How to Give Antique Furniture a Modern Upgrade

With Varathane and a little TLC, Gwen Hefner turns a dated cabinet into a modern statement piece.

In Partnership with Caesarstone

Photography by Lark Photos

As a traditionalist at heart, I am thrilled to see antiques making a comeback. They bring warmth, character, and class into any home. I love a stuffy look, but I don’t necessarily want to live in it. There’s something to be said about the ease of modern living, but mixing in antiques adds a fresh approach to that way of life.

Photography by Lark Photos

Unless you have a generous budget or a fancy, older relative who really took wonderful care of things, you’re likely going to need to show your new-to-you antiques some love. I found this cabinet on Craigslist for a song. The older couple had used it to house a TV and was ready for something more modern. I was happy to take it off their hands. While the sides were in good shape, the top had seen a lot of wear and tear. This would be a turn off to some, but I knew the difference a few hours and some Varathane products could make.  

Photography by Lark Photos

First I sanded the top down and selected a combo of Varathane Stains—American Walnut with a touch of the Cabernet to add a bit of red. I applied one coat using a soft cloth, and this fast-drying stain is ready for a protective coat in as little as an hour—meaning less time DIYing and more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.  

Photography by Lark Photos

I applied the polyurethane with a high quality brush. When you use Varathane’s Triple Thick Polyurethane it only takes one coat.  
 

Photography by Lark Photos

START WITH A FRESH FOUNDATION:
We painted the 1980s orange oak paneling in our living room a soft taupe last fall, and the difference is monumental. It’s traditional without feeling dated. Having the walls and trim painted all the same tone feels really clean and fresh.

Photography by Lark Photos

BRING IN A POWER PIECE:
The statement-making cabinet anchors the room and pops against the more modern wall color. Plus, it brings loads of storage to the space.
 
BALANCE WITH CLEAN LINES:  
Old doesn’t have to mean ornate. This mirror is probably from the 80s but feels very Art Deco. The piece is still interesting, but the clean lines feel nice against the more ornate cabinet.  
 


Photography by Lark Photos

STICK WITH A COLOR PALETTE:  
I’m a big believer that you can mix a variety of styles when your colors are cohesive. The blush tub chairs speak to the photograph over the fireplace. The mid-century sofa talks to the landscape print, and the hunting prints talk to the velvet mat on the woman’s portrait. Cohesiveness comes with color.  

Photography by Lark Photos
Photography by Lark Photos

LAYER IN BOOKS AND ART:  
Hanging and leaning art in layers feels luxe and doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re new to collecting art, you can start at second-hand stores or purchase prints online. Use books as decorative objects—they make great pedestals when you want something a bit taller, and they look beautiful covering a coffee table.

Photography by Lark Photos

USE TRADITIONAL PIECES IN MODERN WAYS:  
One way to modernize antiques is to use them in a different way: A thrifted chess board makes a great tabletop tray, and silver serving ware is wonderful for corralling small items at your desk or in your bathroom.  

Photography by Lark Photos

BRING IN POPS OF MODERN:
My favorite way to bring in modern touches is through sculptural décor elements and art, like the mushroom lamp, tabletop mobile, and photography over the fireplace. This ensures the room feels current and not too serious.
 
Bringing antiques into your home can only enhance the warmth and enjoyment of your space, all the while helping to enhance your style and make your home feel personal. With Varathane, your favorite “new” additions will be easily brought back to life.  

To learn more about the Varathane collection visit www.varathanemasters.com

Published on July 31, 2018 - 6:00am EDT

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