Shabby to Chic: 7 Flea Market Furniture Flips

Who says new is best? Save big by letting a dose of paint and new material turn dated furniture into standout focal pieces.

Before: Boring Biege

Although beige is classic, this fuzzy, stained chair was ready for a makeover. With strong springs and excellent framework, the sturdy seating was easy to flip.

After: Dramatic Revival

Revamp a drab armchair with a swath of chic fabric. Opt for a funky print on clean-lined chairs like this one to add contrast. For chairs with lots of detail, go with a simple pattern or solid fabric so you don't distract from a piece's character.

Before: Without Use

While beautifully constructed, this old writing desk didn't serve much use. Too small for an office, too large for an entry, the desk need a new purpose.

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After: Graceful Remake

Play to the vanity of a desk by adding a trifold mirror to the top and smoothing out a dark finish with white chalk-and-clay paint. Shiny new brass hardware completes the update. Pair your new vanity with matching gold and brass tools and accessories.

Drawer Drama

This desk's drawers are lined with an outdoor fabric in a punchy pinstripe pattern -- cut to fit and secured with spray adhesive -- so makeup spills are easy to clean. The hardware was purchased in silver but spray-painted gold for a more glamorous look.

Before: Flickering Out

This tarnished lamp needed a whole new look if it was to become a statement decor piece. Neutral colors work best for large pieces of furniture, so small-scale items, like this table lamp, should be where you play with color.

Flea Market Lamp Flips

After: Earn Your Stripes

Grab painters tape and chalk-and-clay paint in your favorite hues to spice up a dated lamp. Let the fixture's curves guide when to start and stop colors. You can change out or repaint small pieces easily; they're your ticket to fun decor.

Before: Lost Cause

Uneven, faded stain and tarnished hardware made this dresser look like a lost cause. A keen eye for second chances gave this dresser new life. Turning the furniture into a buffet table was a piece of cake.

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After: Golden Touch

Transform a shabby dresser into a glam buffet with a dose of salmon-color chalk-and-clay paint. Gold metallic wax (such as Rub 'n Buff) freshens up existing hardware and accentuates this piece's elegant hand-carved trim with a dose of shimmer.

Stenciled Sparkle

 A stenciled monogram adds a personal touch. A soft gold that complements the brassy hardware and salmon paint is the perfect accent color. It provides enough sparkle to stand out, but not too much contrast to distract.

Before: Secondhand Shopping

For secondhand lighting, like the chandelier here, ensure the piece works safely before purchasing. Tape off the sockets and clean each piece before painting. 

20 More Flea Market Flips

After: Mood Lighting

Hit a junkyard chandelier with colorful spray paint to make it spotlight-ready. Choose a color that will contrast your room. Add round white bulbs for modern flair. 

Before: Chair Character

When shopping for secondhand scores, always give furniture a proper inspection prior to purchasing. Look for solid construction, functioning parts, and padding and springs that are in good shape. The best items are ones like this chair; pieces with character-rich lines and interesting details.

After: Highlight with Color

Chalk-and-clay paint is 100-percent natural, making it nontoxic and great for children. It's also washable -- stains, begone! -- and its thick consistency is great for highlighting character on pieces. Best of all: It doesn't need priming. This chair was reupholstered with fun floral fabric and highlighted with chalky yellow paint.

Color and Seal

Chalk-and-clay paint dries a couple shades lighter than it appears when wet. A sealant will darken paint a shade or two, with a polyurethane finish generally darkening the color more than a wax sealant. Keep that in mind when pairing paint with fabrics.

Before: Monotone Table

This distressed wood end table was in need of some TLC. The plain inset was worn and warped, and the boring color left little to be desired. Nothing a new top and fresh coat of paint couldn't handle!

DIY Furniture Flips

After: Top It Off

Use bold color to give a ho-hum furniture piece presence. A base coat of red chalk-and-clay paint transformed this side table. The tabletop's insets were popped out and a new one was created by hot-gluing 2×5-inch balsa wood strips in a herringbone pattern to a cut-to-fit piece of plywood. A faint whitewash calls attention to the scalloped detailing.

Fetching Finish

Chip brushes and chalk-and-clay paint were used to create this table's vintage finish. The brush's thick bristles are great for accentuating the texture of furniture and for lending a hand-finished look to a piece. Bonus: They're the cheapest brush you can buy. If you want a smoother look, opt for a soft-bristle brush.

Furniture Tips and Techniques

Reupholstering a chair can be a bit of a challenge, but these tips and tricks will show you how to successfully reupholster a piece of furniture.


  1. Painting over an antique, instead of some clean up and restoration is a crying shame. It looks awkward and just sad to have lost a valuable piece of history. Instead, paint over NEW unfinished pieces, or pieces with no historic value.

    1. Oh, baloney! Most old furniture is just that......OLD, not very valuable

  2. Why do people feel they have to paint wood furniture! Horrible!!

    1. Agreed, especially when it is a vintage piece.

    2. Some of us don't like dark wood. We prefer light and airy.

    3. I think it depends on the piece. If it is a valuable antique I agree with you but other pieces that are plain, nondescript, in bad need of refinishing or terribly outdated I think paint can keep them from the landfill.

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