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Reclaimed and Recover: Making Old Furniture “New” Again

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Do you love how Joanna Gaines finds old items and “reclaims” them with her beautiful, easy style on “Fixer Upper”?  In our house we have lots of “old” that I want someone to “reclaim” but how can I get a cute couple from Texas to ring my doorbell? As I looked around one day at our collection of furniture, I felt like it could be in the Smithsonian – or a junkyard depending on my mood. So much of it needed to be updated, but I knew it wasn’t in the budget to do it all at once. 


Things may not be all that bad. You probably have some newer pieces that bring a touch of style to your house. However, beyond those select items, is your taste still inhibited by that inability to get rid of, well, old stuff?  By old stuff, I am not talking piles of old magazines and garbage.  I’m talking about furniture that has been taking up space in your home or apartment that is outdated.  

My old furniture can be categorized this way:  1. “First” and 2. “Hand-me-down.” Both can tug at your heartstrings which makes the pieces really hard to get rid of. 

Those “first” furniture pieces are ones you purchased when you had money coming in from your first real job. It might remind you of your first goal accomplished or maybe your family and friends.  The pieces are still in pretty good shape, yet not really in style anymore. In my case, they have been moved to the basement. 

The second is “hand-me-down” furniture from parents or grandparents.  Furniture you were ecstatic to have when you needed to fill up space in your first place, but didn’t have the cash at the time.  The pieces were probably well made and (maybe) stylish at the time.  Just not at all anymore. The memories of the pieces (and people) run deep. Let’s face it, you feel like you owe it to the original owner to keep the pieces.  


We all know:

  • Furniture is a MAJOR investment.  You can be talking thousands to fill a living room, bedroom or a study.
  • The old stuff may still function pretty well. 
  • Finding the right chair or set of chairs for an office alone can take hours. 
  • There is no assurance you will like the piece you select, once you haul it out of the truck you borrowed form your husband’s best friend.


Recently, my husband and I remodeled our home office.  We didn’t have much of a budget and I was surprised at the price of new furniture.  I looked daily at the local outlet stores and online.  I was trying to find something similar to what we currently had, but in another fabric.  The chairs we have were purchased in 2002 from Crate & Barrel, and the upholstery had not stayed in fashion, but the style of the chair had.  Eureka moment!  A custom slipcover that would allow me to go to the fabric store and select exactly what I wanted, have it fit perfectly, and cost me less than half of the price.  We had just been given the name of a great custom slipcover maker in the area.  Two weeks later we had two custom covers done for the chairs.  For about $300 we now have two chairs that look and feel new! 


  • If the piece is constructed out of wood, consider painting or staining.  Start on the bottom to test out the colors.
  • If it is upholstery, consider reupholstering or new slip covers.
  • If there are cabinets, drawers or anything that requires knobs, twenty dollars worth of new knobs can update an old piece to look more modern.

Remember, not everything it worth saving and “reclaiming” for your space. It’s alright to say goodbye to it. Call a charity to come pick it up.  There is someone who would love to have your outdated piece, and you can have peace of mind knowing someone is making good use out of it.