Snag » 15 Minute Makeover All Found. All Vintage. Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 15 Minute Makeover: A Cure for ULS (Ugly Laminate Syndrome) Wed, 05 Feb 2014 15:14:56 +0000 It happens all the time. You spy a great piece of vintage furniture in the distance at a garage sale, perhaps that perfect long dresser or dining table you’ve been hunting for, and as you run toward it like a person possessed, you slowly realize that it is plagued with ULS—ugly laminate syndrome. Every part of it is perfect, flawless, built like a tank, and then there’s that @$#%&!$ Formica top!  In another age when plastic was still a miracle, laminates were the perfect solution for making economical furniture that would look new for all eternity. Although some Formica surfaces are great (think white, bright colors or patterns), fake woodgrain usually just looks awful. This was the case when I found this great TV cart.


The top just ruins an otherwise lovely table constructed of solid walnut. Not only does it not match the real wood in any way, but it is in terrible shape. Unlike wood that can be repaired if scratched, a chip in that precious plastic skin is permanent.


Unsightly as it was, I couldn’t just leave it there for only $4. I thought about various ways to remedy it. Paint? Eh, too much surface prep and masking. Veneer? Too expensive. Vinyl? Hmm. That could work. Since the top is inset, the edges won’t show. It may sound a little like fighting fire with fire, but a solid color vinyl is a massive upgrade from faux woodgrain. To the fabric store!

VinylGood vinyl isn’t cheap (about $22 per yard) so I looked in the remnants first. I found a high-quality black vinyl with a realistic leather texture to give it some style. It was only $5 per yard and I had a 50% off coupon. Score! A word of advice about vinyl remnants: if they’ve been folded, the creases don’t come out. You can flatten the piece out by using a warm iron on the back side of the material, but deep creases are there to stay. It’s best to check it out in the store and be sure you can get enough material for your project between any folds. Since I needed this to be a perfect rectangle, I used a rotary cutter, straight edge and a cutting mat to get it perfect.

SuppliesTo prepare the surface, I scuffed the laminate with sandpaper. This allows the glue to better bond to the slick surface. I also used some adhesive masking paper to protect the edges of the wood from glue which is pretty viscous and hard to control. I used a 50/50 mixture of Aleene’s Tacky Glue and Aleene’s Fast Grab Glue. I mix them because the Fast Grab gives better initial hold, but the thinner Tacky Glue is easier to spread. I spread on the glue using a disposable China bristle brush, but I ultimately resorted to smoothing it out with a plastic putty knife to make sure everything had a uniform coat with no high spots. Then I simply smoothed on the vinyl and let it cure.

AfterEven though it’s still a synthetic surface, the vinyl looks 100% better than the laminate. The contrast in materials looks intentional and stylish rather than cheap. I also like that it’s easily changeable. If you get tired of black, peel it off and try another color. It only takes 15 minutes and it’s inexpensive to do. I only used a quarter of the vinyl I bought, meaning this transformation only cost about 65 cents, not including the glue I already had on hand. You could even repurpose salvaged vinyl or leather from another piece. The possibilities are endless and really only add to the piece without taking away from its original appeal.

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15 Minute Makeover: The Painted Lamp Mon, 28 Oct 2013 03:06:20 +0000 Last weekend I popped into the Goodwill Outlet store. If you haven’t been, you should definitely check it out just to see it with your own eyes. Items are tossed into troughs and priced by the pound. There’s a lot of digging and strategizing to get the best deal—the price per pound gets lower the more you buy. It’s not for everyone and it’s usually not for me, but on rare occasion I’ll find a sweet vintage something in the rubble. Take, for instance, this ceramic lamp.

Lamp_BeforeThis actually wasn’t in a bin, but on a shelf where a few items are priced individually. When I found it, it had a shade pulled down completely over it and all I saw was the wooden base peeking out. When I saw the rest of it I thought it was pretty nice, albeit a little bland. But there were a few chips in the off-white surface that gave me a glimpse of something green and wonderful. For just $0.99, it was worth finding out what was under that paint.

Tiny_ChipAfter scraping off more paint, I saw it was a glossy green glaze under white spray paint. Fortunately it’s completely safe to use most paint-removers on ceramics that have under-glaze decoration. I took the lamp apart, spread on the stripper and after about five minutes I simply wiped it clean with paper towels and reassembled. Simple as pie.

