Home Projects

Before and After: Mismatched Thrift Store Nightstands Become a Smart-Looking Duo in a $50 Project

published Jan 27, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Before: a tan nightstand and a black nightstand
Credit: Barb Teterus

The thrift store gods never seem to fail to deliver: a 1960s bamboo etagere, a retro yellow scroll table, a shell-shaped green velvet chair, tons and tons of artwork — the list goes on and on. The lesson to be learned? Always, always stop in a thrift store. You never know what you’ll find.

It’s a rule followed by Barb Teterus (@inspiredbyvintagedesigns), a furniture flipper who stopped in a thrift store looking for nothing in particular and ended up with two sleek nightstands.

Follow Topics for more like this

Follow for more stories like this

Credit: Barb Teterus

“Mid-century modern always catches my eye,” she says. She says she could tell these two petite tables were most likely early MCM because of their flathead screws and their peeling veneer over wood substrate bases.

“More recent furniture uses Phillips head screws, and veneers are placed over MDF,” she explains. Plus, she saw that the drawers were made using dovetail joinery versus today’s more common style of gluing and stapling. “I love vintage craftsmanship,” she says. “I really don’t care about the finishes; that’s where I can make it shine again.”

Credit: Barb Teterus

Barb had recently refinished a long dresser and was looking for a pair of nightstands to complete a bedroom set, so she took this duo home. “These two were in poor shape,” she says. “The black one had peeling veneers and chunks missing, but I could see the potential … [They were] completely mismatched, but the basic shape was there. The key here was tying them together with the use of color.”

Credit: Barb Teterus

Barb cleaned the nightstands, sanded them, glued down the peeling veneers, and sanded again to expose some of the wood-grain. She then primed the pieces (sanding between coats), and once the primer was dry, took her paint sprayer to them.

Her paint choice is “the most beautiful blue-black color,” she says; it’s a custom Benjamin Moore mix that perfectly suits the mid-century style. She originally planned to cover both pieces entirely with paint, but as she was working, she pivoted. “The exposed void was gorgeous, so I sealed it using Minwax Polycrylic in satin,” she says, adding that it “created a warmer feel to the pieces.”

Lastly, the “hardware was treated to Rub-n-Buff in the color European Gold and reapplied,” Barb explains. (And she kept the handles the same — each nightstand has its own hint of character that way!) Her project took about four days and cost about $50. Not bad at all for the polished MCM after.

Credit: Barb Teterus

Barb’s advice is to seek out high-quality craftsmanship (here’s a guide of what to look for) and then make modifications to bring the pieces to the finish line. “I cannot afford a new piece made with this craftsmanship,” Barb adds. “Often, I get my pieces for not much out-of-pocket or free by someone just needed their unloved furniture gone.”

Credit: Barb Teterus

The key is “being able to re-imagine what could be with a little work,” she says. And here, she definitely succeeded in bringing her vision to life. “The final look blends so well into the room and complements my upcycled dresser using the same techniques and colors,” Barb says. “I actually impressed myself!”

And here’s a great mantra for your future furniture flips from Barb: “Bring on the vintage orange-butterscotch finishes! I can make you modern!”