Doing It Yourself? Make a Plan!

You don’t begin an essay or tackle a proposal at work without creating an outline or going through a drafting process first, do you? You shouldn’t treat refinishing vintage decor or furniture any differently. I’ve learned and re-learned this lesson the hard way many, many times, believe me. We may not always know what this “plan” is when we find something we are immediately enraptured it – be it a bookcase or framed artwork – but if your initial passion for an item is strong, chances are your motivation to plan and achieve a refinishing or reviving of it will be strong as well.

Mum and I plan before we tackle a project by talking it out. For others, writing it out with paper and pen may work best, but my bond with my mother has always worked best with us bouncing ideas off each other. The thing about working with vintage and antique items is they are usually relatively delicate to the touch. We may be able to get away with stripping old paint from its surface in order to properly re-paint it, but we certainly would not want to risk attempting it twice. That’s why before we work with a paint color, we always choose it and plan with it in mind very carefully. We would never want to pick a color we later regret and risk overworking the piece and ruining or damaging it.

Planning is also important because it’s a thinking process, during which you have the opportunity to ask yourself a series of questions. Will the lamp you found at the yard sale look better in your entry hall or bedroom? Where are you lacking color or personality in your home? Does the wicker chair you found at a resale shop look like it would be suitable in your screen-in porch, on your deck, or possibly even in your living room? Spend time with the pieces you find. Planning an approach to their second life gives you the ability to pause and reflect.

There was an instance in which I reupholstered from wingback chairs without planning. And while I was at it with my staple gun, I realized I hadn’t properly accounted for the amount of fabric needed and I didn’t have enough. I rushed to town to buy more of the same fabric only to find that the store no longer had it. It was a very specific velvet, orange floral print and I knew instantly that I would have to undo all of the hard work I’d already put in. This is just one example. Trust me, things like these tend to happen a lot in our line of work, but what I find is that when I reflect and think back I realize that these fumbles always occur when I didn’t have a plan in mind.

So this is probably some of the best advice Mum or I could give to anyone refinishing furniture, as a weekend hobby or professional hobby – don’t skimp on planning!