Give Cast-Off Furniture a High-End Finish

These one-of-a-kind furniture makeovers prove it's possible to inject personality into orphaned furniture simply with a fresh coat of paint.

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With Craigslist, thrift stores, rummage sales, flea markets, and more, there's no shortage of secondhand furniture on the market. With the right eye, you can easily turn someone else's trash into your chic treasure. And Pam Zundel, a decorator and author of the blog Simple Details, is an expert at it.

She invited us into her home to show off some of her favorite furniture makeovers. This French settee, for example, was scored on Craigslist for $150, then enhanced with metallic paint and a simple gray-and-white fabric seat. See more of Zundel's makeovers, and get ready to steal some of her ideas for your own home.

How to Score the Best Secondhand Finds

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Before: Boring Buffet

This forlorn dresser was found on a street curb with a "free" sign attached to it. The piece was sound in structure but lacked style. Zundel sought influence from her wardrobe (literally—the finished paint color was inspired by a pair of pants) to turn the dresser from plain to pretty.

After: Chic Statement Piece

The freshly painted dresser now owns the dining room. It looks like a pricey custom piece, courtesy of high-gloss emerald green paint and IKEA hardware painted with metallic brass spray paint, then affixed with gel super glue. The total cost came in just under $100.

Love the Look? See Another Thrifter's Makeover Home

Before: Too Traditional

These old dining room chairs lacked character. They were plain and basic but had good bones. Zundel modernized the chairs without sacrificing unique details like their open-back design.

After: Modern Contrast

Large-pattern upholstery gives the vintage chairs a modern edge. Zundel painted the frames with a glossy almond-color oil enamel paint to contrast her rustic farm table. Bronze nailhead strips tacked onto the ceiling bring the vintage-chic dining space full circle.

How to Reupholster a Chair

Before: Dated Drama

Some pieces are pretty but don't quite match your style. This ornate burgundy headboard was a little too dramatic to blend into Zundel's space. Her easy fix was creative and cost-effective, and it didn't ruin the piece's gorgeous gilded character.

After: Cool Character

Never underestimate the power of a coat of paint. In this case, Zundel used chalk-finish paint in an easier-on-the-eyes gray whisper. Although muted, the Craigslist hearboard still posed a problem: It wasn't as tall as it looked in photos. The ingenious solution? Use D rings to hang it on the wall.

Bonus: DIY Luxe Tufted Headboard

Before: Worn Elements

We've all come across furniture that's perfect—except for one little detail. This cane-sided beauty was in great shape aside from its worn and weary green upholstery. Looking past the blemishes, Zundel worked to revive the chair into a unique piece for her eclectic living room.

After: Greek Revival

Snappy new upholstery revived this $10 estate-sale find. Zundel chose a jazzy but classic Greek key-pattern fabric to upholster the chair, then removed its dark finish with eco-friendly Citristrip. The result is a vintage, au naturel look that complements the rest of the living room's neutral color scheme.

Before: Dark and Brooding

Dark wood finishes can be charming, but they don't do much to lighten up a space, especially when they're put to use in a large furniture piece like this brooding hutch. Zundel knew she had to lighten up the storage unit and used simple materials to do so.

After: Charming and Elegant

A lighter, neutral color of chalk-finish paint revived the old hutch. The paint process was simple—no priming required—but Zundel did top the hutch with a clear wax finish that adds a light sheen. She also highlighted drawer and door fronts with gold metallic wax. Aluminum decor panels, found at a home center, look more modern than the hutch's former stained-glass inserts.

Before: Over the Top

An ornate dresser might not be your first choice for a bathroom, but with some clever reimagining and fresh new finishes, Zundel was able to turn this elegant bedroom furniture piece into a custom vanity. 

After: Reuse and Repurpose

Zundel made this elegant dresser more contemporary with a coat of paint in a single hue. Plus, choosing a neutral almond tone downplayed the dresser's details. A little reworking in the interior helped to turn the dresser into a stunning vanity with both a sink and counter space.

How to Turn an Old Dresser into a Vanity

Bonus: 4 Crucial Furniture Makeover Tips

Test it. Buy furniture that is sound and solid. Be sure doors and drawers work smoothly. And pick either a simple design that will showcase some spiffy hardware accents, or something unique and ornate that stands on its own merits.

Be bold. Embrace unexpected colors that make a statement. Zundel encourages DIYers to embrace color and be willing to get out of their comfort zone. 

Cut to the chase. To target a find on Craigslist, Zundel suggests the following: Click on the "furniture" link under the "for sale" category. Leave the search field blank; you'll get a broad range of listings, but you won't miss out on, say, a great "couch" because you searched for a "sofa." Use the "gallery" feature to see photos, which are more helpful than just written descriptions. And select  "owner" under the search criteria to eliminate pricier commercial sellers.

Read up. Follow paint manufacturer instructions for factors like climate and drying times. You don't want to accidentally ruin a great piece just because the weather isn't cooperating.

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