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What furniture is worth refreshing? And what needs an upgrade?

What furniture is worth refreshing? And what needs an upgrade?

living-room furnitureIt’s no surprise how often furniture becomes the focal point of a room. A couch can “pop” an accent color into a space, and the right corner table can adorn the peripheral view. Clever furniture pairings can showcase your personality, and smart staging can make a room positively invite you in…

Family and friends alike beeline to the most convenient (and attractive) seating in any space. So, once a key piece of furniture remains empty, that’s usually a sign that something is wrong.

Is the couch stained or saggy?

Do those wooden chairs look like splinters waiting to happen?

Or MAYBE you’re questioning how “worth it” a found piece of furniture is…maybe it’s that coffee table you found on the curb, or that great deal at the store.

Whatever furniture you’re trying to save, you probably hope it just needs a little tender loving care…

Refinishing or refreshing furniture can be a better option than buying new for a lot of reasons…but sometimes, buying new is the best option you’ve got! You just have to know which questions to ask to find out.


Consider the Craftsmanship

Graber window covering combination in dining roomAsk yourself: is the craftsmanship worth saving?

Specifically, is the furniture you’re hoping to breathe life back into something made to last? If you didn’t buy the item yourself, look for signs that it was made before the 1960s.

Interestingly…it’s not the newer stuff you want to keep!

Furniture made before the ‘50s or ‘60s was sturdier than what came after, and there are a few reasons why. Particleboard and laminate surfaces became BIG after the mid-century furniture wave, as did mass production.

If you have a piece that’s more than 60 years old and has survived this long, that’s a sign you want to keep it.

If you have a newer piece that’s showing a lot of wear and tear, it probably doesn’t have much life left in it. Yet…there are other questions to ask before throwing it out, so keep reading! It might still be worth refreshing…


Consider the Utility

What is the piece of furniture used for? Is it something you get a lot of use out of?

To get in the right mindset, think about your favorite pair of blue jeans…you’ve had a pair like this before…the bottom hems are worse for wear, but they fit like a dream and they’re SO comfortable.

In the same way, your furniture is something that has to look good, but above all has to feel good. You have to like it and love using it. That’s what makes a “refresh” project REALLY worth it…

For some furniture, a refresh might include refinishing or re-upholstering. (Performance fabrics, anyone…?) And it’s TRUE that heavy use of a piece you really do love will add more wear and tear even after your “furniture facelift…” But if you do get a lot out of it functionally, this is the return on enjoyment your want.

Performance fabric options for home upholstery


Consider the Look

It’s happened to all of us…you pick up a new furniture piece, maybe that GREAT find on the curb or that sale item at Ikea…and you think the color will match your existing space perfectly. Or maybe the size looks “just right.”

Then, you get home, and you discover that the piece has NO place in your home.

Is it worth a “refresh” to give it the look you’re after??

When you’re in this pickle, ask yourself…could the furniture you’re looking to save fit the look if you just made a modification?

I won’t lie, there are time’s I’ve dreamed about ditching ALL my furniture and starting fresh. Sometimes, it feels that hard to get something that matches. It’s also fun to shake things up…but the novelty of refurnishing my home every two years isn’t worth the sticker price!!

With all the ways you can update the look of a piece of furniture, though, you have options that aren’t so pricy after all!

Performance fabric velvet on throw pillowsConsider any of the following and see if the price is right for the piece you’re trying to make work…

  • Re-upholstering (or refinishing, if it’s a wood piece)
  • Showing off the legs (if it’s a furniture piece with a skirt)
  • Giving it new legs (…a carpenter can custom carve these)
  • Painting or dying the piece
  • Mixing in new throw pillows
  • Replacing the cushions (in couches, etc.)

These projects can save a piece of “sub-par” furniture and can even cure your furniture boredom in a snap! It gives worthy furniture a new lease on life.

Who knows?… Maybe the refreshed piece will become the new focal point of a room and redefine your style to exactly what you want it!!

Not sure what your interior design style is? Take our design personality quiz!!


Consider Pairing

So-so furniture sometimes just needs a playmate. Consider pairing a “blah” piece with another item that plays off of it, as long as you have the space for both.

Whenever you do look at your staging, decluttering should almost always be the goal…if you’re trying to salvage one piece of furniture by pairing it with a new one, is there a low-use item that can leave the space at the same time?

You can mix and match around the home, too. Without even buying anything new, just repairing and reconfiguring your furniture gives pieces a new life that would have been IMPOSSIBLE in the old setup. Add in a little switcheroo between rooms, and it’s like you’re refurnished the whole place!!

Read more on how to pair furniture


Consider the Cost

Then, of course, there’s the $10 million question…

How much will “refreshing” your furniture cost?

If the cost to refresh a piece is as much or MORE than a new piece of furniture, that’s a BIG sign to put the brakes on and think about your priorities…

If you are in love with a piece, though, that return on enjoyment will make the sticker price go down easier.

Or maybe you’re moving! How much will it cost for you to lug furniture you aren’t in love with? That can be another BIG factor when deciding what furniture is worth refreshing and what needs to go…

Read more about how to make existing furniture work in a new home!

And if buying something new IS the way you go, be sure to get the best deal on new furniture.



Whatever furniture “refresh” you’re considering, decide how committed you are to the work it might take.

Even that couch you LOVE might not be worth refinishing deeply-carved antique wood or stripping out filigree…

If multiple different parts of the piece need some real attention, too, that might also be a sign that the work will be rough.

Bottom line: if you aren’t sure how much work something will take, ask a carpenter or schedule an online interior design consultation. That piece of furniture might be one JAW DROPPING “re-do” away from become the highlight of a space! …Or it might be a total waste of resources.

For more inspiration, check out our quarterly design magazine and follow our Design Inspirations Group on Facebook!

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