before and after

Before & After: 10 Awesome Make-Unders

by Maxwell Tielman

Celebrity gossip blogs have all but eclipsed the standard supermarket tabloid these days, so it’s pretty infrequently that you will find me flipping through the pages of Us Weekly or In Touch in the checkout line. There is, however, one headline that is sure to get me to pick up a magazine (and it has nothing to do with Justin Bieber). It’s “Stars Without Makeup.” There are a few reasons why I love a good no-makeup feature. On one hand, you get to see some of your favorite celebrities looking utterly dejected as they do the walk of shame without their faces on. On the other hand, though, it’s actually wonderfully refreshing to see a real live human face—one that isn’t completely covered up under layers of foundation, eyeliner, and mascara. Stars-Without-Makeup pieces largely function to show famous people in a state of vulnerability, but there’s something fantastic about that vulnerability. It shows that the unadorned can actually be beautiful and, perhaps, true beauty lies in simplicity.

This logic certainly works for human beings, but it can be applied to furniture. Although I love a good makeover as much as anybody else (bring on the bold color and shellac!), I have to admit that oftentimes, the best thing to do with an object is to give it a make-under. Stripping off paint, refinishing, or simply cleaning can work just as much magic (if not more) than extra paint, finishes, and hardware. Underneath the layers of paint, dirt, or dust—there might just be something beautiful. To prove our point, we’ve chosen ten of our favorite Make-Unders from our Before & After archives. Check them out after the jump! —Max

1. Vanessa’s Refinished Dresser: What started out as a dingy, bulky dresser was completely transformed after a good strip and waxing. See the full Before & After here >>

2. Stacey’s Table: This wooden coffee table used to have spray-painted graffiti on it. Nothing a little sanding and Brasso couldn’t fix! See the full Before & After here >>

3. Midcentury Credenza: Instead of stripping this credenza entirely, only the drawers were stripped and refinished, creating a nice contrast with the white exterior. Check out the full Before & After here >>

4. Morgan’s Secretary Desk — This makeunder proves that a little oil can go a long way, at least where wood is concerned. Check out the full Before & After here >>

5. Monica’s Bar Cart: This bar cart went from looking like something you could catch tetanus from to something you could totally make drinks on. All it needed was a nice cleaning! Check out the full Before & After here >>

6. Mark’s Dresser: With a little elbow grease, this dresser went from looking downright unsalvageable to just-like-new. Check out the full Before & After here >>

7. Copper-Trimmed Vanity Table: After having its horrendous paint removed from it, the only ornamentation applied to this beautiful table was a thin, copper strip around its top. Check out the full Before & After here >>

8. Kate’s Refinished Dresser: Maybe not a make-under in the strictest sense of the word, this dresser transformation still shows how going the simpler route can produce beautiful results. Check out the full Before & After here >>

9. Alejandra’s Desk: After a thick layer of varnish was sanded off of this 100 year-old desk, it looked brand new! Check out the full Before & After here >>

10. The Design*Sponge Office Ladder: This antique bookshelf ladder was in rough shape when we first got it. Luckily, my boyfriend is super handy-dandy and was able to salvage it in a few simple steps. Check out the full Before & After here >>

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  • Ahh I love seeing furniture make-overs and make-unders (which involve a bit more luck perhaps) are wonderful to see too!

  • As someone who has spent the last 7 days on my hands and knees stripping layer after layer of linoleum and glue off of the original hardwood floors in my entry way, I’m thrilled to see these “make unders”! Sometimes you owe it to a piece to let its original glory shine through :)

  • Totally agree with the concept that simple is generally the most beautiful. And yes, getting to that simple beauty can prove to be the harder way. Achieving that beautiful underlying wood finish in the case of a furniture item for that fab restored look would be a harder solution than just glossing it over with paint. But so worth it. Of course, adding that splash, whether with a make-over or a make-under, will always do the trick when executed well. That’s the philosophy we live by at Moush (moush.com.au) anyway…

  • Hi just read the stripping old linoleum comment. Not wanting to alarm anybody but PLEASE be so so careful. I had an asbestos audit specialist come to my house he told me that probably the most dangerous source of asbestos came from old Lino and Lino tiles. Apparently the adhesive they used was almost 100% friable asbestos meaning it becomes airborne when disturbed. I never knew this and have been so upset thinking about lifting old Lino layers with my baby around . This is not a joke nor is it widely known. Please please protect yourself and family as old Lino can potentially be the most dangerous form of asbestos exposure in a house