Tara just moved into her first off-campus apartment! It's an exciting time in her life.🤩

There's just one problem...other than a mattress, she's sorely lacking furniture.

Woman throwing up her hands and saying,

With a little creativity, Tara can have some useful, trendy, and inexpensive furnishings in no time!

And what's more...by upcycling, or finding old furniture and giving it a second life, Tara can furnish her apartment in an environmentally friendly way.

1. Source It!

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The first thing Tara needs to do is find some sturdy furniture with good bones.

It's best to look for solid wood or well-constructed pieces. Old is ok and might be better quality. Soon it will look new again!

Old woman showing item on Antiques Roadshow and saying,

Where to source it?

  • friends and family

  • curbside

  • local online sites

  • thrift stores

  • garage sales

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➡️ Check the underside of furniture for brand names (this will indicate higher quality)

➡️ Check joints to make sure they're stable

2. Paint it!

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Most wood furniture, and even metal items, can be painted. This technique is best for:

  • shelves

  • desks

  • bureaus

  • bookcases

  • headboards

  • tables

Paintbrush spreading paint

How to paint it?

1️⃣ Place item on an old plastic tablecloth or dropcloth

2️⃣ Clean with a damp cloth to remove any dirt

3️⃣ Repair any visible cracks with wood glue

4️⃣ Lightly sand (per instructions on your paint can)

5️⃣ Paint using a good quality brush or small roller (or a combination of the two)

6️⃣ Let dry overnight

Find a list of supplies and more detailed instructions here

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➡️ Be sure to open windows to avoid fumes

➡️ You can use spray paint on smaller and metal items, but do it outside

3. Cover It!

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Everyone needs a couch, and a couple of comfy chairs are great to have, as well! You can make them look new again by covering them!

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How to cover it?

Start by cleaning any stains with upholstery cleaner. Let dry, then vacuum.

Upholstered couches & chairs

  • Buy or source a large blanket, premade cover, or fabric to throw over it

  • If you can sew, make cushion covers or pillows

Dining & desk chairs, stools, benches

  • Remove seats and backs with a screwdriver, then remove fabric

  • Replace foam padding, if needed

  • Re-cover using pretty fabric of your choice and a staple gun — it's easy!

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➡️ Choose upholstered furniture pieces wisely. You don't want to end up with bed bugs

➡️ Avoid pieces with major stains, bad odors, or broken frames

Find more detailed reupholstering instructions here!

4. Embellish It!

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If your piece just needs some spicing up, or you want to further personalize an item you painted, you might want to try:

  • wallpaper or contact paper: good for drawer fronts and backs of bookcases

  • cute knobs: simply unscrew existing knobs and replace with new ones

  • stencils: look great on tabletops and drawer fronts

  • decoupage: cut out magazine pictures or use photographs and stick them on with fabric or craft glue

  • masking tape: make stripes or other geometric designs, then add another layer of paint

Kid telling their mom,

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➡️ You can find tons of creative furniture makeover ideas on Pinterest


Tara found an amazing wooden headboard but it's older and the finish is worn. What would you recommend? Select all that apply.

Take Action

There's nothing like your first place!

Woman clapping proudly

You'll be even more proud when you can say that you furnished it on a shoestring budget.

To learn more:


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