When it comes to magic moments, few things top finding that perfect piece of vintage furniture. Whether it’s the starting point for a bedroom redesign or the finishing touch on your dream dining room- vintage and flea market finds can be complete game changers. But what happens if you stumble upon a piece that holds a lot of potential… but needs a little- or a LOT- of work?? That’s where Becky Golino comes in. She is an interior designer based in LA, and her talent is truly something to marvel. Today, she teaches us how to fix up and refinish those flea market finds. And just in case you find the project to be a little bigger than you’re ready to take on- the finished project is for sale in her Etsy shop. Like we said, Becky is amazing… but we’ll let her show you herself:

Refinishing vintage furniture isn’t as intimidating as you may think. With a little time, care and effort you can restore a battered treasure to its original glory. Each refinishing project presents a different set of challenges, but the basic process consists of four steps: stripping, sanding, repairing and finishing. This console table was an estate sale find, and it was in bad shape.  The finish on the top was gummy and damaged with burns, rings and smudges of paint, and two of the legs were broken.  Here’s an overview of the steps taken to restore it.

Step 1: Strip

Stripper (Citristrip is an effective, less toxic option)
Natural bristle paint brush
Empty metal coffee can
Plastic scraping tool
Nylon scrubbing pad

Set up a workspace in a well-ventilated area, out of direct sunlight. Place a heavy duty drop cloth on the ground, and be sure to wear gloves, safety goggles and a paper mask. Always use caution when handling stripper, and follow manufacturer’s instructions for disposal.

Apply the stripper with the paintbrush and let sit for 20-30 minutes (follow instructions for the stripper you’re using).  When the finish has loosened, scrape it off with the plastic scraper in the direction of the wood grain. Remove any remaining finish with the nylon scrubbing pad.

Wet a rag with mineral spirits and wipe down the entire piece to remove excess residue.  Allow to dry completely.

Step 2: Sand

Use a random orbit disc sander for large areas and hand sand tighter spaces. First sand with coarse 120 grit paper, then with finer 220 grit. Don’t use finer grit than 220, or it will seal the grain of the wood and keep the stain from absorbing evenly.

Step 3: Repair

Repairs will vary depending on the damage to your item. In this case, two of the table’s legs were broken.  After applying wood glue to the broken area, the legs were secured using a band clamp, which is a long strap with a buckle and a winch used to tighten it. After the glue had dried, there was a small crack apparent where the break had been, so the area was filled with wood putty and lightly sanded.

Step 4: Finish

Tack cloth
Paint brushes
Furniture wax

Wipe down table with a tack cloth, and apply gel stain.  After the stain has dried, apply a thin coat of polyurethane and let dry. Sand lightly with 360 grit sandpaper, and apply another coat. This process may be repeated once more, if necessary.  A final application of paste wax adds further protection and a low sheen.

Each piece of furniture will have different problems that need fixing, and the specific actions you take may vary with depending on the needs of your item, but the basic steps are always the same.  This is not a quick, one day process, but the gratification of rescuing a lovely piece of furniture is worth the effort, and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come.