The refinish line: A little paint goes a long way

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This once-dark mahogany bedroom set got a fresh coat of paint, making it workable for a client’s guest bedroom. Photo: Virginia Hamrick This once-dark mahogany bedroom set got a fresh coat of paint, making it workable for a client’s guest bedroom. Photo: Virginia Hamrick

To make something from nothing requires a certain amount of optimism. To make something from something? That requires some elbow grease. No problem, says designer Caroline Faulconer, who regularly takes neglected pieces and breathes new life into them.

“When designing a space, the ability to refinish or repurpose a client’s existing piece or a flea market find allows me to make the most of the budget and really customize the space,” Faulconer says.

Recently, she refinished a mahogany bedroom set for a client who wanted to use the pieces in her granddaughters’ bedroom when they came to visit, but the wood was too dark for the design they had in mind.

“I refinished [them] in a high-gloss white paint, which made for a more youthful yet classic look, with the yellow and blue floral tied in through the bedding and upholstery,” Faulconer says.

In your own home, the designer recommends starting small, with a flat, simple piece that’s made of natural wood (other materials, like laminate, make refinishing tricky because they won’t hold paint or can’t be stained) and using chalk paint (“pretty easy to use, very forgiving and has very low VOC”). And, she says, choose a piece that you can instantly envision a new use for. Faulconer is often taking junk from friends because she can see its potential. “Repurposing is easy with a big imagination and an endless well of creativity,” she says.

Fave find

“A few years ago I inherited an antique secretary desk that I had always really liked. When my husband and I were moving into our new home this past year, it was in question as to whether we were going to keep it but I just couldn’t let it go. It reminded me a lot of an apothecary-style cabinet. I realized that all the nooks would be perfect for my bar tools, bitters, etc. I decided to paint the piece a matte charcoal gray/black, add a mirror top for the bottles and serving tray to sit on and an adjustable chain for a convertible mixing station. There is a large cabinet underneath that is perfect for storage and bottles. It works so much better as a bar than a desk.”

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