before and after

before & after: emily’s armoire + ingrid’s chair

by Grace Bonney

when i saw the “after” shot for this armoire project i was hooked. i know a lot of people hate anything painted, but i think this is such a great example of the power of a coat of inexpensive paint. that seriously sad veneer front on the “before” became something chic and stylish (reminds me of the viceroy hotel and kelly wearstler) thanks to a little black and white detailing. chicago design student emily haan is behind this makeover, which she finished with the help of her husband. it’s always nice to see a couple re-work pieces together- great work, guys!

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


CLICK HERE for ingrid’s before & after chair project after the jump!

this chair makeover comes from d*s reader ingrid. she reupholstered this fun platform rocker using a contemporary ikea fabric by cilla ramnek. great work, ingrid!


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  • Amazing armoire – such interesting detail. I have a feeling it has not seen its last incarnation – change of decor , change of colour! Lovely job!

  • I would have put more black on the armoire, but it is lovely. Absolutely love love love the chair! That fabric is so bright and lively.

  • This is a first for the before & afters, but I actually like the ‘before’ armoire better…all of it’s character disappeared under that white paint.

  • Love it! I think white color with a touch of black made the armoire come out more. It’s really makes a statement! Well done!

  • I think the problem with paint is that, if it’s a glossy finish, it ends up looking like plastic. Which in turn can make something look cheap. I personally really like the way the color variations of the before really bring out the detail in all that trimwork…but I also hate cheapy veneers. I wonder if a whitewash would work on a veneer?? Like this: http://www.paintquality.co.za/Images/trends/ss2002/boh_interior1.gif

    It could seriously lighten up such a dark, heavy piece, but still maintains some character. I do like those black handles, though!

  • the chair is gorgeous… and though I like the armoire, true to my personal nature it looks like a blank canvas and I would be going at it with more colors. Maybe the room that a piece of furniture is placed in makes all the difference! yay for these transformations….

  • The armoire came out great…the black detailing is really dramatic. I wonder if it could have been pushed a little further by painting something like a bright blue color in the spaces around the top two black handles.

  • I personally would have liked the after for the armoire if more of the details were brought out. It was a lovely piece with great details and the all white hides it.

  • It really is a striking piece.
    My mind would have gone directly to turquoise or cinnabar based by the lines but, white makes it all that much of an independent item.

  • GREAT job with the armoire, the shape really “sings” when the surface calms down a bit. I was debating more black/leave it as is and I’m not sure. The only area I think would be better to paint black would be the squares at the bottom of the doors. To test I would probably put black paper cut outs into the open spaces surrounding the existing black painted space and just see how it looks.

  • I have no problem with people painting cheap tacky undistinguished 1970s wood,or painting when it ads something to the piece. I get cranky when its people paint anything lovely or irreplaceable,or makeovers ignore the scale and proportions of the piece. This is a great pain job- and I would LOVE to see the woodwork accented in various shades of gray to go along with the black and white. I think it would be sophisticated and fun.

  • I do like the clean white and black on the armoire–but I think the black just sits in the middle and looks slightly out of place. I’d like to see a little detailing in black along the edges to bring out some of the nice lines of the piece (which weren’t very visible in the veneered before, either!). Cheers!

  • love the chair. perfect fabric choice. the armoire is flat & boring. take risks be bold. would love for her to try again & be bold. Kelly W. is fine for her but be yourself.

    • koolaroo

      there’s a pretty good chance that emily made those choices because she is being herself. it’s good to keep in mind that iconic styles, or styles associated with famous designers, are often styles that real people enjoy for legitimate reasons, rather than being an attempt to recreate someone else’s personal style.


  • Fabulous clean crisp white. So amazing how all the detail stands out with the bit of black – and bonus they even used the same hardware; which ya gotta love when you only have to buy paint!

  • I am usually a wood defender, but the wood in the armoire before was gross, ugly, depressing. I wouldn’t have done the upper parts black like that myself but totally agree with Grace – I looked at it and thought ‘that is how the re-designer wanted to do it and that is really cool and interesting.’

  • I always am inspired by all the “before/after”. I am really impressed by the chair makeover. How does one recover a chair and have it look professional?

