How To Rescue Old Furniture Pieces

Architect Allen Oblena shares a few must-read tips

Photography: (Main Photo) and Allen Oblena

Whether it's a hand-me-down or a garage sale find, we all have that one piece that we absolutely love. It would have been a great conversation starter or a happily ever after, except for one major glitch—it looks tired and out of place in your home. Worry no more, since parting is too much of a sorrow, you can breathe new life into your beloved piece!

Architect and designer Allen Oblena shares with us his creative process as well as some tricks of the trade. If you're new to this craft, don't fret! Allen encourages you to try your hand at DIY. “I would say, DIY with reckless abandon! Google makes all things possible. But realistically, if you consider the skillset and amount of time needed (for example, upholstery works) to finish a project, it would be better to hire someone else,” he shares.

Since things often don't turn out the way we plan it to be, don't give up. Keep on trying! “Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time. Mistakes will eventually happen—it can be as simple as shortage in fabric or as complicated as buying a piece with deteriorating construction joints. Learning takes time,” Allen adds.

Are you ready to rescue your furniture? Take note of these reminders from Allen:

1. Look around the house for a piece you can make-over.

“Before you go out on a quest, I would suggest people to look first in their own homes. There are sofas that need reupholstering; vases that can be turned into lamps; old cabinet doors [that can be transformed] into jacket racks. The list goes on. Once you have gained the much needed experience, you can now set your sights on local thrift shops.”

2. Check if it's worth refurbishing.

"Let’s narrow down the specifics to sofa furniture. I look for seats with good frames. I don’t mind if the cushions are soggy or if the paints are chipped off, these are easy to address. It is also a plus for me, if a sofa was installed with proper springs. Cheaper ones usually use boards instead of the ideal spring supports.”

3. Step away from hopeless cases.

“I would often refuse to use the word hopeless. But yeah, there are several items that I stay away from like bug-infested sofas and particle board furniture. I sometimes see old stuff with tacky details like very ornate chairs—instead of refurbishing it, I deconstruct the item and use the parts to make new stuff.”

4. Doodle your way to your ideal design.

“I haul my purchases back to my place and let it sit there for at least a week or two. I call this the DOODLE MAKEOVER phase. I make sketches even before inspiration comes. It can come instantly, but sometimes, I have to squeeze my brain to force it out. Aside from [using] books and the Internet, inspiration may come even from the unlikeliest of places—texture of tree branches, abstraction of shanty roofing, and textile patterns, [to name a few].”

5. Bring your doodle to life by working on it.

“The last part, I call the RF B&A. This phase stretches from prep works (collecting swatches, testing finishes, consultations) up to the actual finishing works. Works can be easy but there are times, [when] we encounter challenges that [force us] to [go] back to the second phase. My workflow isn't exactly as rigid as it sounds (I tend to improvise), but it's necessary to implement some level of consistency and schedule for my workers."

6. When doing this kind of project, give yourself enough time to complete it.

“In an ideal setting,[it takes] one week for conceptualization and another one to two weeks for the actual work.”

7. Keep costs at a minimum. 

“Cost or affordability is relative. Rescuing furniture is cheaper, if you will consider all the variables. Affordability is just one of the many driving reasons behind this undertaking.”

Got questions or a project in mind that you want to work on? Get in touch with Allen Oblena through e-mail at arkibravado[at]

PHOTO: (Main).

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