Decorating with inherited furniture

07 Feb 2013

Randomly feeding your home with armoires and rocking chairs from a previous generation can leave you starved for style and identity. This is not to say that the ‘old and grey’ look cannot be pulled off but if you’re in pursuit of a beautiful home you’ll need to reacquaint yourself with your creativity to make arthritic hand-me-downs look good. Here’s how...

The trick to finding outstanding pieces is to remain open to the misunderstood.

Rummage and rifle

Reward yourself for letting go of idle keepsakes by looking out for everyday treasures and special gems in and among your inheritance pieces.

Be prepared to dig deep – to look at the ordinary from a different angle.

A Singer sewing machine, a tea caddy, an aging telephone bench – the trick to finding outstanding pieces is to remain open to the misunderstood.

Repair and restore

Torn webbing, exposed stuffing, a dining room table that sighs under the weight of a teacup - these are some of the problems that come with aged décor. Not to worry though, because all of these imperfections can be corrected.

Shabby Chic is an innovative and exciting technique that can be used to update and modernise tired furniture.

Left up to the professionals or taken up as a DIY project, scarred furniture can be reworked and rephrased to complement the existing finishes in your home.

Reupholster and refinish

Touch up old furniture by adding fresh glass tops, marble, granite or a more current choice of fabric to spruce up a chair with good bones.

Jackie Gerber from Granny’s Attic in Kensington's Queen Street suggests that you look into Shabby Chic as an option. She says Shabby Chic is an innovative and exciting technique that can be used to update and modernise tired furniture.

She says the trick to pulling off this trend is to prepare your furniture properly. The first step is to remove all the old varnish by using a paint stripper and a wire brush or sanding paper.

When you reupholster chairs the limits are endless, from something simple and humble like a black and white scheme, a zesty rainbow palette to a skyline of the city.

“Remember, this is like painting a picture or applying makeup so a clean canvas is required.”

Once your colour has been chosen, you need to decide if you want enamel or water based paint. Gerber says she prefers water based paint because it’s easier to work with.

She says you need to give your furniture a universal undercoat then wait for it to dry before applying any colour to it. You can use a large brush, a sponge or a rag to do this.

Paint in one direction and use a lighter colour than the original wood, she advises. Remember that each kind of wood gives a different finish. She says Embuia Balland Claw or Queen Anne furniture is a pleasure to work with because of the detail on the furniture.

Ordinary pine is also a good choice because of the large wide grain of the wood. Gerber says a slightly textured sand paper can be used around the edges to remove the paint so that the wood shows through.

If you use water based paint, seal it with cobra floor polish or a low or high gloss sealer.

Use colour, use different textures, and mix layers of history with something current and fashionable.

Gerber says your choice of upholstery is also important. She advises homeowners to use something that blends in or something entirely funky.

You could go with something simple and humble like a black and white scheme or a zesty rainbow palette, or a skyline of the city.

Repurpose and reconfigure

Be bold enough to honour your ancestral décor differently. A small zinc bathtub could find new life as a darling coffee table. A reinforced, battered old suitcase could make a new seat and an eye raising clock reel could make a contemporary lamp.

Don’t be limited by a furnishing’s past life, tattoo your personality onto it and give people something to talk about.

Relocate and reposition

Some pieces just don’t fit in or make much sense on their own and in their surroundings. A lonely old tricycle in the garden could shine as a stand-alone feature in the front of your house or an outdated fridge, what people used to call an icebox, could be reincarnated as a bookcase in the lounge.

If you lump grandma’s silverware together or have a cluster of china plates displayed on the wall, you could create an interesting monochromatic look that is far from old and grey.

The idea is not be shy and boring. Use colour, use different textures, and mix layers of history with something current and fashionable. – Katlego Sekano 

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