Ceramic_AfterI used a powerful methylene choloride chemical stripper that works in about a minute. If you don’t have an outdoor space to work in or would prefer not to use harsh chemicals, you could use any of the available “green” or “safety” paint strippers on the market. If you choose that option, spread on the stripper and wrap it in plastic wrap or a trash bag for about 20 minutes to an hour before trying to remove the paint. If it’s stubborn, leave it on overnight.



I suppose the off-white paint was an attempt to neutralize the color at a time when avocado wasn’t so fashionable. Granted, it still might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I like this lamp 100% better in its original form. If you haven’t done it, the idea of stripping down a lamp might seem like a long project. In reality, the total time for this project was less than 15 minutes and I even put a new cord on it while I had it apart. So don’t be intimidated the next time you see a painted lady at the thrift store, she might just look better without all the makeup.

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15 Minute Makeover: Walnut End Table Wed, 11 Sep 2013 14:23:28 +0000 I can’t tell you how often people tell me they love my refinishing work, but they’d never have the time or patience to do it themselves. Personally, I love refinishing furniture. There’s no greater joy than bringing a piece of furniture back from the brink and restoring it to its original glory. That being said, it’s hard work. It’s hard, sweaty, chemical-filled, frustrating, time-consuming work. I can definitely sympathize with those who don’t have the time or skill, and believe me, if I don’t have to refinish something completely, I don’t. Sometimes when a piece is in rough shape, but not too far gone, it only takes a matter of minutes to get it back in fighting shape—and the process is easy enough anyone can do it. I’ll walk you through it.

A couple weeks ago I found this 1960s basket weave end table at a garage sale.


I didn’t love how love worn it was, but for $3 I couldn’t just leave it there. The finish was there, but heavily worn with chips and dings. The top was the worst with a lot of wear and some missing patches from moisture damage.


What to do, what to do? To touch up the large chips in the pine legs, I used medium walnut Watco Danish Oil to match the color—simply wipe it on and wipe it right back off. But for the walnut parts I decided to test out a new product, Watco Rejuvenating Oil. Unlike the Danish Oil that we’re practically spokespeople for, rejuvenating oil contains no colorants, it’s just slightly amber. Rejuvenating oil is intended for periodically touching up oiled wood surfaces—not typically for wood that has been finished with a film finish like this piece. But I figured I had nothing to lose.

WatcoI used an application process similar to how we typically recommend using Danish Oil. I flooded the entire piece with rejuvenating oil using a rag and allowed it sit for about 20 minutes. Then, using a clean cotton rag, I wiped the entire piece dry. The key to success here is making sure you’ve removed as much of the product as you can. The goal isn’t to thickly coat over the original finish—which would likely result in a sticky mess—but to allow the oil to seep into any scratches or fissures in the finish and help them blend away. After wiping it down, the difference was unbelievable.

Before Rejuvenating Oil

Before Rejuvenating Oil

After Rejuvenating Oil

After Rejuvenating Oil

Remarkable right? The sheen is a bit shinier than the original, but that’s a small price to pay. After seeing how well the wood was turning out, I decided to turn my attention to worn finish on the hardware. I couldn’t put that shabbiness back on it now.

Hardware_BeforeOne handle was decent and the other was worn completely. The woodgrain paint was chipping off and the brass was down to the base metal. I decided to turn to my trusty Behlen black satin spray lacquer. I love this stuff because it goes on perfectly and dries in less than 10 minutes. I gave these a once over with 400 grit sandpaper and two coats of black lacquer. Picture perfect.

Hardware_AfterJust how did the whole piece turn out?

AfterNot too shabby, huh? I took this from curb ready to room ready in only 15 minutes. It’s important to note that the process only took 15 minutes, but the rejuvenating oil should really be left to dry for a couple days before putting the piece into service. But really, what’s a few days of just letting it sit compared to hours of stripping, sanding, oiling and clear coating? Of course this method won’t work on severely damaged pieces or on pieces with a finish that’s a significantly different color than the actual wood. For the everything else, it’s a 15 minute miracle.

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