How to Update a Vintage Chest

 Back in the days of warm summer sun Mom and I made a few impromptu stops at some garage sales on our way to her house. We found a few good deals. Mom got some chairs, I got a new board game, but nothing really to brag about. Then a few miles from home we saw another sign, a garage sale we'd missed. The house sat a ways back from the road, so we couldn't see if there was anything good from the road. We hesitated on going, but at the last minute Mom turned on the blinker and pulled into the long driveway. There it sat. It was sad and shabby looking, the oak veneer coming away at the bottom and the upholstery just screaming for an update. Mom knew what I was thinking. "They're probably asking $100.00 for it", she said. I assumed she was right, but there was no price tag on it. The harried homeowner was all stressed out because her friendly yellow lab got loose and was energetically greeting us. When I asked her how much she wanted for the chest she said to make an offer. "$25.00" was my hurried response. Mom looked at me with a shocked expression.

Guess what...She took it and I got a bargain.

Now, if you happen to have found an old chest like this one, you are in luck! First off, congratulations for the awesome find, and second, get ready for the simplest furniture re-do ever. I have to apologize for not having photos of the process. This project was before the blog existed.

Here is what you'll need to update a vintage chest:

  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Upholstery fabric

The outside of mine was outdated, yes, but one look at the cedar interior and I knew this was a quality piece and worth refinishing. If your contemplating picking up an old treasure, be sure to check the integrity of the materials. We got it to my parent's house and the next day I picked out fabric for the seat cushion (can you tell I was excited for this transformation?)

Now, the first thing you'll want to do before reupholstering is take the seat off. Mine was screwed in from the inside. Set that whole thing aside for now to get a good layer of paint on your piece to give it time to dry. Chose a clean area and sand it down.

I was totally planning on priming, painting, and distressing the chest, but when the first layer of primer went on I loved the way it looked! This saved me on paint and time.

Ok, so we are ready to reupholster the chest while the paint...er...primer dries. I took the shortcut route and didn't even tear off the old stuff. It was still wrapped in plastic from the store and never used so I felt pretty safe leaving it. Just lay the seat on top of your fabric, cushion facing downward, and staple the underside.

For a little more than $25 and about an hour of time I now have a beautiful and functional piece that I absolutely love. I hope you are able to find and refinish a beautiful chest too.