How to Refinish Wood Furniture Without Stripping | Desk Chair Makeover
How to remove scratches and blemishes to refinish wood furniture without stripping or sanding in one simple step + vintage bedroom desk chair and vanity makeover.
We’ve been making headway in Olivia’s “teen” bedroom makeover, and the latest thrifted bedroom desk and chair makeover that I just finished totally has my heart!
The wooden chair I found at the Habitat Restore was dry, scratched, and blemished, but it was so charming! That little carved tulip detail at the top? Oh so cute!
And the desk I found on Craigslist was the perfect size for Olivia to use as a homework desk and vanity.
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Honestly, I don’t mind having some dents and dings when it comes to vintage wood furniture in a cottage style room.
But I really wanted to make this dry wood look supple and restored without needing to totally sand it down, re-stain, and seal it. So I tried a new-to-me method to refinish wood furniture without the need for all of that.
Related: How to Clean Wood Furniture to Make It Look New
Vintage Bedroom Desk and Chair Makeover
- Murphy Oil Soap
- Clean, dry rags
- Upholstery Foam (I just used this $15 mattress topper in a rush and it worked great.)
- Kitchen Towel (I used as upholstery fabric)
- Staple Gun and Staples
- Small piece of 1/4″ plywood (for cutting a new chair seat since the old one was bad)
- STIX waterborne bonding primer (I used on the desk)
- Wood filler (used on the desk)
- Medium and fine grit sandpaper (used on the desk)
- Purdy 2″ angled brush (for painting desk)
- Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Enamel in Anew Gray satin finish (used on the desk)
- Flower knobs
Before starting on the wood chair frame, I removed the seat pad. (I discovered it needed to be completely replaced after removing 3 layers of fabric and gross batting, so I got to that step after restoring the wood.)
How to Clean Wood Furniture
I gave the wooden chair a deep cleaning first with my favorite wood furniture cleaner: Murphy Oil Soap.
It smells like citronella and removes tons of grime and musty smells from old furnishings.
I mix 1/4 Cup soap in a gallon of piping hot water and give the wood surface a quick wipe down with a rag, then wipe with a dry rag and let air dry the rest of the way.
How to Restore Wood Furniture Without Sanding
I’ve used Old English furniture polish in the past but wanted to give this Howard Restor-A-Finish a shot.
Instant love! It works like a dream!
The end result won’t be brand new wood furniture like a total stripping, re-staining, re-sealing would do, but it comes as close to that as possible in a matter of minutes. (I’m not sponsored by this brand. I’m just really excited by how well it worked!)
I just applied the oil to a rag and wiped down the wood surface, then wiped away any excess after soaking into the wood for a few minutes.
See how much of a difference it made?!
After applying the Restor-A-Finish, the wood looked conditioned and shiny and scuffs were drastically less noticeable. Some of the scratches were completely gone.
If you need extra heavy duty wood refinishing for deeper scratches, you can apply the Restor-A-Finish with a steel wool pad.
Inexpensive Hack to Reupholster a Chair Seat Pad
For the chair seat pad upholstery, I discovered I could just use a kitchen towel from Target as my upholstery fabric!
I compared a few different kitchen towel patterns (and a couple from IKEA) to see how it would look against Olivia’s rug, but ultimately chose the reddish pink striped towel.
Related: See how to How to Reupholster Dining Chair Seats here
Bedroom Desk Repainting
The small desk had a not-so-great paint job on it with dried drips and scratches all over the black finish.
So I did have to sand the bad spots, wood fill holes and cracks, and primed with STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer to give the paint extra grip. This desk will take a beating, so I wanted to make sure I was using the most durable primer and paint possible.
I had some Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Enamel leftover from the entryway’s reeded bench makeover, so I used it on this bedroom desk.
The color Sherwin Williams Anew Gray is the perfect neutral against the Sherwin Williams Smoky Blue beadboard. It works beautifully with the Swedish wallpaper!
Finished Bedroom Desk and Wood Chair
All in all for the secondhand furniture, upholstery fabric (aka a kitchen towel), flower knobs, and furniture refinishing supplies, this entire bedroom desk setup cost $124 total!
Not too shabby, huh?
I just leaned Olivia’s old memo board against the wall for now because I do NOT want to nail anything into this gorgeous wallpaper unless I absolutely have to.
- Beadboard color: Sherwin Williams Smoky Blue
- Linen memo board (similar)
- Desk Lamp
- Lidded Basket
- Small Vase
- Fluted Glass Trinket Dish
I’m thinking this bedroom desk vanity area will end up in front of a window, but I’m still working on the furniture layout in my head for this space.
What do you think so far?!
Refinishing Furniture Ideas
- How to Clean Wood Furniture to Make It Look New
- How to Restore Wood Outdoor Furniture
- How to Add Reeding to Furniture | Shoe Storage Bench Makeover
- Best Places to Buy Furniture Hardware and Kitchen Cabinet Pulls