I’m Going To Rehab (Furniture Edition)

Cabinet Before and After

"Fashion is made to become unfashionable." - Coco Chanel
Image courtesy of PeonyAndPearTree.com

This isn’t a post about drying out or getting sober (thankfully that’s not an issue that I have to deal with though I do enjoy a good time).

This rehab has to do with furniture. The ugly, outdated, broken, stained, torn, and otherwise unwanted things that used to have a place in our lives. They live with us for a time, cradling our bums with their cushiony softness, providing support for our book collections and chotchkies and even giving us a place to lay our heads.

One day, something happens and they lose their usefulness or are replaced by newer, nicer, more wanted things. We toss them in the trash, lug them to the curb, or send them away to a thrift store or charity hoping they will find a new life elsewhere.

I am the champion of the underdog.

I am that elsewhere.

Nothing makes me happier than giving a new life to unwanted things. I have always felt that everything (and everyone) has a purpose. Just because something has become unfashionable doesn’t mean it cannot be re-imagined and re-engineered to become something different.

Furniture, like people, goes through phases. Decades pass and trends come and go. We grow and mature with age and hopefully add wisdom to temper our restless nature. If you believe in the possibilities of the future, then you can see potential in everything around you, from the bum on the street corner to that dilapidated dresser collecting dust at Goodwill.

Our society is so trained to want life on bigger, better and faster terms that we often forget that the answers sometimes lie in the past. Our children want to become reality television stars, millionaire athletes and heiresses to fortunes that they have done nothing to earn. Our houses have the largest kitchens since the era of servitude but we don’t even bother to cook in them (unless it’s to use the microwave). We expect the best out of life but complain when we discover that hard work is also part of the equation.

Aesthetic and Social movements such as English Arts and Crafts led by William Morris, the Craftsman movement in the United States, and the Deutscher Werkbund (Germany) were all created as a response to mass-production and lack of quality brought about by the Industrial Revolution. The Deutscher Werkbund, the more modern of the movements, was established to enhance Germany’s post-WWI economy and bring about a more design-conscious public. This resulted in the austere but modern aesthetic that emerged in German design and architecture as well as the idea that function follows form.

With these amazing movements behind us, it is sad to think that we have once again come to a place where society does not identify with quality, craftsmanship or usefulness. Like everything else, we simply buy new, use until we’ve had our fill, and throw it away. Wash, rinse, repeat. No longer do we cherish the antiques of our ancestors. We just trot down to IKEA and pick up the latest in press-wood furniture to assemble ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love IKEA. I own things from IKEA and when I go into their stores I am filled with a childish giddyness akin to opening presents at Christmas. I just don’t think that our entire lives should be filled with mass-produced, cheaply-made, soul-less stuff.

Yes…I said it.


What’s wrong with using a perfectly good piece of furniture that is out of fashion and perhaps has a broken piece or two? There are a number of ways that it can be sanded, glued and painted to look just as good (if not better) than before. Take these for example:


Not only did the dresser get a little TLC, but the chair and night stand did, too. A custom look for a thrift store price. Courtesy of SustainableStudent13.blogspot.com. Click image to redirect.

Before and After - Vintage 60s Drexel Chair

This standout vintage Drexel piece (circa 1960) was purchased at Goodwill for $19.99. You could never find a new piece at that price. Even with the costs of the upholstery and paint, it is still much less expensive than going new. Bonus points for quality craftsmanship and primo wood. Courtesy of LivingWithLindsay.com. Click image to redirect.

Before and After - IKEA inspired by Knoll

Yes, this piece is from IKEA. I know I previously ranted about the Swedish mega-store, but the point I'm trying to make is not to simply throw out the baby with the bath water. Salvage what you can and make something new. It's fun, creative, and you can customize the piece to suit your needs and color palette. Courtesy of ApartmentTherapy.com. Click image to redirect.

I have salvaged my first “real” rehab piece — a dresser — from the remnants of a recent cast-off. I found it on the curb and it has some busted drawers and runners. The wood is in great condition, there are no major dings or scratches that need filling-in, and the size is just right for…drum roll please…a bar.

That’s right, I am rehabbing a sad old 80s dresser into a glorious bar, suitable for the swankest parties. With the help of a friend (and consequently an incredible illustrator) I have come up with the layout, complete with wine and liquor storage, a place for your glasses (stemmed or not) and a flip-out cutting board and knife caddy for preparing those uber-important fruit garnishes.

“Rehab” and “bar” don’t usually go in the same sentence but this time I think it’s a perfect fit.

Just don’t tell Lindsey Lohan.


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