Budget Furniture Fix-Ups

by Kathleen Wilson

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One of the most expensive items to replace in our homes is our furniture. We can't always afford to replace it when it gets worn, outdated, or just no longer works in a room.

The number one option for those trying to update existing furniture is slipcovers. Now, unless you are an experienced seamstress, sewing fitted slipcovers is no easy task. Fortunately, however, today's trends lean towards casual, and that includes furniture.

Here are instructions for some simple, casual covers that almost anyone can do.

First of all, use sheets instead of pieced fabric. They are MUCH easier and cheaper! Measure your furniture, and buy a sheet size that will cover your furniture piece without its cushions, tucked in and around the arms. (Don't forget to check out garage sales for good deals!) Use decorative cording if you like to tie around the "skirt" area to give it a more structured look. Simply tuck ends under the couch or chair. You could even tape or staple the ends to the bottom of the piece, if you wanted. Now take each of your cushions and look at it as if you are wrapping a gift. Cut a piece large enough for your cushion, wrap it like a present, and safety pin it to the underside of the cushion. (Who's gonna see it?) Add a few pillows and a throw, and you have changed the entire look of your furniture for little money. The covers are washable, and you can make one for each season.

Sheets, blankets, and quilts can all be used for this project. They can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, and maybe even your own linen closet. Try wrapping the cushions with another, different fabric from the room. Remember, this is all about casual style, and slipcovers are definitely stylish!

Even dining room chairs can be covered. Simply make an open envelope of fabric to fit over the back of the chair, similar to a pillowcase. If you like, this can be dressed up by tying it with cord or ribbon, sewing on decorative buttons, or adding a little lace. This project can easily be done using leftover curtain fabric and scraps lying around your sewing room.

Next on the list is what is known as "hardgoods".

Tables, chests, entertainment centers. A fast and inexpensive way to transform these items is, you guessed it, paint. Almost anything can be painted these days, including laminate. Simply prime it with a product specifically made for non-porous surfaces…I like BIN or KILZ. Then just use ordinary house paint.

Wood finishes can be just sanded and painted.

Consider trying your hand at decorative painting or faux finishing for designed effects. I suggest visiting a few web sites for ideas like paintideas.com, or fauxlikeapro.com.

Another tight budget option for covering worn or outdated furniture includes using fabric on door and drawer fronts. Simply cut the fabric slightly larger than the drawer or door front, then use a staple gun to adhere it to the back, stretching it snug as you go. Try painting the rest of the piece a color picked out of the fabric for a great coordinated look.

The last option I am going to throw out there is mosaic tiling. This can be very frugal if you have leftover tiles from another project. Ask your local tiling center if they have broken tiles they would let you have. Another good place to look for free mosaic materials is at residential construction sites, especially ones that are more upscale. Always ask first, but there are always broken tiles when an installation has taken place, which are going to get hauled to the dump!

Mosaic can be as simple as laying broken tile in a random pattern, gluing them in place, laying out intricate patterns, and grouting and sealing your project. You can use it on table or dresser tops, drawer fronts, or even a door itself! You can even produce the illusion of mosaic by using decorative paper in the same manner. Cut the paper into irregular shapes, and glue it on!

Whatever you choose to do to update your furniture, impose your own style, take your time, and be proud of your creation!

Kathleen Wilson is the editor of a free ezine/newsletter called The Budget Decorator, dedicated to "budget impaired" home decorating. Visit her at www.thebudgetdecorator.com for more free ideas and projects, and for info on her book Quick Decorating Ideas Under $20: The Budget Decorator's Bible.

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