How to Refresh Furniture Without Paint
I used to do a ton of furniture makeovers (back in the good ol’ blogging days), but haven’t really had the need (or the time!) in recent years. But when we moved into this house, we had to re-purpose our beloved media stand back into the dining hutch it started out as; and truth be told, it was feeling a little…blah. I wasn’t really up for re-painting this beauty (since I still love it), so I instead made some simple updates to give it a fresh life. I actually finished this makeover before COVID-19 changed our world…but it turns out, the timing couldn’t be more perfect since most of these updates are ones you can do while
stuck at home social distancing! If you’ve been giving something in your home the stink eye lately, let me show you how to refresh furniture without paint so you can start loving and enjoying it more!
First…Some Back Story!
Eight years…and 3 houses ago…we purchased this old and dated china hutch from a thrift store in Wilmington, NC:
We detached the two pieces and transformed the base into our media stand and the top into a bookcase. Those two makeovers are still some of my favorite projects…ever. And we’ve pretty much used these two pieces in the exact same ways since (although we never put anything on the bookcase in San Diego because Sam was a baby/toddler the whole time).
When we moved into this house, it became clear that the awkward layout of our family room wouldn’t allow us to use the base as our TV stand. So after a lot of hemming and hawing, we decided to re-assemble the base and bookcase back into a china hutch since 1) we had space for the entire unit in the dining room, and 2) the dish storage allowed us to free up cabinet space in the kitchen.
So for the first time since we bought it, the china hutch was re-assembled (thank goodness I had the presence of mind to paint them to match!), loaded with our everyday dishes, and has looked like this for the last few months:
Although functionally, this china hutch was was doing exactly what we needed it to, it was looking pretty sad. The white furniture on the cream wall looked…meh. The shelf where we used to place our TV components seemed sloppy and unfinished…
…and having been moved 3 times, the paint finish was looking…well…really chippy.
I knew I could refresh this beloved piece of furniture for our new home without having to re-paint it. So in the course of a few afternoons, I took on a series of small projects and whoa…look at her now!
I honestly was so sad to have to stop using this base as a media stand. But now that she is all freshened up and looking so fine…I’m not sure I could love this classic piece any more than I do now!
If you have a piece of furniture that is very…ho hum…and/or you’re bored out of your mind and need something to do…here are the paint-free ways I used to completely transform this hutch!
For years, the base to this unit has been in our family room. Simply by moving it to the dining room, we not only transformed our eating space, but also our family room (by bringing in a new piece perfect for that spot!). Just by relocating a single piece of furniture, two rooms got whole new looks!
We re-united two pieces that used to go together. While that may not be an option for every piece of furniture, you might be surprised that just by flipping an item around, placing it under/over something else, or pairing it with something unexpected, you can change not only its look but purpose too!
We have always used these two items as a media stand and a bookcase. But now that we have them doing something new (holding dishes and entertaining supplies) and in a new space, the whole unit feels brand new to us. Simply by having a piece of furniture serve a different purpose, you’ll begin to see it in a whole new way!
Clean It Up
It’s not just fancy photo editing that makes the bright white paint look crisper. After 3 moves, the white paint was not only chipping in many places, but was really dirty as well. I grabbed my Magic Erasers and scrubbed the entire unit down from top-to-bottom and it instantly looked fresher and brighter!
Touch It Up
Notice how my after photos don’t show any chipped paint. I didn’t re-paint the entire unit, but I did re-touch up all the chipped spots with some white paint I had on hand. No, it wasn’t a perfect match. No, I didn’t sand anything down or add a new top coat. No, I didn’t really stress about it. I simply grabbed some white paint, a little paint brush, and covered up all the bare wood spots.
And you know what? It looks so much cleaner. The white-on-white sure looks a lot better than the bare wood peeking through, and you can’t tell the color difference at all.
Give It Some (Temporary) Color
I have long wanted to apply wallpaper to the back of a bookcase or shelf because…as you know about me by now…I’m such a sucker for a pop of pattern/color in unexpected places. But I’ve never had quite the right place to do so, nor have I been able to find a wallpaper that didn’t feel too busy, especially when you consider adding in accessories/dishes, etc.
I recently stumbled upon this wallpaper and used it in our family room (sneak peek coming in this weekend’s newsletter!). I loved working with it so much (it is seriously the easiest wallpaper to install), and I knew the color and texture were the perfect thing to brighten up the china hutch too!
It’s hard to tell from the photos, but this peel-and-stick wallpaper actually has a woven texture to it. That, plus carrying the wallpaper around the sides (and not just along the back) really upped the visual interest of the whole display!
To make it feel really cohesive and cover those unsightly cord holes, I carried the same wallpaper treatment down to the base as well. Although it was a little awkward getting it back there, the overall effect was well worth it!
Greg and I keep remarking how much of a difference the blue wallpaper makes. Not only does it bring some much-needed color to this neutral space, but it really lightens and brightens the entire unit.
Using peel-and-stick wallpaper really is a great way to dramatically change up the look of a piece of furniture (you can even cover the outsides of a piece like I did here). You will likely only need a single roll (keeping the cost in check) and it’s perfectly removable so you can swap it out when you’re ready for a change!
Refresh the Hardware
Swapping out or restoring hardware is another really easy way to breath fresh life into an old or boring piece. These days, you can find really affordable (and totally chic) knobs and pulls at retailers like Target, Amazon, World Market, IKEA and Hobby Lobby.
I loooove the original brass pulls on this hutch, but they definitely tarnish in time. I don’t polish them very often. I really should though…because it took just an hour to clean them all up with some Bar Keepers Friend and they look ah-mazing! (I share how to do this here.)
This hutch is right next to our table where we eat pretty much every meal. So in addition to storing our dishes, we use the cubbies to hold napkins, hot pads, and placemats. But they were always just messily strewn about. When I was in IKEA shopping for something else, I stumbled upon a few trays that I knew would both corral these unruly items and also add some much-needed texture to this case. I totally underestimated how much a difference a few good accessories would make!
Add Some Green
It’s pretty much a decorating “rule” to always have a plant in a space. Faux or real, that pop of green can infuse energy and life into a nook, corner or display better than anything else. But when I plopped a single plant on top, it felt a little random and lonely.
However, adding a collection of plants (in coordinating white pots) along the top added a nice whimsical contrast to the more structured dish display below. Plus, the tall plants heightened the entire unit, making it feel more proportional on the wall. I actually think this “garden” along the top might be my favorite element of all!
This no-paint furniture makeover is one of my favorite home updates I’ve made in a long time. Not only were all the changes really easy and budget-friendly, but none of them took longer than an hour (I knocked most out during a few naptimes). The only bummer is this hutch is situated behind a wall, so I always have to go around to get a peek at it. But every time I do, you better bet it gives me all the heart eyes!
If you’re stuck at home (which you likely are) and are feeling the urge to change some things up, give these suggestions a try! You might be surprised that the smallest updates can create a big impact!