Whether it's a piece of furniture you found for free on the side of the road, a hand-me-down you've had for ages, something you found in a really affordable big-box store or just something that feels cheap looking to you, there are some successful things you can DIY to make a piece of furniture look a lot more expensive (and personal!) to you.
1. Replace or remove hardware
Splurge on some seriously rad hardware like pulls or handles and remove the less impressive ones that the furniture piece came to you with. Just this small change will make a huge impact on the look of the piece. Need some inspiration? Check out → Before & After: Kate's Ikea Rast Dresser Hack
2. Faux the finish
Just because the finish your furniture piece starts with is of a humble material, doesn't mean that's the face it has to present to the world. There are quite a few DIY projects out there that exemplify the idea of taking a faux finish to a not-so-fabulous finish and turning the entire piece into something impressive. Two to start with → IKEA Coffee Table Gets a Marble-and-Gold Makeover & Before & After: A Simple Stool Gets Gilded for Just $15.
3. Display nice stuff on it
It's an act of distraction that anyone — even those without the skills to DIY a faux finish — can pull off. Simply wow with a vignette instead. Can it really work? Well, it'll depend on whatever furniture you're trying to make look more impressive. The best part of this tip, of course, is that it will require zero sanding and priming, so that's worth trying!
4. Lighten the visual load
The visual look of "bulky" can sometimes make a piece look less-than-pricey and at the very least, outdated. But you can bring your piece up to the present day with some trimming of unnessary elements, which will make the piece look and feel lighter and sleeker. See an example → Before & After: A West Elm-Inspired Desk Hack.
5. Add white or black
Adding color to a piece of furniture, through paint or some other medium, is a fun way to update it. But stick to a basic color like white or black, and you give a serious dose of sophistication. These two colors can especially highlight a piece's good qualities and lines, so don't even feel like you've got to paint the entire piece. Some ideas for you → DIY the Trend: 9 Ideas for Adding a Colorful or Contrasting Outline to Furniture and Before & After: A Vintage Sideboard Goes Matte & Midnight
6. Add sleek pattern
Like color, pattern can have a big effect on making something you picked up for a few dollars look like something you spent a million bucks on. But it's not just any pattern —aim for sleek, geometric patterns when possible. Straight lines done well will add crispness to a piece, whereas organic, curving lines can sometimes come off a bit too cute-sy. This project is a perfect example of what we mean → Before & After: No Excuse for a Naked Window.
7. Splurge on expensive upholstery materials and methods
Nothing revitalizes an old chair better than new upholstery, and since you didn't spend a ton on the frame, splurge a bit on the material! Whether it's a pricey pattern you adore or a thick texture that feels pricey when you touch it, changing the upholstery is the fastest way to a furniture piece you love. But don't overlook more complicated ways to upholster a piece, too. That kind of attention to detail (like patterns that line up, great contrast welting or button tufting) will make a piece feel more pricey. An example → Before & After: A 1930s Accent Chair Gets a Patterned Pick-me-up.
8. Change the function entirely
When you change what a piece was originally created for, you'll be disguising its more humble origins. Play your DIY cards right, and the new function you create for it will make it seem like a fancy custom piece of furniture you spent much more money on than you actually did. See what we mean with this example → Before & After: Target Stool Transforms into Table.