upgrades to give old pieces a whole new look.

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Before: Plain Armoire

open wooden cabinets
Carson Downing

With its clean lines and simple form, this TV armoire was an ideal candidate for a furniture makeover. The large, open interior could easily be customized for storing dishware, linens, or shoes. We outfitted the piece with organizers and a modern farmhouse look to create a stylish hub for entertaining essentials.

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After: Modern Farmhouse Entertaining Station

black cabinet glass doors white shiplap wall
Carson Downing

Black paint, plaid wallpaper backing, and doors retrofitted with glass panels gave this armoire fresh farmhouse appeal. A three-drawer organizer topped with a new shelf provides storage for napkins, bottle openers, party supplies, and glassware. Installing wineglass holders underneath the shelf makes smart use of otherwise unused space. A basket below (similar to the Better Homes & Gardens Braided Rush Round Baskets, $50, Walmart) houses tablecloths.

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Before: Nondescript Dresser

basic wooden dresser
Carson Downing

Although it had good bones, the dull finish on this dresser was dragging it down. We painted the entire unit and added dowels to the drawer fronts to add dimension. When choosing a dresser for this makeover, check the construction carefully to ensure it'll still function properly after attaching the dowels.

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After: Fluted Dresser Makeover

terra cotta colored cabinet
Carson Downing

For this dresser makeover, we started with square wood dowels, cut to size and sanded on all edges. They're attached at evenly spaced intervals using a pin nailer, rather than glue, to keep them perfectly vertical and secure. Coating the entire piece in coral paint highlights the fluted design.

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Before: Short Side Table

wooden cabinet with two doors
Blaine Moats

We scored this low-slung side table for just $12. Adding legs and a shelving unit turned it into a living room standout. A fresh coat of paint disguised the imperfections in the original finish.

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After: Stylish Shelving Unit

sage green cabinet hutch pink velvet chair artwork
Carson Downing

After attaching legs, we built a custom shelving unit to our desired height. L brackets secure the sides of the shelving unit to the cabinet. A bit of prep work, primer, and green paint transformed the chipped wood finish with a fresh look.

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Before: Shapely Yet Drab

wooden cabinet with square accents
Blaine Moats

If the finish isn't your style, but you love the shape of a piece, a coat of paint and easy embellishments can give it your own spin. This piece featured architectural details that made it too pretty to pass up. For extra flair, we added legs along with a splash of color and pattern.

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After: Midcentury Furniture Makeover

cornflower blue painted chest of drawers artwork chair
Carson Downing

Blue paint updates the midcentury paneled door design, while Lucite hardware and squared-off metal legs add contemporary touches. Cement tiles on the top provide a durable surface and a pop of pattern. To eliminate the need for grout, we installed the tiles flush with each other using only adhesive.

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Paint Furniture Like a Pro

If you're ready to paint a piece of furniture, there are a few tricks you need to know. Our step-by-step will show you how to paint furniture correctly. These tips will help you achieve smooth color and a durable finish.

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Before: Boring Bookshelf

basic blonde bookshelf

This simple shelving unit provided the perfect starting point for a makeover. Its plain wood finish and bare-bones shape left a lot of room for creativity. We used paint and a clever shelf layout to turn it into an entryway catchall.

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After: Customized Storage Center

stylish entryway catch-all with dividers
Jason Donnelly

Creating dividers and shorter shelves made room to store tall boots, bags, dog leashes, and other accessories with ease. The key to this bookcase makeover is to ensure the shelves line up with the bookcase's predrilled holes. White paint on the interior stands out against the navy blue exterior.

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Before: Stuck in a Timewarp

before: stuck vintage upholstered chair
Courtesy of Nancy Fallen

This wing chair had an interesting shape but unfortunate upholstery. Updating the fabric was a must to make it usable again. See how we reupholstered this chair to put a modern spin on an antique.

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After: Reupholstered Cane Chair

after: fresh and modern white upholstered chair
Kim Cornelison

Fresh white paint enhanced the cane panels and the chair's wood frame. Gray-and-white ikat fabric replaced the gold velour. When picking fabric for an upholstery project, pay attention to scale. Because this chair is tall, it easily handles a larger print.

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Easy Nightstand Makeover

A furniture makeover doesn't need to be a complete overhaul. See how simple and easy can have a major impact. We used paint to update this plain nightstand with added personality.

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Before: Dingy Chair

before: dingy dining chair
Courtesy of Jill Sorenson

This vintage chair had a gorgeous silhouette and interesting details. However, its icky upholstery and boring brown finish were begging for an update. Bold paint and fabric added eclectic personality in this impressive before-and-after makeover.

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After: Bright Perch

after: bright red accent chair
Gordon Beall

A graphic black-and-white chevron fabric on the cushion put a playful twist on the chair's classic style. Lipstick-red paint on the frame emphasizes its shapely curves and pretty details. The customized chair looks right at home in this wallpapered nook.

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Before: Easily Overlooked

before: traditional buffet
Jay Wilde

The beautiful lines of this buffet were overshadowed by a blah finish. Plus, the ornate hardware made it look fussy, not classic. For this furniture makeover, we used an unexpected paint color to achieve a one-of-a-kind look.

