Solutions: Remake vintage finds with a judicious eye

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

As we reach the peak season for flea markets and garage sales, the time is right for secondhand finds. Whether you prefer to do your own refurbishing or invest in something that’s already been spiffed up, vintage furniture can become an instant conversation piece.

Lindsay Palmer, interior designer and sales manager for Your Nesting Place in Milford, paints furniture for others as a side business.

If something is a quality heirloom or made from beautiful wood, she might recommend going a different route. “Instead of painting the whole piece, you can paint just the legs or the frame and add new hardware,” she says.

One of her favorite projects was a piece she did for a young boy who’s a huge Red Wings fan. “I painted his dresser and made it look like an old jersey,” says Palmer, who added the name of his favorite player among other details.

In her own home, Palmer reworks something whenever the mood strikes. “I paint stuff all the time,” she says. “If I get sick of it, I paint it again.”

She took her time before putting her personal spin on one family heirloom. “I have my mom’s solid oak dresser from when she was a child. I painted it cream and added really awesome hardware,” says Palmer. “Now I love it. It’s a whole new piece to me.”

For those on the hunt for something special, she has some advice. “If you’re looking for a dresser, make sure the drawers slide easily,” she says. “And always make sure the piece doesn’t smell.”

Chris Meredith, owner of Your Nesting Place, also recommends removing the drawers to see if the bottoms are warped. She cautions against wobbly tables or those that seem especially fragile.

“You don’t want to get into a major repair job,” says Meredith.

With upholstered pieces, she says it’s important to check for bugs.

The vintage furniture in her store has already been revived for those who’d rather skip the DIY process. For instance, she had a tattered old bench reupholstered for a whole new look.

“It’s really slick and modern now,” she says.

There isn’t much of a market for the arty pieces she sold in the past. “People want simple things,” says Meredith. “We’re almost going back to the roots where the piece began.”

Subtle designs include block painting with a modern approach in soothing shades like gray, sea foam and cream. “They have more of a mid-century look, which is so hot,” she says.

Rustic wood and rusty metal with a bit of embellishment is popular, as are skinny tables intended for small spaces. Clean lines are definitely in demand.

Recent trends shifted from shabby chic to industrial, and then there wasn’t a strong trend, says Meredith, “Now we’ve gone back to simplicity.”

Lastly, the overly layered look gave way to fewer, well-chosen pieces as people aim to streamline their lives with less stuff and less fuss.

For information, call Your Nesting Place at (248) 685-7314 or go to

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at