All About ReDecorating

Reuse furniture and bring fresh life to a room
01:00 AM EST on Sunday, November 23, 2008
By Robin Stansbury

The Hartford Courant

An old desk is put to use as a side table on a sun porch. Left, an office credenza serves as storage space for shoes and other accessories in the Durham, Conn., home of interior designer Sharon McCormick. With some adjustments — removing the doors, replacing wood shelves with glass and adding a mirror as a backdrop — an old armoire can become a wine cabinet or a home-office cabinet.

Hartford Co urant / CLOE POISSON

Janice Perkins bought a clothes dresser more than a decade ago, but it never made it into her bedroom.
Instead, the versatile dresser has been useful for Perkins in three places in three houses. Once it held a television set; another time it served as an entry table coupled with a mirror.
And, although it was built to hold clothes, its three wide drawers now comfortably store Perkins’ table linens, napkins, candlesticks and napkin rings in an area near her dining room.
“It’s just a nice piece of furniture. It comes with me wherever I move. I always seem to find a place for it,” says Perkins, who recently moved herself and her bedroom dresser into a new condominium in Farmington, Conn. “It’s a classic piece. It will stay around forever.” Even if it never makes it into the bedroom.
Furniture can get a second life, serving an entirely new function. Experts call this “repurposing” furniture, and designers say they use this trick often, to add surprise and interest to a room.
Amateur decorators, though, have a harder time and are less likely to make use of furniture in this way, afraid of breaking an unspoken design rule or unable to remove the name of the furniture from its purpose.
But just because it’s called a dining room cupboard doesn’t mean it needs to reside in a dining room. The same is true for sofa tables, which don’t need to be near a sofa. And as Perkins proves, bedroom d ressers don’t need to be in the bedroom.
“Most of us already have furniture, so it’s wonderful to use it in a new application,” says Kirsten Floyd, owner of Kirsten Floyd Interior Design in Hartford, Conn. “And a dresser is one of the best examples, because it is one of the most universal pieces of furniture and one of the most reusable.” Floyd says she has used dressers in entryways with a tray on top to gather keys and mail, and drawers to capture hats, gloves, scarves and mittens. She also has put them in a workroom to store art supplies and in a kitchen for pots and pans.
“A small dresser with draw! ers can be used just about anywhere,” Floyd says.
If you still have trouble picturing a dresser anywhere but in the bedroom — or a desk other than in an office, or a dining room chair matched with something other than its table — then try transforming the piece, designers say.
Adding a granite, marble or butcher-block top —- just have one cut and lay it on, its weight will keep it in place without further attachment —- can make a dresser feel more like it belongs in the kitchen. Changing knobs and hinges helps furniture feel different. And if you want a bigger challenge, you can transform furniture completely by staining the wood a different color or sanding and painting it.
“Changing it in some way is a good idea, so it doesn’t feel like the same piece of furniture,” Floyd says.
Perhaps the latest furniture piec e being given a second life is the giant television armoire used to store a big TV behind closed doors. Modern flat-screen and plasma televisions are turning these armoires into relics, but they don’t have to be, designers say.
“Everybody has them, and you can try to sell them, but you can’t get much money for them because no one needs them anymore,” says Sharon McCormick, owner of Sharon McCormick Design in Durham, Conn. “So the best thing is to turn them into something else.” With some adjustments — removing the doors, replacing wood shelves with glass and adding a mirror as a backdrop — an old armoire can become a wine cabinet. Or it can be repurposed into a home-office cabinet, with storage for a computer and drawer space for paper and a printer.
McCormick transformed her own large armoire, originally designed to store clothes, into a linen closet for her bathroom. The shelves hold towels and toiletry items, and the bottom doors were rehinged so that two hampers now tilt outward to collect dirty clothes.
Nearby in the bathroom, McCormick tucked an upholstered chair and a floor lamp for soft lighting.
“It was an empty corner, and I had the chair but I never knew what I was goin! g to do with it,” McCormick says. Placing an upholstered chair in a bathroom is “unusual but so handy” to sit down and dry your hair, put on makeup, or keep an eye on children in the bathtub, she says.
McCormick has embraced the practice of repurposing furni ture, and all around her historic home are examples of her own twists on classic pieces of furniture serving new functions.
“Some people are not confident enough to put something in an unusual place. Or they can’t imagine things any other way or in any other place than where it already exists,” she says. “But the more unusual and unexpected it is, the more exciting a room can be.” In her mudroom is a six-drawer filing cabinet she originally bought for her office. It now stores hats, shoes and gloves. On her sun porch is a small desk she repainted white and uses as a side table. On the other side of the room is a painted dresser that functions as a decorative table.
McCormick says that even if you don’t reuse your own furniture, it’s easy to find someone else’s item at a tag sale.
“Keep an open mind about what it could be,” she says. “If there’s something about it that appeals to you, you can always find a new use for it, even if it was not what it was intended to be — and that makes it more interesting. It’s always nice when someone walks into a room and says, ‘Wow. That’s cool. I never “Tips for Trying New Things would have thought of that.’
If you are thinking of repurposing a piece of furniture, designers offer these guidelines to help determine whether the piece fits a new place.
* Anything being used as an end table or side table placed next to furniture generally shouldn’t extend 2 inches above or below the arm of a sofa or chair.
* Furniture used as an entryway table shouldn’t extend too far into the hallway or walking space leading from a door. Usually allow for 36 to 42 inches of walking space.
* Don’t try to squeeze too much furniture into a dining room. Make sure there is en! ough roo m to pull a chair all the way out from the table with room to sit down and, ideally, with some extra walking space behind the chair even when it is pulled out.
— Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

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