Refurbisher’s Resolutions

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’Tis the season for declaring your list of things to change or improve in the new year. In that spirit, let’s look at a few “resolutions”—or let’s just call them “good habits”—for more productivity and enjoyment in the shop, specifically for those like me who love to refurbish and refinish old furniture. 

1.  Never Stop Learning. 

Make a goal to learn something new this year—a new technique, a new type of paint you’ve never used, a new application. Take a class at your local Woodcraft to learn furniture repair. Watch some YouTube videos on working with veneer. Attend events or shows to see the work of other artists. Be sure you are following your favorite makers and brands on social media, including Black Dog Salvage Furniture Paint and General Finishes.  If you don’t already have one, create a Pinterest board on projects or styles that inspire you, or paste photos into a blank journal or sketchbook. The more you expose yourself to art, the more ideas your brain will generate.

Photo below: Jamie Tresor of Furniture Doctor and Designs taught a furniture repair class at the General Finishes Flippin' Furniture Expo, held in Indianapolis this September. 

2. Share and Support. 

Social media hosts a motherlode of information.  Join online painters’ forums or Facebook upcycling groups—Furniture Rehab Bootcamp, Upcycle Sharin’, Furniture Painting University, to name a few—and actively participate in discussions. Share your work, pick their brains when you need advice, and support the work of other artists with thoughtful critiques when asked or genuine encouragement. Don’t be afraid to share your “secrets”—ten people could use those same steps and all ten would have different results. No one else has your exact set of skills so share, learn and encourage each other.  

3. Don’t Be Afraid of Color. 

If your furniture typically stays on the antique white or soft gray side of town, liven things up with some bolder selections this year. The “colors of the year” as chosen by paint companies are lively and colorful so follow their cue and use these colors that you may not normally consider. Sherwin-Williams chose a rich blue-green shade called “Oceanside” as its 2018 color of the year, so grab some Black Dog Salvage Furniture Paint and mix up some “Peacock” (2 parts Keep It Teal: 1 part Blue Ridge) to follow their lead. Benjamin Moore’s “Caliente” is their knock-out shade for the year, and you will find General Finishes Brick Red Milk Paint to be a suitable match. Behr’s “In The Moment” is a little softer blue/gray/green tone similar to one of my favorites, General Finishes Persian Blue Milk Paint. You can create a color similar to Pantone’s “Ultra Violet” with 2 parts That’s Gonna Leave a Mark and 1 part Blue Ridge. Find some inspiration pieces online to see how much fun color can be.

Colors of the Year

Sherwin-Williams "Oceanside"
Benjamin Moore "Caliente"

Behr "In The Moment"

Pantone "Ultra Violet"

4. Organize Your Work Space.

If you are like me, your work space is limited so it makes sense to keep your supplies organized and easy to find. Start by taking all your paint and supplies off the shelves and doing an honest assessment of your inventory. Next, clean the shelf and rearrange the paint cans by colors or brands, whatever makes the most sense to you. Create another spot for topcoats and specialty finishes. For all those cans of paint with just a little bit left, pour them together to make a new color, or toss them if the space could be better used for other supplies. Upgrade your storage with a new shelving system, or find a gently used set of cabinets at your local Habitat ReStore. Use wall space as much as you can to allow for maximum floor working area. Get some colorful bins, buckets or recycled metal cans to hold brushes and stir sticks, and find a vintage coat rack to hang your aprons and smocks. Put like items, such as all sanding supplies, together into zones in order to streamline tasks. Having a space that is fun and inviting makes a day of painting even more enjoyable.

5. Document Your Steps. 

As any artist knows, sometimes you really get in a groove and don’t think about stopping to take photos or make note of the steps to achieve a particular look.  Keep a notebook handy when you are working, or take a few snaps with your phone as you go (don’t forget about the paint cans so you can see the color names). Someone may want you to recreate a look, or you might have to do a touch-up on a piece, plus it’s a nice reference to look back on. Another idea is to put a dab of each paint color used on an index card with a photo of the completed project and file your cards in a metal box. Also, be sure to note what hardware you used and where you got it.

6. Be Choosy. 

Just because a piece of furniture is a good deal (or free!), doesn’t mean you need to haul it home. We cannot save them all, guys. Select the ones that speak to you the most, and leave the others for the next shopper. On the flip side, if you have some of those “good deals” lurking around in the deepest corners of your storage building, ask yourself if you really intend to finish them. If not, bye bye—donate to your local Habitat ReStore. Know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. 

7.  Show Your Work. 

Whether you intend to sell your refurbished pieces or if you simply just want to show off your latest furniture flip, take pictures and share on your social media. The kudos will boost your confidence, and getting the word out there increases your chances of a sale or referral, especially if you don’t have a dedicated “work” page. Plus you’ll become known as the go-to person the next time someone needs something redone. 

Photo below: Instagram is a great way to show your work and follow the work of others you admire. (Bonus kitty cat photo on my feed!)

8.  Create More. 

Creativity breeds creativity, so don’t let weeks go by without getting in the shop and making something. Even if you just refinish furniture as a hobby or whatever your creative pursuits may be, try to spend a few hours each week working and making something. I find that the more I paint, the more I want to paint, and it’s good for my soul to just create.

9.  Finish Up Lingering Projects. 

Admit it – we all have that stash of projects that we are planning to do “one of these days,” but they just keep getting pushed to the back.  Make time in the new 12 months to drag them out and complete one a month or whatever you think your time will allow. You will feel great finally finishing them, and they may turn out to be some of your favorites.

10. Finally, Value Your Work. 

You are an artist. You bring new life to dilapidated furniture and create masterpieces out of rubble. Don’t let anyone tell you that you charge too much or that you are wasting your time on “junk.” Just because your creativity and ability to see potential in castoffs comes naturally to you, doesn’t mean just anyone can do what you can do, how you do it. If you don’t place value on your own work, no one else will either. Do it because you love it, but know you are worth it.

What resolutions are you making this year? I hope whatever your goals are, you take time for “you” and make room to foster your creativity. 

We hope you'll be inspired!

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