4 Stylish Ways To Upgrade Boring Furniture On The Cheap

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You know those coffee table books filled with stunning interiors that make you want to redesign your entire home ASAP? The Lonny Home: Discovering & Cultivating Your Authentic Space is definitely one of those. This excerpt on how to upgrade old furniture shows that a little craftiness can go a long way to helping you nail a dream home on a realistic budget. (Psst...Start on the left of the photo for a visual for each approach.)

Tired of a hardworking plain piece? Recently inherited a lovely hand-me-down in need of a real refresh? Whether you're overcome with a sudden urge to refurbish or you're known to trawl Craigslist for vintage or save gems from the street (we see you, budget-savvy city-dwellers), you'll want to check out these DIY tips for giving less-than-perfect pieces a little TLC.

Image by Lonny Home / Lonny Home

1. Add embellishments.

Sometimes a chair is just a chair until you add a little something extra. Appliqués and trimmings in wood or vinyl can really enliven a mundane seating situation, or you can draw inspiration from more classical techniques—trimmings along the seat, or piping around a back cushion—and let your imagination run wild from there. Unexpected treatments, like wrapping legs and seat backs in multicolored yarn, can be a fun way to personalize a piece.

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2. Make a swap.

Switching out the legs of a chair or sofa is an easy undertaking that doesn't require extensive skill—or budget—and it can pack a visual punch. Choose from traditional wood styles, or try more contemporary powder-coated steel legs. If your piece came with accents like tufting or nailhead trim, mix it up with different finishes and contrasting colors—or remove them completely. Alternatively, you can embellish the piece with a design made of wood scraps and trimmings for a custom look.

3. Treat the surface.

You don't have to play it as it lays, at least not when it comes to your furniture. Treat an unimpressive surface with any of a variety of stains, paint, or cosmetic distressing techniques. You can also experiment with a stenciled pattern, or try a process like gilding, decoupage, or wax transfer to get a one-of-a-kind effect. It's also easy to paint or treat the frame of your favorite chair or sofa, and remember: You don't have to take on every step of this process yourself.

4. Soften it up.

Hard angles got you down? Take the piece to an upholsterer to have it redone using one of your favorite fabrics or even a vintage rug. (Local design magazines can guide you, and a lot of DIYers-for-hire are on Instagram nowadays.) Or save time and budget with a store-bought slipcover. For a look that can change with the seasons, use a faux fur throw to add cold-weather cushion and comfort, then swap for linens and lightweight knits during the warmer months.

Adapted from an excerpt of The Lonny Home by the editors of Lonny magazine, published by Weldon Owen (May 2019).

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