Furniture Finishing & Tips

Buying “unfinished furniture” doesn’t mean you are purchasing a table with only three legs or a chair with no seat. The “unfinished” in unfinished furniture actually refers to wood finishing, or in this case, the lack thereof. Typically, finished wood furniture will have a protective surface (like a shellac or gel stain) applied to protect the wood from scratches, nicks and other damage associated with daily use. Unfinished furniture does not have this top coat protecting it.

So why buy unfinished furniture? For one, the savings are tremendous. By purchasing unfinished furniture, you can save up to 30% on a similar piece of furniture that is finished. Buying unfinished is truly a hidden secret of savings and can be a fun project to undertake. You can actually finish the furniture yourself! With the right steps and preparation, the process is simple enough.

You will need the following items to finish a piece of furniture:

  • Cheese clothnatural-cheese-cloth.jpg or brush paint-brush.jpg

  • Finishing sander finishing-sander.jpg

  • Tack cloth tack-cloth-size-18-x-36-remove-dust-before-painting.jpg

  • Stain wood-stain.jpg 

  • Sealer wood-sealer-some-stains-may-have-sealer-mixed-in-to-it-.jpg

  • Protective top coat you-can-use-wax-lacquer-polurethane-oil-.jpg

Step 1: Make sure the wood is ready to stain by first sanding it lightly in the direction of the grain with medium grit sandpaper, followed by a fine grit. You might want to lay down newspapers or a drop cloth (as if you were painting) to make cleanup easier later.

Step 2: Choose a wood stain that you like and apply the stain with a brush or cloth. Keep in mind that different types of wood might react differently to the stain. The finished piece of furniture may not look exactly like you had intended.

Step 3: Apply the sealer. Sealing is a good idea. Some stains will bleed through a finish giving an undesirable appearance. The extra step of sealing ensures a uniform and smooth finish.

Step 4: Use a tack cloth to remove any dust and particles from the surface of the piece being stained. If you don’t remove these particles before the sealer sets, you’re furniture will be stuck with them!

Step 5: Finally, apply a top coat with a clear finish to protect the wood against water, household chemicals, food stains and everyday wear.

It’s that simple!


6 Tips for Cleaning Wood Furniture

 The importance of furniture is sometimes taken for granted. Furniture not only makes our homes livable and comfortable, but it is also an expression of who we are. People take time and effort to choose pieces of furniture that suits their tastes and needs. Furniture is so important that many pieces become cherished family heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation. Such valuable and important things should be properly taken care of. Wood furniture, just like anything else we value in our homes, sometimes needs a little maintenance. Time and daily use takes its toll on even the best made pieces of furniture.

 When properly cared for, real wood furniture can last for generations and still look as good as the day your first bought it.

 Here are some useful tips on caring for wood furniture.

 1. Before you decide how to clean your piece of furniture, you need to determine what type of finish it has. Make sure to choose the right cleaner and conditioner for your particular piece. 

2. You should use a lint free cloth to polish your furniture on a regular basis. 

3. Use just a little furniture polish on the cloth and rub the surface to get a beautiful shine. When choosing a furniture polish, use the same type for each cleaning, either oil or wax based, to avoid polish smudges.

 4. Wipe in the direction of the grain of the wood whenever possible. 

5. When it comes time to remove built up wax, use either mineral spirits or synthetic turpentine with a soft, lint free cloth.

 6. Make sure to clean the entire surface of the piece and not just one part. This will ensure a uniform shine and protect your furniture for years to come.

 A little maintenance goes a long way in prolonging the life of your wood furniture! Basic cleaning will keep the wood looking healthy and shiny for many years to come.


How to Furnish Your Studio Apartment

For many New Yorkers and other urban apartment dwellers, living space is at a premium. So does small space equal a big problem? Not necessarily so. The limited space of a studio apartment should not prevent you from living comfortably and in style. In fact, selecting furniture for studio apartments can be a great time to test your creativity and uncover creative solutions! With a little imagination and ingenuity, anything can be done and you won’t feel like you’ve had to sacrifice space or comfort.

Here are six tips for furnishing a studio apartment to the max!

Tip 1: Make a scale drawing of your studio. Use this floor plan to get an idea of how your furniture will lay out in the space.

Tip 2: Identify the largest piece of furniture that will be in your studio. By identifying the largest piece of furniture in the room, you then can lay out the rest of your furniture around that piece. In most cases, beds take up the most space. Two clever ways to save space are either by using a Murphy bed or Storage Bed. Murphy Beds are wall mounted units that enable you to store your bed behind a cabinet. They usually use a hydraulic or spring mechanism to make it easy to lift the bed. Although a very practical solution, Murphy Beds have to be custom built and may be expensive. Storage Beds combine two pieces into one. A storage bed serves the purpose of a bed and dresser, thus eliminating the extra space needed for the dresser.