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After: Painted Furniture Makeover

after: green and white buffet
Cameron Sadeghpour

Eye-catching color and details make this piece stand out. Prep it by sanding, cleaning, and priming, then coat the dresser with enamel semigloss paint. For the freehand outline, use a small paintbrush dipped in white enamel semigloss paint or try a white paint marker. A steady hand is a must, but you can follow a straightedge or apply painter's tape. Choose decorative areas to outline to show off the dresser's curves. We replaced the intricate hardware with sleek metal pulls and knobs for an extra dose of customization. Finish the look with frames (like this Better Homes & Gardens Gallery Wood Picture Frame, $14, Walmart), vases, and lamps in neutral or complementary colors.

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Before: Fussy Desk

before: vintage desk
Courtesy of Jill Sorenson

This fussy French-style desk called for a makeover. The ornate details gave it a much too dated look. A bold paint color helped bring this piece into the current century.

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After: Colorful Desk Update

after: modern orange desk
Gordon Beall

Bright orange paint minimizes the desk's intricate details. To achieve smooth, long-lasting color, don't skimp on the prep work, including sanding and priming. New hardware and silver details add sparkle. Balance a bold color with a neutral lamp (like this Better Homes & Gardens Diamond Weave Ceramic Table Lamp, $30, Walmart) and chair.

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Before: So-So Chair

before: beige upholstered chair
Courtesy of Nancy Fallen

The beautifully carved frame and great shape drew us to this chair. However, boring brown upholstery wasn't doing it any favors. Fresh fabric and paint helped its good looks shine.

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After: Updated Dining Chairs

after: white painted dining chair with upholstered seat
Kim Cornelison

Two complementary fabrics refreshed this set of dining room chairs, as did a fresh coat of white paint. Using durable vinyl or leather on the fronts ensures longevity and easy clean-up. On the back, a less hardy, but fun fabric adds something a little unexpected.

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Reupholstering Tips

Reupholstering furniture can be challenging. Before you tackle this type of furniture makeover, consider these tips. Our secrets to success will help you navigate your project.

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Before: Entertainment Center

before: brown entertainment center
Jay Wilde

With the advent of flat-screen TVs and digital streaming, the need for bulky TVs, stacks of tapes, and DVDs has also gone by the wayside. These innovations have left imposing entertainment centers collecting dust. But with plenty of built-in storage, these gems can find a new purpose elsewhere.

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After: Entryway Organizer

after: white entryway organizer
Marty Baldwin

Equip an entertainment center for entryway organization. Remove the doors to create open shelves. If the backing looks worn and flimsy, replace it with a new board. For extra style points, paint the unit in a bright color. Hang a 1x4 inside and attach coat hooks to it, then add a boot tray to catch dirt. Equip shelves with baskets for storing seasonal items, such as scarves, flip-flops, and sports gear. Mark them with tags. Transform a side wall into a message center with dry-erase paint, and hang a wall pocket file for important papers.

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Before: Basic Wood Armoire

before: plain unfinished armoire
Angie Packer

This roomy armoire was ripe with storage potential. We used a few custom additions and tweaks to turn it into something even better. This before-and-after added so much space for organization.

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After: Smart Serving Station

after: smart beverage serving station
Cameron Sadeghpour

Cutting the doors in half and moving hinges made room for a beverage bar with storage cabinets underneath. Crown molding on top and scrolled molding on the bottom add a touch of class. The new light blue color is calm and relaxing. A divided shelf added to the open top provides bonus storage for dishes, wine glasses (Better Homes & Gardens Clear Flared Red Wine Glasses, $10, Walmart), and books. X shelves in the lower cabinet are perfect for bottles and rolled linens.

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Before: Tired Design

before: light blue bedroom metal headboard
Edmund Barr

This iron headboard was ready for an update. Rather than starting from scratch, we opted to cover it up with an upholstered cover. See how this easy makeover turned out.

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After: Easy Bedroom Refresh

after: refreshed bedroom with desk
Edmund Barr

An upholstered plywood board softens the look of this old iron headboard. The secret to this project's success is using steel straps to fit snugly around the rails of the iron headboard. Typically used for supporting conduit and pipe, these are a common hardware store supply.

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Before: All Worn Out

before: worn vintage patterned chair
Cameron Sadeghpour

Don't overlook ragged furniture at thrift stores. Many forlorn pieces are just gems, waiting to be rediscovered. Check out how we updated this tired French armchair, for example.

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After: Colorful Chair Makeover

after: reupholstered striped dining chair
Cameron Sadeghpour

New paint and an upholstery job transformed this chair from blah to beautiful, and strategic trims hide the striped fabric's raw edges. After painting the chair, staple an oval of fabric to the chairback and trim excess fabric. Hot-glue flat braided trim around the fabric oval to hide the staples. Cover the seat with the same fabric, and hot-glue the braided trim around it. Finish with by-the-yard nailhead trim from a fabrics store; it's easier to work with than decorative nails and ensures perfect spacing.

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Before: Dismal Dining Chair

before: brown wooden dining chain
Cameron Sadeghpour

Dining room chairs abound at thrift stores. As you shop, don't overlook a piece with a nice structure but unsightly upholstery. Often, the seats can be removed for easy reupholstering.

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After: Sunny Furniture Makeover

after: bright yellow dining chair
Cameron Sadeghpour

Yellow paint and fabric brighten this thrifted find. We used a pillow cover with a pretty pattern for the new seat covering. Choose a sturdy-fabric pillow cover slightly larger than the seat. (Ours is a 22-inch cotton twill square.) Remove the seat and wrap the pillow cover around it, then staple it underneath. Reattach the seat to the chair.

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