How to Refinish Beautiful Antique Furniture Like a Pro

by | DIY

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Posts on Robyn’s French Nest may contain affiliate links. You can see our full disclosure details here.)

Have a beautiful piece of furniture that needs some love?  Do your research before you get started and check out these tips to refinish antique furniture from the experts at East End Salvage!. Keep reading for a full tutorial!

Do you have an heirloom piece that you’d love to turn into a feature of your home, but the wood just doesn’t go?  Or perhaps you’ve passed up that “perfect piece” because of how the wood color dates it?


Today, we have a guest host from the professionals from East End Salvage in McKinney, Texas.  Kaci is going to fill you in with all the details you need to refinish antique furniture!


Finding the perfect piece!

The first step was to reach out to some professionals.  How do I know that the East End Salvage team are the professionals?  Because we are so blessed to have an incredible antique, 19th century chemist cabinet, in our home!

This antique, salvaged from Northern Wales, was a wonderful purchase from East End Salvage.  It is exactly what we were looking for and their team made it all happen!

Know what your needs are!

Then patiently wait for the right investment piece!

We have been working on redoing and upgrading our playroom to better suit our kids’ growing ages.  When I started the hunt for a cabinet that would serve as storage and as a media console, I quickly discovered that the dimensions I needed were going to be tricky!

Always looking to support small businesses, I reached out to East End Salvage.  They are always hunting for such incredibly unique vintage and antique pieces.

Kaci, one of the owners, quickly and graciously responded that they did have a piece with my dimensions, but it needed some love.  We discussed the overall look we wanted for our home and Kaci’s team quickly got to work to perfectly refinish this antique furniture piece.

To give the history of this antique piece, as well as how the East End Salvage team refinished and restored it, I’m going to turn this blog post over to our guest host, Kaci!

Here are all the details, in her words!  (Don’t you love getting the facts from the expert?!  I do!)

Refinish antique furniture…and get a history lesson!

The antique cabinet was salvaged in Northern Wales, in the Snowdonia National Park region  from a local chemist in the small town of Blaenau, Ffestiniog.  In the UK, a chemist is a shop where you can buy medicine, cosmetics, and some household items (the US equivalent of a pharmacy). 

Although the piece was hand built using top quality materials and craftsmanship, the outdated finish needed a refresh! Originally stained (in the late 19th century) a deep mahogany shade of red with a painted black baseboard and a heavy shellacked glossy finish, it was no longer attractive or stylish. 

Best Process to Refinish Antique Furniture

Power Wash & Strip

The deep red stain had been touched up and waxed many times over the years, so stripping the layers off to reveal the natural wood beneath was a challenge!  One of our restoration members, Megan, stripped and power washed the piece six times before we finally saw the graining of old pine wood … as well as a pleasant surprise … the cabinet door panels were made of gorgeous walnut!


Dry & Bleach

Once stripped and the wood was given time to dry, we applied a wood bleach and left it in the Texas sun for a few days to work its magic, fading any discoloration and reddish stain left behind. 



After bleaching, the cabinet was sanded, conditioned using a sanding sealer, and then sanded again.  Once smooth to the touch, we applied a low sheen water based topcoat.


.  Although the piece had found a new life and was already looking beautiful, I felt it needed some “character” . . . besides I didn’t want it to look like a new piece of furniture!  It is nearly 150 years old!



I left the longleaf pine boards on the top natural and sealed, to tell it’s story, and decided to only re-finish the cabinet portion of the piece.  Robert applied one of our favorite aging finishes using a water based glazing effect in a dark espresso brown color, called Java. 

The glaze sat in all of the crevices, nicks, and cracks of the old wood and highlighted it’s time worn markings. This antique cabinet was now ready to add old world charm to a modern home.


Why Antiques?

Antiques are one-of-a-kind. Their style, charm, and craftsmanship cannot be reproduced. Once gone, the history attached to them is forever lost. 

By modernizing the finish and making repairs on this antique chemist cabinet, we’re preserving its story, which is truly our collective history, and ensuring that it continues on for at least another century or two.

This thoughtful restorative approach is the filter with which we view all East End Salvage pieces and why our motto is Buy Old, Make New, Love Again.

Kaci Lyford

East End Salvage

European Antiques and Architecturals


McKinney, Texas


Didn’t Kaci do an amazing job of explaining the process to refinish antique furniture?  I wish all of you could stop by and see how pretty it is in person.  It couldn’t possibly fit our space and needs any better so both the function and gorgeous style make this perfect for our home!

As I mentioned before, finding a vintage or antique piece that was low enough for a media console was a fun challenge.

While a true apothecary cabinet wasn’t the main priority, it makes my apothecary-collecting heart happy.  I love pieces that help the different rooms of our home flow together, from the play/game room to the dining and music rooms!

This antique piece, refinished by East End Salvage, could be used in almost any room so it has versatility for many, many years to come.  We love investing in pieces that we know can serve our home in different ways!

For now, though, it is the perfect media console and also provides storage for thousands of pages of music!  (I know, not typical, but it’s a real need for our family!)

If you are looking to refinish antique furniture, whether an heirloom or a fun, thrifted find, I know you’ll find this detailed process from Kaci and the East End Salvage team to be so helpful!  I can’t wait to hear what piece you’ll choose to try this refinishing method on!

I’d love for you to follow me on social media!  You can find my home decor inspiration on Instagram, Pinterestand Facebook!  











(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Posts on Robyn’s French Nest may contain affiliate links. You can see our full disclosure details here.)

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