Tip 3: There are other multipurpose pieces you can use. Storage chests can also be used for seating. Some coffee tables and end tables incorporate storage solutions in their designs. Wall hung shelving and storage cubes are also very useful. Certain tables can be used for dining or as a writing desk. There are many solutions out there. You just have to find them. You shouldn’t be afraid to get creative with your furniture! You may even find a new use for a favorite piece that no one else has thought of.

Tip 4: Don’t choose the easy and cheap way out. Buy better quality products that you can use later in a larger space. Hopefully you won’t be in a studio apartment for the rest of your life. When it’s time to move upward and onward, have furniture that you want to bring with you.

Tip 5: If you have the height, go vertical. Usecloset systems that are taller to maximize your storage space. Store less frequently used items on top. Height creates the illusion of more space, so taller pieces can make your studio apartment feel much bigger.

Tip 6: Use odd details of your studio to your advantage. For example, if you have a large radiator in your space built a radiator cover around it and use the surface for displaying picture or storing books. Don’t be afraid to add some personality to your apartment!


The First Steps in Starting A Custom Project

 With the current weak housing market, many home owners are looking to make improvements to their existing homes instead of buying new ones. This type of custom work can be a small project, such as installing radiator covers, or larger ones, such as redoing a kitchen. Regardless of the scope of work, the experience of making improvements to your home can be very pleasant and exciting.

 Here are 4 basic tips on how to make your custom project fun and successful.

 Research The Shop:  The first step in any custom project is to find the right shop to build your custom work. One way to find the right shop is by asking friends if they have had any custom work done. You can use that information to find other reviews on that particular shop on the Internet. In the process you will find the names of other shops that can provide you with custom work. It is important to identify at least two shops so you can compare estimates on the work and design ideas. Once you get the name of two or three shops, the next step is to get an idea of what you want.

 Know What You Want:  Before visiting any custom workshops, do some research on what type of look you want to achieve. Will it be modern or traditional? An easy way to figure out what you want is to simply collect ideas/pictures from home décor magazines. You can present these to the designer in the store so they understand exactly the look you are going for. The designer will be able to help fully develop your idea and give you a rough sketch of the unit that you have in mind. Although most designers will be reluctant to do so, try to get a copy of the design so you can get other estimates and ideas. If they give you the design, most likely they are confident that their price is competitive and that you will return

 Interviewing the Shop Designer: How do you know if the designer is experienced? There are a few ways. Ask them to show you their portfolio of work. Pay attention to the questions they ask you about your home, such as if your floors are level. Pay attention to their drafting skills. Ask them questions about different wood species, materials, and hardware so you can assess how knowledgeable they are. It is important that you make sure they suggest they come to your home to take precise measurements.

 Visit The Shop Factory: Ask the store to give you a tour of its factory. This will allow you to see how organized and professional they are. It will also give you a good idea of the kind of work their shop typically handles. Are they known for creating elaborate and intricate custom work, or do they usually handle simple and small projects.  


Two for the Price of One- Getting the Most Out of Your Furniture

Furnishing a one room or studio apartment can be tricky. Most urban dwellers are familiar with the sinking feeling that accompanies the realization that there is just no way you’re getting that Queen size bed, bookshelf, desk and chair, dresser and side table into one room and still have a floor. What’s an crowded apartment dweller to do?

If you are downsizing to a one room or studio apartment (or maybe even upgrading if you’re getting your first apartment after college), don’t panic! Before you start hacking furniture apart or leaving pieces on the sidewalk for garbage day, consider choosing furniture that can serve a dual purpose.

Below are some suggestions on types of pieces that can be used in more ways than one:

Wall Unit/Room Divider: Do you live in a studio and desire two have two separate rooms? Maybe you don’t want your kitchen area to overflow into your bedroom or need to separate your “work” space from your “sleep” space. That can be easy enough if you pick the right wall unit. A wall unit with an open and finished back will do the trick. A wall unit can be place in the middle of a room and serve as a room divider as well as a wall unit for both rooms. What’s great about wall units is that can easily be moved, unlike real walls. If you have guests over for dinner, just push the wall unit out the way and open up your whole area!

Bed/Dresser: Furnishing a room with the proper pieces can be costly. By selecting pieces that serve dual purposes, you can drastically reduce your furnishing costs while maximizing your use. A good example is the storage bed. If you don’t have the floor space for a dresser and limited closet space, a storage bed is just what you need! A full, Queen, or King bed can be optioned with up to 12 drawers. This eliminates the need to buy a dresser or chest and can free up money and space. You can also choose to have a custom storage solution created to meet your needs and fit perfectly into your apartment.

