Monday, July 27, 2009

Junk Philosophy Part 1

One thing I get asked fairly often, is how to spot good junk and how to make it work in your house. I don't think I'll ever go out and buy rooms of new furniture. For one thing, it makes me cry to look at the price tags on most quality new furniture. For another thing, I'm just not a fan of the showroom look. I like the roost to look as if the rooms have evolved over time. When I started to think about this topic, I realized that my junk philosophy is sort of involved, so I decided to break things down into three parts. Today I want to post about how to spot good junk and envision it made over. Later on I'll post about sources for finding good junk, and I'll do a final post about some tricks for getting your junk and new furniture to mesh in a room.
I have some rules for buying used furniture. You don't have to stick to these, but they have worked really well for me.

1. Solid construction is a must. I always put my weight on a piece of furniture and give it a little wiggle. If the legs do the hula, there's a problem somewhere.

2. Drawers must be dovetailed. I'm a little snobby about this. If I'm going to invest the time in re-doing a piece, I want it to last for a long time. I just say, "no!" to stapled or glued drawers.

3. I only buy real wood. Laminate and particle board can be painted, but it's tricky. There is plenty of real wood out there.

4. I tend to stay away from things that need total reupholstering. Like boats, upholstering is a pit you throw money into. If you really love a piece and don't mind spending the money, go for it.

5. Think good bones and clean lines. It's really hard to go wrong if you stick to this.

6. Reimagine interesting objects as something else. I'll show some examples of this below.

This is an example of what not to buy. I can't really think of a possible way of saving this sofa. The lines are strange, the bones are bad, and the complicated construction would cost a fortune to upholster.

This ugly sofa has more hope. The lines are classic and the tufting adds a sense of elegance. All it needs is sanding, priming, and new paint. While the orange upholstery wouldn't work in my house, I think it has a certain charm and could be amazing in another house with the frame painted a crisp white, glossy black, or even a fun beachy color like pale aqua or spring green.
The following pieces are all from Class & Trash, my favorite local second hand shop.

I love these vintage ice boxes. They don't even really need a new paint job. I would love to see these in a dinning room or breakfast nook for extra storage. If you want to get a little imaginative, I think the smaller white one would look amazing in a bathroom, while I could see the blue number tucked in a nook as a linen press.

This dresser is full of potential. Dressers are one of my favorite second hand buys because they are so easy to re-do, and can be use in a million ways. For this one, I would add some paint and change the hardware. I could see it in a bedroom, entryway, or dinning room.

This picture is full of great ideas waiting to happen. Vintage windows can have a new life as artwork, picture frames, and even coffee tables. I think the cubby would be awesome in a craft room or office. I would paint the whole thing white, or maybe a pretty green or blue, then use modge podge to attach coordinating scrapbook paper to the back of each cubby. I'm on the look out for some biscuit boxes like the ones on the top right. They are great for tucking under a coffee table to hold blankets or magazines. You can also use them on a shelf like you would a basket, or stack them to create an end table.

After dressers, chairs are my next favorite second hand finds. Most just need a coat of paint. I'd love to see the rocker in a nursery. It would have a whole new life with a simple seat cover and some paint or stain.
Here are just a few of the junk re-dos that live in the roost.

Old suitcases and train cases make great storage. I'm always on the lookout for more of these!

I so love my card catalogue turned TV stand. When we build, it might end up in the dinning room as a buffet or in the craft room as extra storage.

This shelf used to be a window valance.

Dated microwave cabinet turned shabby chic buffet with the help of paint and new hardware.

Little red folding table

A coat of white paint and new hardware instantly lightened this chunky nightstand. Ya know how black has a slimming effect on people? Well, white seems to have a similar effect on heavy looking furniture.
Any other tips for picking the good junk from the bad? Please share!



Tim and Tracy said...

Good list! I really wish that I had the skill to reupholster things because whenever I see other people's furniture transformations I'm always a little jealous. But since I can't do it (at least not yet...) I have to agree with you- it's usually so expensive that the good deal you get on the piece is not so good anymore. And you know that I'm all about that white paint too!

Ashley @ AshleysBusy said...

I love all your junk, lol. Just had to say that. :)