before and after

before & after: alejandra’s desk and julie’s chair

by Grace Bonney

when this first before & after came into my inbox yesterday i just smiled. finally, a great piece of wooden furniture that wasn’t painted, but was instead restored and waxed to its natural beauty. most of the time i don’t have any problem with painting furniture if it’s in poor condition, but this piece from d*s reader alejandra was over 100 years old and belonged to her great grandmother. alejandra sanded the piece down a bit to remove the damaged varnish and then used a transparent wax to seal and protect it. for a little extra touch alejandra added a bit of flowered fabric that belonged to her grandmother (such a sweet touch) to the inside of the desk. i love all the generations of women present in this desk- it’s such a great piece to have in your home. thanks for sharing, alejandra!

[have a before & after you’d like to share on d*s? just shoot me an email right here with your images!]


this lovely chair makeover comes from julie at hazel & hunter. she used one of my favorite fabrics from heather at skinny laminx to spruce up this junk shop sewing chair. the frame was in great shape so julie made a new cushion for the back, scrapped the old worn vinyl and recovered it with heather’s fabric. voila! a great new chair. if you’re interested in buying julie’s updated chair, it’s for sale on etsy right here. thanks, julie!


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  • thank you for not painting this desk!!!! when i opened up D*S today, i saw the before photo at the top of the page, and had this sinking feeling in my stomach “oh my god,” i thought, “somebody just painted,papered, and ruined a beautiful beautiful piece of furniture…” I scrolled down, and Voila! WOOD! you’re my D*S hero. somebody’s gotta stand up for wood!

  • While sometimes I think that the pieces look nice painted, I always wonder how they would look stripped with a nice finish. I have to repeat what others said above that I am so glad you didn’t paint the desk. Sometimes a beautiful wood is so much nicer than an interesting paint choice.

  • thank you for preserving the beauty of wood!
    I am restoring some wood piece too…does anybody know how to deal with the sun marks on stained wood?
    I removed the finish with sandpaper but the wood does not have uniform color tone due to sun exposure.

  • It is so easy to want to paint something old, and I just bought a plain-jane console table with the anticipation of painting it. But I put it in my foyer, and after walking past it a half dozen times decided to leave it alone, it’s gorgeous as is!

  • The desk is lovely. Nicely refinished, and a nice change from paint.

    The chair is not quite working for me. Although the print is terrific, it does not look like upholstery weight fabric. It looks like a lightweight cotton (more appropriate for some cafe curtains or a skirt?). Different fabric would give this a bit more visual weight.

    I often have this reaction when I see the DIY projects… it really does make a difference to use fabric that is more appropriate to the function.

  • Oh, I just love that desk! I’m so glad she didn’t paint it! Some things are better left natural. The fabric on the inside is such a sweet touch. Very well done!

  • oh HOORAY for the desk. oh I am so glad she didnt paint it… Good work Alejandra, and thanks for posting it to show people that there IS an option for wood besides painting it!

  • Both are gorgeous, but I agree, it is nice to see timber being enhanced instead of painted. I must confess though, I’ve just painted a bookshelf that was in quite lovely condition, but the timber simply didn’t go with my apartment. I still feel a little guilty to be honest!

  • wow finally someone who made the old look new again and leave the “flavor” of the desk. I have many old side tables small but full of past history’s . I just can’t paint them. I have my ex’s grandmothers dresser , blond oak still in good shape,Thanks will not paint it. You eased my mind.

  • The desk really is a very special piece. I love what d s said about there being generations of women present in the piece. It has a lovely story, and I can see it is well loved by the care that has been taken over the restoration! Absolutely beautiful!

  • Once it’s painted, you can never go back. Hooray for allowing the desk to keep its lovely natural finish. I love before and afters…the chair is a great example.

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