Reduce, Reuse, Rethink Old Furniture

Use our tips to give your furniture a makeover or revive secondhand treasures.

| May/June 2008

When remodeling, working with what you already have is one of the most eco-friendly things you can do. "Our desire for new, new, new, and to consume, consume, consume leads to our fast depletion of resources," says Lili Wright, a Philadelphia-based interior designer. "We make the best use of things in their creative reuse."

Rethinking how, where and why you use the furnishings you have, then doing a little cleanup here and repurposing there, can give your home a brand-new look—same old stuff and all.


So it’s not ready for a magazine close-up? Don’t throw it out yet. Many quality pieces just need a little cosmetic help.

A coat of paint can be a cure-all for wood, metal and other hard surfaces; choose paints low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to avoid outgassing. Decorative molding is inexpensive and adds style to wood furnishings (look for solid wood molding, not synthetic). Or toss a pretty throw onto a tabletop, chair or dresser to create a new look.

Recovering chair cushions in look-at-me, eco-friendly material is a fast fix in the dining room, Wright says. "You will feel like you have a whole new dining set," she adds.

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