How to Salvage Vintage Furniture

by | DIY, Home

Have you ever come across a vintage piece, passed it up, and regretted it?  That was me a few weeks ago!  Some of you might even remember that I shared this piece on my Instagram stories while we were at the market.  Well, I ended up going back and thankfully, it was still there.  AND, I got a little better deal too!

Have you ever come across a vintage you loved but couldn’t get past the “old” smell?  This old card catalog had seen better days and was in definite need of a little TLC.  I still can’t believe the transformation and how the smell is gone too!

I did some research to find something that would take care of both the decades of dirt and grime as well as the smell.  I used this method from the Better Homes and Gardens blog  for cleaning and it worked like a charm!  We then added our own steps to finish up the piece and make it ready for styling.

Here’s how we did it:



    • Olive oil
    • Denatured alcohol
    • Gum turpentine
    • Strained lemon juice
    • (2) soft cloths
    • Clear, matte polyurethane
    • Dish soap
    • Sponge
    • Bucket



  • Step One: We took the card catalog outside and washed it gently with a sponge and soapy dish water.
  • Step Two:  We created the equal parts mixture of olive oil, denatured alcohol, gum turpentine, and strained lemon juice.
  • Step Three: We applied the solution over all the wood with a soft cloth.
  • Step Four: We buffed the wood with a clean cloth.
  • Step Five: We sprayed the rusted metal handles with a clear, matte polyurethane.  It doesn’t hurt the wood, so don’t worry about the spillover!


  • Step Six: We left the card catalog to completely dry in the sun for a full day.

How to choose the right side table


While a vintage piece worked great for our needs, you may need something with a more specific function.  Or depending on the layout of the room, something that is open at the bottom may suite the space better.  When choosing your side table, consider the following:

  • Is it going to be seen from 3 sides or just two?
  • Do I need to store anything in the table?  (This could be a great spot to create function AND style!)
  • Who will be using this side table?
  • What will the side table be used for?  Is it just to look pretty or does it need to function for other needs?
  • What is the height of my sofa or chair?
  • What shape and size will fit my space the best?

I am linking up a few side tables here that I love as well, both new and vintage pieces that could double as tables!

Now the fun part…


Styling!  Card catalogs can come in a range of sizes, but this one is just the perfect height for a side table and the width worked perfectly for the spot we needed.  I’ve been looking for a side table that I love for 2 years!  This one is just perfect and was worth the wait!

For a piece with this much character, I like to keep the styling simple and let the beauty and uniqueness of the piece speak for itself.  I also like for side tables to be function for whomever is sitting nearby.  It is a great spot to rest a cup of coffee or a favorite book!

Here are my five favorite elements to use when styling a side table:


Once you get your table styled, it’s time to grab that cup of coffee and enjoy your space!






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