#JKID Project | How to Upcycle Antique Furniture

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

I learned how to upcycle trash to treasure very early on in my design career. I call it the “School of Kelly Wearstler” where custom is king and reupholstering antique and vintage finds is essential to every space’s interior individuality. 

Interning for Kelly was like having exclusive access to the most amazing decades-old furniture from the West Coast to Timbuktu. Her team scours the globe near and far for the next BIG thing in design and brings ‘em on home for a second chance at a luxurious Hollywood life. Ratted and tattered, broken and beaten, it’s the trained eye that can see beautiful bones beyond decrepit façades. So it’s no surprise that every single one of my designs incorporates a salvaged piece of furniture with new upholstery, new finishes, and always a new and better life to boot. Interior design may be my day job, but rescuing furniture might just be my calling y’all.

{Before/ After} 

I found "Grandma's old chair" on Craigslist for $40. 
Negotiated it down to $30 and here she is, $300 worth of fabric and upholstery labor later. 
She now lives in my LA apt sitting pretty as an accent piece. 
A steal for such a custom job- I could easily sell her for a cool thousand and clients would bite! 

{Before/ After}

Remember this post when I was searching for the perfect dining chairs?
Scored 4 matching midcentury beauties on Craigslist at $150/set and upcycled them into these haute pink stunnas that also live in my LA pad...still working on the finishing touches so you can see them styled in all their glory!

{Before/ After}

This campaign dresser was another score on Craigslist, my GO-TO resource for super affordable gems. I paid $125 for her, not the most inexpensive piece but she was in good condition since I knew I'd spend quite a bit of time refinishing her. She lives in LA too, where all my fave pieces go to summer. ;D

{Before/ After}


My current bed upcycled from yet another Craigslist find. I paid $100 for this 4-poster beauty.
Spent some time upcycling and refinishing and she is now the singular centerpiece to which my entire boudoir is designed after. Those beaded details were perfect for accenting in gold. Sometimes you just gotta look for the little things that will make a big difference.



Before porter chairs were all the rage (about a decade ago) they were NOT easy to find y'all. 

I searched for months and months and finally found these brand new domed chairs on eBay for around $500/piece. They're worth thousands after this finish job (below). They now live on the harbor in a fabulously luxe estate. From tacky to tres chic!


{Before/ After}

I searched high and low for a beautifully shaped settee for this hotel lobby renovation.
I knew I wanted a very traditional shape with a curvy body and found her in Old Town Orange at a local antique dealer's shop. She was probably one of my more expensive finds (around $300 before upcycled work) but one of my favorites to date. After gilding the frames, installing new foam and padding, reupholstering with a mix of vintage and velvet fabrics, she now resides in Pasadena and serves as the main seating for guest check-in. Fit for royalty!


Ever since I was a wee lil lass I remember fashioning old thrift finds into my daily ensemble choices. Upcycling is easy as long as you have the patience for it. Like yoga to some, it’s a form of meditative activity for me. I completely zone out the minute I step foot into a flea market. Digging through piles of old junk may scare most people away but it’s the thrill of the chase that keeps me yearning for more! You never know what treasures are waiting to be found!

What was your last great find???


You Might Also Like


  1. you are amazing at finding these goods and reupholstering them. visionary!


  2. Umm.. seriously!?! amazing work! ....now I am off to craigslist land.... :) thanks for a dose of inspiration!

  3. thank you sooooo much for the cute comment, pretty :)
    wow IMPRESSED !!!!!! I'ver never seen cool stuff like that.


  4. Wow love the pink dresser! So cute!
    Would love to have you stop by!

  5. Whoaaa! These are beautiful! I've always wanted to learn how to reupholster furniture, but you are amazing! You def have talent and perhaps this is your calling!

    i can’t afford my lifestyle

  6. Wow, I'm blown away, the before and the afters are such an amazing transformation!


  7. Wow, that's amazing transform.


  8. WOW. so nice. I can't believe. Very beautiful.

  9. what you do is pretty amazing. I'm an architect, but definitely I don't have your talent for reclying and I admire it a lot.

  10. Wow! Amazing ! Love the idea making new things with the old ones! I've done it with my commode :P


  11. wonderful work!!!


  12. Absolutely gorgeous work!! I'd love to be able to save furniture like that too, especially since in the center of France there are loads of abandoned beauties that just need a touch up. But the part that scares me the most is the upholstering, it seems quite complicated to get right :(

    GIVEAWAY on my blog

  13. Very good! Really well done :)

    Lu, www.balgarka.co.uk

  14. Wow these all came out great. I love the dresser!

    xo, Yi-chia
    Always Maylee

  15. very inspiring!


  16. Can I just start by saying how much I love the doggie stairs for the bed! Genius! Seriously genius! I love up-cycling too and used to be heavily involved with it with a friend of mine a few years back. I LOL at the porter chair comment. Yeah they were impossible to come by and that was actually something high on our agenda though we'd never find any sadly. Not today though, they're everywhere and the magic has kind of gone for me. That four poster bed is my favorite though, what a fantastic job you've done. Everything here is magnificent. I think this flame has been rekindled again...


  17. These before/afters are amazing! My favorite has to be the hotel lobby settee, the fabric you chose for the back is beautiful (and I love the entire hotel renovation post).


    Another Beautiful Thing blog

  18. wow that's amazing <3

  19. This is such a great idea! Love these before/afters x


  20. Stop it!!!! Those are all stunning. I am in love with the pink dresser.

  21. OMG, these are fabulous...you are a upholstery genius..love everything u have done...


  22. Wow all of your finds and redesigns are so beautiful - you're so talented! I was looking for a cheap desk lamp and almost found the perfect style one on Ikeas site (the barometer one), which I was going to spray paint gold, but they didn't have them in stock. Any ideas where I can find an inexpensive brass/gold lamp? Also where did you get those doggy stairs?? I need them!!

  23. The red chair look so cool!


  24. Julie! Your work is flawless & I was simply proud of the one time I reupholstered my mom's dining room chair cushion. I need that pink dresser-- like yesterday!

    XO & Mimosas,


  25. @Miss Sophisticate
    Those doggy stairs are from amazon, I have one for every bed :D HomeGoods has the best selection of inexpensive lamps, hoping there's one in your hood!

  26. Thanks for all the fabulous feedback y'all! Just to clarify, all of the refinishing work is done by moi :D The upholstering I leave for the pro's! But EXTRA thanks for believing in my skee-los!

  27. love looking at stuff like this. great post.

    come check me out!
    mon | http://www.monsemble.ca

  28. I would say that these all pieces of antique furniture are amazing! My favorite has to be the hotel lobby settee, the fabric you chose for the back is beautiful (and I love the entire hotel renovation post).

  29. I love all of those transformations! And those pieces have so much more character than something found in a store.

  30. Wow, I love the way you're able to find a fresh life from those furniture pieces. The prints and colour you use are so luxurious! I know I would buy them if I had the money!


    Miss Eliza WonDerland

  31. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that i have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. office cubicles miami


Give it to me...gimme that funk, that sweet, that gushy stuff

Like us on Facebook

Yelp Golden ELITE Reviews