Easy Wood Furniture Restoration and Refreshing

For someone who is as in love with vintage furniture, flea markets and craigslist as I am, knowing how to quickly make worn wood pretty is key.

When pieces are chipped or have water damage you’re looking at a major restoration and are going to have to spend some money to repair. But when you have a piece with wear that’s standard with age – minor scratches, dirt, scuff marks, some finish rubbed off – you can make it shine with a few easy steps.

Here’s a recent vintage teak coffee table I bought for a friend who has a place on the Cape I’m helping furnish:

It’s a great piece – clean lines, solid wood, well built, no major flaws. Just a lot of dirt and scuffing.  Now, here it is after prettying it up:

Neither of these photos have been messed with – same light, etc.  It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a little revolutionary!  One looks … well, like something you’d find on craigslist.  The other looks like a vintage piece that wouldn’t look out of place in a magazine.

The steps are simple:

  1. Get dust, dirt pet hair, etc. off with a damp cloth and dry.
  2. For sticky residue, you can try goo gone, or simply a scrub brush with soap and water (always try the least abrasive option first).
  3. Use Restor-A-Finish in an appropriate color. Put some on a soft cloth, rubbing it on the piece, and then rubbing off excess with a clean cloth.

While you should never underestimate the power of a little elbow grease, soap and water (the best furniture restorer ever!) Restor-A-Finish is one of my all-time favorite quick-fix products.  It really makes wood glow, and covers so many sins. For this teak table, I used the walnut color.  It brings out the darker grain beautifully on teak.  Here’s a close up of this coffee table before:

And after:

To give you an idea of how it makes scuff marks disappear.

I’ve purchased things on craigslist, spent 30 minutes cleaning and using Restor-A-Finish, then sold them for a tidy profit.  This process, and nice photography, really does make that much of a difference if you’re looking to flip a piece.  For someone like me with furniture hoarding instincts, sometimes stuff has to be moved out, and shining it up and making some cash takes the edge off (a little bit, anyway) of having to let a good piece go …