It’s so satisfying to see the potential in an object, then transform it into something uniquely yours. Whether you’re searching antiques and thrift stores, digging in the basement or attic or scouring the web for furniture and accessories, if the price is right, the stakes are not high. Take a chance and boldly reuse, refinish and repurpose—the process engages the imagination and the results will be conversation pieces.

Mirror insert in fireplace

Even a nonworking fireplace is an architectural detail that’s a natural focal point. Try lining the interior with a mirror; not only does it disguise a sooty firebox, it also visually enlarges a small room—a nice trick! Fill the void within the surround by stacking illustrated books or novels and a houseplant inside.

Fireplace mantel

Use the fireplace mantel as a spot to highlight some favorite decorative accents and a few treasured books. Another mirror over the mantel echoes the one below.

Cuckoo clock before painting

While a vintage Bavarian cuckoo clock is a lovely collectible, mass-produced knockoffs are easy to find at thrift shops or discount stores.

Painted cuckoo clock

A couple of coats of vividly colored spray paint turn this old cuckoo clock into a decorator item Andy Warhol could love.

Gold rimmed vase with flowers

Dress up a basic glass florist’s vase. A wide band of gold leaf glued or painted around the rim reveals the hidden elegance in this vase. Use painter’s tape to get a crisp edge at the bottom of the band.

Painted table

A sturdy cocktail table with storage space has a lot going for it, especially spruced up with an Impressionist-inspired finish that’s on trend with today’s painterly look. Here’s how we created it.


What You’ll Need

  • Secondhand table
  • Primer
  • Small foam roller or 3-inch paintbrush
  • Leftover latex paints in multiple colors
  • Painter’s tape
  • 1-inch paintbrush
  • Artist’s brushes
  • Paper plate
  • Cup of water
  • Acrylic sealer such as Polycrylic

Step 1 Prime the table and let dry. Use the foam roller to give the table a base coat in one allover color and let dry.

Step 2 Tape off a section of the table that includes at least one table leg. Place a dollop of the darkest paint color on the paper plate. With the 1-inch brush, paint the taped off area with the dark paint and let dry.

Painted table detail

Step 3 Add dollops of all paint colors onto the paper plate, including the base color. Using artist’s brushes, paint swipes of color all over the dark paint. Rinse the 1-inch brush and dip into a cup filled with water. Lightly wipe the brush over the colors to blend them around the painted area for an Impressionistic look.

Add floral, heart, typographic and other motifs around the painted area.

Continue until the desired look is achieved. Let dry.

Step 4 Brush two coats of acrylic sealer over the entire table, letting it dry between coats.

Magazine rack before

It’s handy to have a catchall next to a favorite chair and this piece has the capacity but the finish is dark and dated.

Decoupage magazine rack

We used flirty floral fabric scraps and decoupage medium to freshen up the old magazine rack. Now it’s ready to hold everything you need for a cozy at-home evening: reading materials, eyeglasses, remotes or crafts supplies.

What You’ll Need

  • Scissors
  • Selection of coordinating lightweight fabrics
  • Mod Podge medium
  • Small bowl
  • Accent piece such as our magazine rack
  • Craft brush

Using scissors, cut small pieces of fabric. Pour a small amount of the Mod Podge (or other decoupage medium) into a bowl.

Dip the fabric scrap into the medium. This is messy, but it cleans up very easily.

Use fingers to remove excess medium. Drape fabric pieces at an angle over rounded areas of the accent piece so you cover edges first—place a scrap on the surface and then smooth out bubbles and wrinkles. Dip more pieces and apply to the surface. Ensure that there is a good mix of patterns around the piece. Turn it around from time to time to watch the design come together.

Repeat steps with overlapping scraps until the entire surface is covered. It’s OK if scraps overlap the edges a bit—they can be trimmed later. Let dry completely, at least 24 hours.

Trim any errant threads or overhanging fabric. With a brush, apply a final coat of decoupage medium over the entire piece. Let dry completely.

Vintage surveyors tripod

Surveyor’s tripods were built to support instruments for mapmaking, among other purposes, but they make an easy transition to lighting up your living room. The wooden style first came into use in the early 19th century and hasn’t changed much to date.

Tripod lamp in living room

This vintage surveyor’s tripod, painted at some point in its history in a soft and chalky sage green, gets another lease on life when it’s wired for use as a floor lamp.

Tripod lamp detail

What You’ll Need

  • Old surveyor’s tripod
  • Drill and ½-inch bit
  • Lamp kit from home improvement store
  • Lamp harp
  • Drum shade
  • Finial

Screw top plate off of the tripod and drill a hole through the center of the plate. Insert the threaded pipe that comes with the lamp kit into the hole.

Following kit instructions, assemble the washers, lock nut, vase cap, neck, socket and wiring. Follow the wiring instructions very carefully. Replace the top plate on the tripod.

Add the harp to the assembled lamp, top with a drum shade and secure with the finial.

Photography by Chris Hennessey


© Caruth Studio

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