  • Hi Emily,
    When I saw the armoire, I had to write you a note, to let you know that I own a whole bedroon set.
    The armoire, the big long dresser, two end tables. It has the exact same color!
    You did a nice job,and now I have an idea on how it would look my set if I decide to painted.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • I have the same armoire/end tables set! I love the piece, but hate the color. I’ve been struggling to decide on a new paint color. I like the crisp white, but I’ve also debated going dark, possibly a deep navy adding a printed lining in the inside.

  • Kim: I’ve always wanted to reupholster a great solid chair, so I got tonnes of inspiration from all over (especially design sponge), researched which upholstery books are the best, and then hit the library! All i needed to actually buy were the tacks, some extra padding and the fabric. I didnt use any fancy schmancy gadgets or tools; a hammer and pliers and my sewing machine sufficed :)

  • I am on the side of all the don’t-paint-wood people here, and while this one was a paintable piece, the white makes the piece blah. Like another commenter wrote, all the details that make the armoire so great are lost, and the black is strange to me. I would have done more black or added in another color.
    I’m also not feeling the chair.

  • Emily,
    Forgot to mention I also have the queen size headboard.
    I wonder if a white/cream color wash may be use so the furniture does not loose the beautiful grain it does have now.

  • i like the after look of the armoire IF, and that’s a big IF, it is a new piece. personally i would have painted it on depending of the area i will put it in or restore it of its original color (emerald-ish)

  • I almost love the armoire – the black detail on the upper cabinets, painted without relief, reminds me of dog bones. It’s too bulky looking when contrasted with the delicate handles below. It also reminds me of the Ikea children’s series bureaus (the blue on blue or pink on pink sets).

    Of course, we are only seeing it as a one-dimensional item; it may look more delicate in person. But in this pic, it looks disproportional.

  • WOW – I find it interesting that the “After” armoire clearly looks MUCH more Viceroy. Regardless of what you think of the whole hollywood regency look, the Viceroy is still fabulous. Case in point.

  • I agree with a previous commenter. That white paint completely hides the charming details of that armoire. And the black is just SO black…your eye is just drawn right to it and distracts from everything else. I like the before picture a lot better, sorry!

  • I love both of them. I love a good armoire makeover, I’m always looking on craigslist for one to redo, but have yet to get the guts to to it! I do post a lot of other people’s makeovers on my blog though!

  • Please forgive my ignorance, but how did Emily paint the armiore? How do you paint over veneer? Should you use a primer first? Obviously you don’t sand it, right? Was it sprayed with professional equipment? Just a roller & paint? Paint brush? I’d love details on how veneer should be painted. That would be great if she could share.

  • I was really excited to see the before pic, bc I have a similar mirror with a boring dark 70s veneer and I was hoping to get some idea of how to trim it out and make it fab. I was a little disappointed by the way the after turned out–it’s serviceable but feels half-done. a little more detailing would punch up something awesome.

  • Hey guys!
    Thanks for all the comments on the armoire! It gives me such joy to have a piece on d*s and to see how it’s received. First off I did the high gloss and limited black on purpose. I loved the modern look of it and the extreme contrast. In person the shadows and detail of the piece is featured rather than lost in a sea of disgusting green veneer. The picture doesn’t show well. My husband and I bought an airless sprayer to redo the armoire. Spray painting it would be too time consuming and expensive. Finding the ratio of paint to water was hard but after a couple tries we got it just right. The armoire definitely needed heavy sanding before painting and needed 3 to 4 coats in order to cover up the veneer. Obviously if the piece was wood you would only need two coats at max while using an airless sprayer. If you’re attempting to do this yourself keep in mind the amount of over spray that happens when using the sprayer. I’m excited that some of you liked the piece and that you are inspired to redo some of your own furniture! I would’ve been more daring in color but being in a transitional state between an apt to someday a house when I’m done with school I didn’t know the context that the piece would go in and I wanted it to have a color and style that is timeless. That is why I choose classic black and white. I hope this helps! Thanks again for your encouragement and constructive criticism.

  • I don’t like white furniture; cream is softer and more warm and friendly; I have been successful with it blending in with other furniture and not being such a shock to the system

  • HI, That lovely platform rocker that was re-upholstered with IKEA fabric is amazing! My mother has a rocker just like it that she acquired used in the 1950s. It’s been re-upholstered several times. How old is the rocker? I’d guess 1940s or even 1930s.

  • I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and this was one piece in the full bedroom set my parents used…and still have I must say. The inside of this cabinet has a number of drawers that could add some color surprises. Perhaps someday I will attempt a before + after with the pieces I inherit.

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