Vintage furniture makeovers

Furniture ‘before and afters’ is what we like to call design porn, folks.  A lot of people do it, and somehow its still satisfying when done right – not porn, mind you, furniture makeovers. I was combing through old photos looking for Lake House ‘before’ and ‘progress’ photos (which I can’t find … sucks) when I found the ‘before’ version of two pieces of furniture that I redid. Exhibit A, this ugly gray waterfall 80’s desk. I think it was $60 or so at the thrift store and it was banged up. I bought this when I was doing those One Kings Lane sales where I needed to sell just a TON of furniture so I was buying and redoing furniture like crazy. The lines were simple but the finish was ugly. Remember – you can always change the finish, but you can’t change the shape. And this shape was hot.

lacquer table before

So I had him lacquered this beautiful blue (Galapagos Blue from Benjamin Moore). It cost $300 to lacquer (plus pickup/drop off). Rarely does anything cost less than $300 by the way. It seems crazy but lacquering is expensive because the materials are expensive and it is just really laborious and time consuming – needing lots of coats and sanding to do it properly.  So even if its something small its often $200 – $300. Anyway that ugly disgusting piece of garbage then became this beautiful statement desk:


Oh hey pretty. It was finally time to debut it. Its been in our guest room as Brian’s home office, but its too big for  in there so we are going to sell it, but before we did I wanted to at least shoot it. So we used it for the 3m Home Collection shoot.


Here’s the thing about lacquer – it looks pretty amazing when its in perfect condition, but its fragile. Its pretty easy to scratch and since its whole thing is that is EXTREMELY shiny you can see the scratches. I am selling this bad boy now, for $250 in LA (unless you want to coordinate shipping) so if anyone is interested let me know and you can come pick it up. Like I said, it has some scratches and some chipping on the bottom, but nothing crazy and ABSOLUTELY worth $250. Up next? Exhibit B: the retro vintage sofa that was once hideous.


This guy I splurged on because the shape was awesome and the scale is so good – its a small sofa, but bigger than a loveseat and packs a lot of punch with style. It was $400 from the flea market. The reason that is expensive is because the labor of recovering it was $600, the fabric was $12 a yard and we needed $10 yards.  Yes, this is cheap for fabric – i’m pretty sure its just thick pink canvas but it was so hard to find that color and that is what we wanted.


We used it for two magazine shoots (Redbook and Matchbook Mag) and so it was time to retire it from our portfolio. Around that time we started designing the creative offices and figured it was just perfect for them so we sold it to them for $700 (which yes, means that I lost money but I already got it in two shots so it kinda pays for itself in a way).

shopbandopink sofa

Here is Jen paying me for the sofa in pineapple pinatas – its the new on trend form of currency. Anyway, those are my two recent before and afters.

If you can’t get enough then check out this vinyl chairoh joy’s office chairs, and these now hot pink velvet chairs.  Happy monday, folks! xx

  1. Emily

    Thanks for always being so candid about what you paid for items! It really helps me understand what is a good deal and what is just way too much

  2. Sarah

    Please stop selling things for less than you paid.
    You deserve way more.

    • Emily

      :) Thanks, S. I’m a TERRIBLE business person, i know.

  3. these are both so sexy. do you ever update furniture legs? i noticed an amazing sofa from the fig house that looked like it had brass and lucite legs which is the most incredible thing, maybe ever.

  4. Jo

    You look awesome in that last pic. Is this a recent pic? If so, I take back all my comments about working out on whatever post-partum post that was. Just do what you’re doin’. You look amazing.

    • Emily

      HA! Thank you. I was sucking in really really hard. :)

  5. i love all that you do! so creative and colorful! i am continually inspired by you and your team!! wow!! i am visiting la soon…and was wondering if you would share with me the spot you bought the beautiful velvet fabrics that you used in the fig house…love that bright blue and am having a hard time finding it…thank you thank you!!

    • Emily

      Sure! Its from Home Fabrics, Downtown LA. Enjoy your stay!

      • terri

        thank you so much!! :D

  6. Kim

    That desk is gorgeous and I have the perfect spot for it! Who do I contact about buying it?



  7. Victoria

    I’m speechless regarding the pink sofa. A ‘My Fair Lady’ transformation. Your amazing.

  8. Hope

    You are so giving! Thank you, thank you for sharing all of the intimate details of your creative process, it makes me so happy. You are so busy and yet you continue to give, give, give. I love your blog, your voice and, of course, your style. I am gushing… I know there are many out there that feel the same way!

  9. tammyCA

    Neat. I like makeovers when they truly take a beat up reject and transform it into a beauty like you do (‘tho I kindasorta like that funky ’70s fabric on the couch it really did need a solid fresh, pretty color for its “Jetsons” style/shape). I like seeing truly barfy rejected pieces getting a transformation, but it bugs me seeing all these blog DIYers taking perfectly good solid vintage furniture & slapping paint all over it..not every piece of furniture has to be painted..wood is good.
    Btw, every time I see a ’80s era chair at the GW I think EH could re-do that into something terrific.

  10. MS

    This is a great post. May I ask where the lamp is from?

  11. Vel

    Love the desk!!!!

  12. Lynn Gill

    amazing transformations emily. Just saw your amstadamodern instagram pic, and am wondering when are you hoping to have your book released?

  13. kelly

    The before shot of that desk is just atrocious. I can’t believe it! Btw, this is the 2nd time you’ve made me look at that adorable giraffe and I’m almost ready to buy that ridiculously priced thing. Darn you Emily. :-)

  14. Those are some amazing transformations!

  15. Ale Peacock

    Is the desk spoken for already? I would love to buy if it’s still available.

  16. Martha

    Where is the wood slab from on the desk? Love the way it’s styled!

  17. Elena

    Emily, I love your outfit in that last picture! What make are the shirt and pants? So cute!

  18. eden

    I need to know where the white geometric planter is from!!!!

  19. I don’t know which individual of this post’s title I like best, but the complete phrase definitely takes the cake–vintage furniture makeovers! I love the Oh Joy! office chairs–I hadn’t seen them yet, so I appreciated the link. :)

  20. Megan

    Benjamin Moore says they don’t have Galapagos Blue, just Galapagos Turquoise. That awesome desk doesn’t look like turquoise. I’m painting a brick fireplace blue, and I love this color. Are you sure about the name?


  21. jd

    Practically everything I own is either vintage or antique; do you want to buy anything?

  22. Judy H.

    Damn that lacquered desk is gorgeous!

  23. linda Ruble

    Its damn nice!

  24. There truly is another way to get “one of a kind” furniture. I think I’ve become a Goodwill junkie looking for that perfect piece that needs to be restored or recreated / repurposed. Nice work with the paint on the bedroom desk by the way~

  25. Lavis Kavin

    searching i found this nice website.I am a google and search on many topics.

    Furniture Stores

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