Maybe you’re moving. Maybe you’re totally redesigning your home. Either way, before you send the contents of your home packing and break the bank buying everything new, get creative. You’d probably be surprised how much is in your apartment or house right now that could look completely fresh and different—and suddenly so in line with your new vision—with a little DIY. Or, you could also save by scoring vintage pieces and personalizing them.
For some do’s, don’ts, and ideas, we turned to repurposing maven Anna Brockway. The marketing and advertising veteran co-founded Chairish with her husband and is the company’s chief marketing officer. On Chairish, design lovers buy and sell furniture and decor in a curator-approved setting, making it both the perfect place to find your next project as well as a goldmine of inspiration in how others are reimagining different pieces.
The pieces you love and that stand out are the ones worth repurposing.
“[Choose] something that captures your heart,” Brockway says. “ I look for unique shapes and amazing hardware. And sometimes, even if a vintage find isn’t perfectly sized for the space I’m working on or could use a little help, if I feel strongly about it, I’ll go for it.”
Know what to skip trying to repurpose, and save yourself the headache.
“The big mistakes to avoid are: For seating, broken frames. There’s just no fixing this.For cabinetry, deep gouges or big bangs. Rarely do these repair well. For rugs, major stains or rips. Although I do like a well-worn rug.”
Don’t know what you want to do with your piece? Find inspiration.
“You can see some pretty amazing do-overs at your local flea, by visiting your local upholstery shop (make the owner your best friend), or honestly by poking around on Chairish,” Brockway recommends. “Many of our sellers are makeover experts, and the things they pull off are so inspiring and creative!”
Stay focused: Opportunity strikes when you concentrate on one room and let your aesthetic blossom.
“I am a fan of focusing on one room at a time, having a clear vision of the look you want to achieve, developing a shopping list and then...get busy hunting! That said, inspiration can strike unexpectedly. I was looking for a big round ottoman to tuck under our baby grand piano (sneaky seating for a crowd), but ended up with a pair of yummy Karl Springer souffle ottomans I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of. Kismet is real.”
Pay special attention to items with a dual purpose or that can be stored within bigger pieces.
“I love what I call sneaky pieces, or items that can do double duty,” Brockway says. “Whomever invented the piano bench with storage in the seat is a downright genius. I use them all over the place because they double as seating, occasional tables, work great at the end of a twin bed, and more—all with storage, to boot. I also love a small, tightly upholstered ottoman or poof because you can tuck one or two under a side or console table and then, voila! When it’s time for extra party seating or when you need a spot for your feet or a cocktail, say hello to your little friend!”
Transforming old, brown furniture
“Old brown furniture is often cast aside as boring. I [like the idea] of refinishing these pieces to a lighter, more modern color or painting them. Chairish sells loads of traditional cabinetry repainted in happy colors like cadet blue, powdery pink, canary yellow, and Hermés orange. My own dining table started a dreary brown, and I refinished it to a powdery white with light grey trim. It’s so much lighter and more fun now!”
Giving ottomans a facelift
“Ottomans are an easy upgrade. They’re a snap to slipcover in a few yards of a fresh fabric, and you can change them out when you get bored.”
“Mirrors! Their frames are easy-peasy to repaint. I just saw a gallery wall of mismatched mirrors in various sizes where the frames had uniformly been painted in a high-gloss version of the wall color. What a whammo look. All the emphasis was on shape and shimmer.”
“A lot can be accomplished by a better frame. I took an old, overly serious,19th century portrait of a gentleman, freed him from his dour frame, and placed him onto a larger pale pink linen canvas. No frame at all, just a layered look. What a major facelift for the old guy, who is now often cited by guests as their favorite thing in my house.”