We've got a new project going on (with Blueprint magazine). In a couple of months the January Jumpstart Contest will showcase your best small makeovers. To give you a head-start, here are a few tips for restoring thrift store finds...
What to Work On: When shopping for thrift store finds that need a little work, go for items that can be restored without ridiculous amounts of elbow grease. Detachable chair seats aren't hard to reupholster, but a tufted sofa is a huge job.
Paint Wood Furniture: Place furniture over a dropcloth. Remove any hardware. Sand wood furniture. If you're sanding off an old coat of paint, use rough grit. If you're working with a bare wood surface, use a finer grit. (If the piece has a lot of paint on it you may want to have it professionally stripped.) Clean sanded furniture with a damp sponge. Use a coat of primer. Apply 2-3 coats of paint (we usually use latex). Make sure you allow plenty of time for paint to dry in between coats.
Reupholster It: Depending on what you're reupholstering, there are a bunch of sources for instructions on the web. Here are a few: "Take a Seat" in the Readymade archives is a great resource for reupholstering different types of seat cushions, this post on AT:Chicago has some good general suggestions, and this post from AT:LA has some great links for reupholstering a vintage chair.
Switch Out the Hardware: Unscrew old drawer pulls and cabinet knobs and replace them with shiny new pieces. For drawer pulls, measure the space between mounting holes and match it to your new pulls. For cabinet knobs, find a diameter that's proportional to your old knobs. We like the selection at Cool Knobs and Pulls.