Giving a Colonial chair a glossy black finish instantly updates the look.

How to Update Colonial Furniture

by Gina Samarotto

Colonial furniture was a mainstay of interior decorating for decades. The style of these pieces may be out of fashion today, but the durability of the furniture lives on. Instead of pitching those pieces, follow some designer tips and tricks to give them a more modern edge to welcome them back into your contemporary home.

Updated Metals

Much like a new pair of earrings can make an old sweater come alive, changing the hardware on your Colonial furniture pieces gives them a modern advantage. Swap out the brass ring pulls for hardware crafted of iron or nickel for a more contemporary look. Try drawer pulls in cut glass for a dramatic touch of sparkle. If you're going from a wide spread handle to a single screw pull, fill the existing hole with wood putty that closely matches the tone of the wood and touch up with paint or stain. Drill a new hole where the updated pull will be positioned.

Change Your Tone

Colonial furniture is often found in honeyed oak or warm cherry finishes. Update the feel of the piece by deepening the tone of the stain. Remove the hardware, lightly sand the gloss finish off the piece and apply a new stain in deep espresso or warm walnut to lend a modern aesthetic. Seal the newly stained piece with clear acrylic to protect the finish and add some shine to the piece.

Paint Away the Years

Instantly change the feel of a Colonial piece with a new paint color. Bright red gloss gives a Colonial dresser an Asian-inspired, modern look. Matte black lends an aesthetic that lets you mix Colonial pieces into an Arts and Crafts-style home. Metallic silver or gold turns ho-hum Colonial nightstands into elegant bedroom gems, or try an unexpected shade such as turquoise to give those smaller-scale pieces a pop of brilliant color.

Top It Off

Mosaic tiles in hand-painted ceramic, glass or even stainless steel are easy to install on the top surface of a chest, table or dresser. The artisan effect the tiles create makes even the lowliest piece of Colonial furniture the focal point of any room. For extra sparkle, try mirrored tiles. Make the piece one of a kind by creating a custom pattern that's yours and yours alone.

Fabric Switch Out

Upholstered pieces such as chairs, sofas and ottomans can be re-covered using modern fabric to give the entire piece a more contemporary feel. Try an animal print on a small chair or ottoman to bring an exotic touch to your space. Rich velvets give an opulent look to a Colonial sofa, or try a bold plaid for a fun stroke of color and texture.

About the Author

Gina Samarotto is an award-winning designer specializing in both interior design and landscape architecture. She is the principal designer of the New York-based Samarotto Design Group.

Photo Credits

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