Storage Chest/Coffee Table: The words “storage chest” does not do this versatile piece justice. Probably one of the most flexible types of furniture, it can be used as a coffee table or even a file cabinet. Some storage chests are built to also serve as benches, providing you with more sitting area.

Some may think that you have to sacrifice style for storage, but that’s not the case! It is easy to combine style with purpose. Many types of furniture can serve dual functions while enhancing the look of your space.


 Identifying Furniture Styles

Walking into a furniture store can be a bit overwhelming. Just like works of art, there are many different types of furniture genres or styles. Even picking out one couch from the rest as your favorite can be a long and laborious process because there are so many options for you to sort through. Chances are you know what you like and what you don’t like when it comes to how your furniture looks, but you are clearly able to identify what particular style of furniture is tickling your fancy.

In order to help streamline the furniture buying process, being able to identify what kind of furniture styles you do and don’t like can be a big help. The sales clerk will be able to skip over what you don’t like and take you directly to what you’re looking for. No more “well it kind of looks like that, but with tapered legs and a rounded back” when trying to describe the chair of your dreams.

Below is a list of 5 very popular furniture styles you’re likely to find in any furniture store:

Queen Anne (1700-1755): The furniture style is named after Queen Anne of England who reigned from 1702-1714. This style of furniture is a refinement of the William and Mary style with a moderately proportioned and graceful appearance. It is categorized by cabriole legs terminating in a pad or drake foot, fiddle back chair, and bat wing shaped drawer pulls.

Early American (1640-1700): Early American furniture is often stylized as rudimentary utilitarian furniture made from local woods. It was brought from or modeled after European styles, particularly from England, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Scandinavia.

Federal (1780-1820): This furniture style incorporates neoclassic furniture style characteristics. It is characterized by graceful straight lines, light construction, tapered legs, and the use of inlay, and contrasting veneers.

Shaker (1820-1860): Shaker furniture is a simple and utilitarian style of furniture produced by the religious groups in self contained communities (such as the Amish) within the United States. It is characterized by straight tapered legs, woven square chair seats and mushroom shaped wooden knobs.

Scandinavian Contemporary (1930-1950): Pieces of Scandinavian Contemporary furniture have a simple utilitarian design style in natural wood and were popularized by Danish and Swedish designers.


 Why does wood color change?

We frequently receive questions about the color of wood not being the color expected or questions about the color changing with time. Let's review a few items about wood color so we can understand what is going on when the color of dry wood changes. (Color changes in wet wood or during drying are different and are not considered here.)


Heartwood and sapwood :


Wood has a fairly white outer zone of wood cells, called sapwood. These cells carry liquids from the roots to the leaves and so these wood cells are pretty much wide open with little interference.
As these cells get older and new cells are formed under the bark, the older cells become a chemical depository for the tree and lose their permeability. They frequently become another color and may even have an aroma, as well as decay and insect-resistant properties. These old sapwood cells are called heartwood.
Heartwood may make up most of the wood in the tree, such as with oak, or may make up very little, such as with maple or pine. The heartwood color varies from species to species (for example, red in cherry, chocolate brown in walnut).
Even within the same species (for example, yellow-poplar can be greenish mainly with sometimes reddish, black, brown streaks or patches; these variations may be due to climate, soil or other factors.
As common lumber names often include several species, color variation within the same species grouping can often be noticed and troublesome.


Exposure to light:


It is common to see the color of dry wood will change when exposed to light. Most often, the contrast is seen when a table decoration is removed and the wood under the item has its original color but the surrounding wood has gotten darker or lighter.
Indeed, darker woods seem to darken more, while lighter colored woods tend to bleach. In fact, it is in part the darkening of cherry, walnut and true mahogany that make these wood so prized for furniture.
It would not be unreasonable to expect the finish itself to have some influence on the color change; in fact, no clear finish can prevent the change.

Exposure to water:

Dry wood should not be exposed to water. The water, as it is evaporated, can move water soluble chemicals in the wood up to the evaporating surface, leaving these chemicals and, as a result, discoloration.
If there is a trace of iron in the water, it can react with the tannic acid on the wood to form iron tannate, which is blue-black in color, although it appears grey if very small amounts of iron are present. (This darkening also can occur when using water-based finishes that have traces of iron, intentional or accidental, in them.)


The luster of wood is dependent on the angle it is viewed from, plus quartersawn tends to be more lustrous in appearance. Generally, the more color to the heartwood, the duller the wood.
Eastern spruce has much more luster than eastern white pine although the two look very similar. Northern Catalpa is lustrous compared to its identical, but dull looking, sassafras. White ash has much more luster than black ash. Maple, especially soft maple, can be quite lustrous when viewed from one angle, but can become flat and even seem to change color when viewed from another angle.


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