Design Question of the Day: Buy New or Repurpose?

As an Interior Designer, I often meet with clients that want to update their interiors or they are moving to a new home and need a fresh vision. Their existing furniture and rooms are often tired, worn, out of date or sometimes they just need a change to meet their current living needs! To come up with a plan of action to refresh and renew, we discuss style, colours, floorplans, feature elements and quite often whether to buy new furniture! Believe it or not, brand new is not always the best answer!

Finding the best layout for furniture that enhances the flow of a room, choosing the right pieces that will give the homeowners their desired 'look' is the mission. Often furniture styles can inhibit a particular look. If you have furniture made in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s you often come across sofas and chairs not as long lasting, perhaps with high backs, big rolled arms and dated or worn fabrics. Wood furniture is often lacquered or stained dark, has an orange hue or an overly blond hue that screams 'dated'! Drapery and rugs are other big 'tells' of an out-of-date interior.

So what do I recommend, what are the road blocks to getting the desired 'look', function and form for your home?

Number 1: Have a plan and an idea (with pictures) of what you are hoping to achieve. This is where a professional is indispensable. A good designer will save you money! If you are interested in Coastal style then take a look at our own 'Coastal Design Personality Quiz' (top bar of our website) and then learn about your style in our 'Atlantic Coastal Design Guides'. Best to have each family member do this individually to get their individual style. This is a great jumping off point. Using the website is another great way to save pictures from the internet or your phone (easy to use as an app) when you feel inspired as it helps greatly in the planning of an interior.

Number 2: Have a floorplan to size that works for the space and your needs! Check the sizes of pieces of furniture and layout to maximise the space and its use.

Number 3: Take a look at what you have to see what can be reused or repurposed. There is no point in keeping an old sofa with a high back and big arms if it blocks the view/access in the room, or doesn't allow for a proper amount of seating. Be brutal in your assessment. Here are some ideas on what can be saved, repurposed and reused:

  • If a sofa or chair has the right style, is sturdy and well made but worn or has a dated fabric, consider recovering it in a neutral, more modern fabric like a solid linen, cotton blend or velvet. We happen to have a wonderful Upholsterer here on Jersey to recommend Fernanda MacIntrye (@materialgirljsy on instagram) and can source material for you.
  • Take a good look at those vintage pieces like smaller chairs and footstools you have inherited. Can they be re-stuffed and repurposed into a unique piece of functional furniture? A fun patterned fabric or leather on an old piece, set in an entry or next to a mantle is often just the right touch to make a home unique and tell a history and story of you and your family.   
  • Headboards can easily be reupholstered. Think of a piece of furniture that has a stain, perhaps you can replace just the seat cushion in a coordinating fabric.
  • Now for your case goods (wood pieces of furniture). Old dull bookcases can be built-in with a bit of trim and painted (or backed in a seagrass wallpaper) to make them look custom. Bright colours (painted in solid lacquer finishes in oranges, pinks, reds, blues, greens, black) can transform a small table for a bedside or an occasional table. Have an off piece of marble or stone cut to size to upgrade the top (Jersey Monumental Company here on the island has lots of scrap stock).
  • If your dining table is the wrong finish but the right size this is the perfect piece to strip and re-stain (or paint). You can get a weathered oak look and use a matte sealed finish on a natural wood to protect it but get an easy & relaxed vibe. Stay away from glossy stains and finishes as they tend to date quickly. This is where adding new and more comfortable dining chairs to an existing table can really update the whole look.
  • Lighting is also a wonderful element to reuse and repurpose. Removing or swapping out lamp shades, spraying a fixture in a new colour or even adding a bit of hanging crystals can improve what you have. If they are lamp bases and very dated, consider wrapping them in nautical or jute rope, a glue gun comes in handy for anchoring the rope every so often. 
  • Out of date patterned rugs can be removed and replaced with simple jute or natural fibre floor coverings in simple shades and patterns.
  • Dated or heavy drapery can also be removed and think of ways to reuse all that material). Make it into a more modern flat window shade, cover a footstool, a pet's bed or sell in a secondhand shop. Replace with more of a layered look when needed. My favourite is pairing unlined linen drapes with flat blackout shades.

In conclusion, I recommend selling any unwanted furniture via Facebook groups etc if you can't repurpose or reuse it. Don't compromise the function and style of the finished space just to hold on to the past.  Preserve what can be and then find the perfect new pieces to add to your interiors that will serve the test of time!


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