Sometimes, simple ideas like showcasing a tapestry you have been storing produces dramatic results. “I just drape the textile over your couch back to cover up a couch that has seen its better days,” says Interior Designer Heather Peterson. “You have saved a couch and showcased a family heirloom.”

“One client was amazed after we painted her old dining-room chairs to match the new décor. We were able to hold onto the old dining-room set and save her the cost of a new one.” Peterson helps clients see new eye-catching possibilities with old materials.

Peterson created an ottoman from an old coffee table for $75. “That is a lot better than spending $300 to $500 for a new ottoman.” She glued foam and stapled fabric on the top of the table and refinished its legs with a $4 tube of Rub ‘n Buff.

Staying Simple Green
Why buy new when you can easily work with the items you already have? Simple repairs can be made to recreate a piece of furniture for a brand new look. Whether a fresh coat of paint or a new finish is what’s in store, explore your options for restoration.

“Restoring is better for the environment,” according to Brian Robertson, shop foreman at Ackerman’s Furniture Service. “Why throw away a large sofa that has a better frame than you can buy now, when it is cheaper to have it redone? We have a big run on sofas for that reason.”

“Use green products like shellac and water-based finishes when you refinish wood,” says Travis Beard, a graduate of the National Institute of Wood Finishing at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount. “We are seeing more and more of these products. They have less volatile solvents but they are more difficult to use.”

Saving Forgotten Items
Your basement or garage is likely storing numerous décor items that you are completely unaware of. Start digging around to see what you can find. Grandpa’s old record player can be transformed into that new side table you’ve been wanting to add to the living room. If a discovered item looks beyond repair, don’t give up hope quite yet. Bring it in to a restoration store to see how much work would be needed to make it usable again.

We just had a couple come in with a painted and upholstered armchair that had been in the family for as long as they can remember,” says Bill Buelow, the Strippers Furniture Restoration manager. “To their surprise, the chair was the most beautiful solid gorgeous mahogany with a spectacularly-grained burled veneer on the back.”

“You need some proficiency and you want to ‘do no harm’ when repairing older furniture,” says Beard. “You want to do it the right way, like using hide glue which is reversible. You can get the joints apart again by applying heat and pressure.” Beard says he mixes his glue himself but anyone can buy it in liquid form at the hardware store. “Gluing furniture with epoxy is non-reversible,” according to Beard.

Calling In The Experts
Some things are better left to the experts. When creating your new look, decide which items need a little professional attention. Those special décor pieces can be easily damaged with one incorrect move. Play it safe and let the experts make the necessary repairs. “We place your furniture in a large pan and the stripper is cycled through a hose and then it is rinsed down,” Buelow says. “The chemicals are more caustic than you can buy at a store and that provides an advantage when you need to get paint out of fine detail.”

Below are some local businesses that may be able to help you get started.

Ackerman’s Furniture Service
2525 W Highway 13
Burnsville, MN 55337
(952) 890-2284

Ackerman’s can repair, refinish or reupholster your furniture in its shop or in your home. Potential clients are always welcome to tour its state-of-the-art restoration facility. Ackerman’s services all of central Minnesota including southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Heather Peterson Design, LLC.
(612) 834-2752

Heather Peterson feels clients have individual tastes and individual needs. She can provide just enough consultation that you can do the rest yourself, or she can initiate “full-service design and white-glove execution.”

Strippers Furniture Restoration Inc.
1698 Selby Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55104
(651) 645-1394

Originally a Bix Stripper franchise, this second-generation business will refinish furniture, doors and trim in its shop or will sell you the equipment for you to do it yourself at home.

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Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at