‘Upcycling’ brings new life to old wood furniture

With a few creative touches, wood furniture gets a makeover and becomes something other than what it has been

Special to The TribuneJuly 25, 2012 

  • Furniture Restoration Tips from Beach House Unfinished Furniture


    Wood pieces are the best candidates for upcycling, as paint and stain do not adhere well to plastic laminates or chip board. The frame of the piece should be structurally sound with no cracks in the wood frame. For small cracks, apply wood glue and compress the crack tightly with a vice grip until dry.


    Milk paints are a great option for restyling furniture. They can go over many surfaces including stained wood, painted wood and even upholstery. They don’t require pre-sanding and usually cover old finishes in just two coats. A built-in top coat resists moisture. Depending upon the application process, you can create an antiqued look or something more refined. They are also free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and are non-toxic.


    Hardware completes the look of a restyled piece of furniture. In addition to new handles and knobs, you can add metal accents like plates, brackets and wheels.

Grover and Suzie Cox began Beach House Unfinished Furniture in 2002 with the concept that anybody can stain or paint a piece of unfinished furniture. Their newest venture extends to giving vintage pieces new life.

“Vintage and old style is very popular now,” noted Suzie. “Customers are realizing the value of used wood furniture. It will last for decades.”

The original Beach House shops in Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo closed in 2008 due to a slowdown in furniture sales. The new Arroyo Grande Beach House Wood Designs, which opened in June, still offers unfinished furniture, but also vintage wood furniture and accents sold on a consignment basis, as well as vintage “restyled” pieces. This includes traditionally refinished furniture, as well as what Suzie calls “upcycled” items.

“Upcycling is improving the piece with unique painted finishes, hardware, added details and additional function,” she explained.

Upcycling is often an exercise in creativity. When Suzie recently acquired a large television armoire, obsolete due to flat panel sets, she decided to cut it in half. She is turning the bottom half into a wheeled kitchen island.

Beach House can refinish a piece to a customer’s specifications. Or, for doit-yourself upcyclers and refinishers, Beach House offers all of the necessary materials and expertise. According to Suzie, no special skills are required. They offer Paint and Stain Furniture Finish Workshops on the first, third and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 4 to 7 p.m. The cost is $40 plus materials. There are also specialty workshops offered each month on de sign and re-style topics. Fees for these classes vary. Upcoming specialty topics include Ladies and Their Tools (Aug. 16) and Re-Style Your Old Furniture (Sept. 20 and 26).

The Coxes’ favorite upcycling technique is using chalk paints or milk paints by CeCe Caldwell that can render a range of looks and effects.

“Vintage and industrial are most popular, but we still have customers who want special details that reflect their unique style,” said Suzie. “Each furniture piece to me has character and possibility to be something other than what it has been.”

According to Suzie, milk paints do not require sanding, yet create a smooth finish and complete coverage with just two coats. A built-in top coat helps the piece to resist moisture. Milk paints can be used on small accessories like picture frames, large-scale pieces such as dining room tables, and even trim, banisters and cabinets.

Beach House has added factory finished furniture as well as custom designed and built cabinetry and furniture to its inventory. All of it is made of sustainable, nontoxic solid woods and is manufactured in the United States.

Another new component of the business is Suzie Shore Interior & Furniture Design. Her services include working with homeowners, contractors and the hospitality industry in designing functional floor plans, architectural elements, custom cabinetry and unique furnishings. She also entered and won a furniture design contest with Grabill Fine Furniture Manufacturing and is working on a line of “functional furniture” for the company that will launch nationwide in 2013.

Beach House Wood Designs is at 1200 East Grand Ave. in Arroyo Grande, 489-2500.

Reach Rebecca Juretic at rajuretic@sbcglobal.net.

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