Book Shelf


The project I just finished was a really fun one. It gave me the opportunity to pull out all the stops in refinishing and distressing. This little book shelf holds so many joyful stories and memories, I knew it would be fun to work on. So, when I found it at a moving sale I couldn’t help but bring it home.

The shelf is on the small side, but just perfect for the little nook at the top of the stairs in What’s Old Is New. I had been on the hunt for something to stand under the cool, architectural arch I found at a home décor boutique when I was visiting my family in Chicago. You’ll see that in the after photos below. Even though the shelf was in rough shape I knew it would be the perfect match.

You know how much I adore old, handmade furniture because it’s infused with history and love. This piece was made on a budget, out of scraps. At first glance I was intrigued by the barn siding back and the knotty pine top, sides and shelves. I could see the character through the layers of paint. When I placed my hand on it I saw a young father piecing together scraps of wood, creating something special. When it was stained and dried, he carried it in to his children’s bedroom and loaded all the books that were stacked in the corner onto it. That night the boys picked the first book off of its shelves for their bedtime story and gleefully handed it to their mom. A tradition was born. The bookshelf was passed down to children and grandchildren. It’s full of years of bedtime stories and giggles and good night kisses.

It also had years of different finishes and paint. So, I had the fun of using everything from paint stripper to scrapers to a power washer and sand paper. Another exciting aspect of this project is that I almost remembered to take before pictures. After I started. So, I snapped a few during pictures instead.

How I Transformed It:

  1. I used a paint stripper to take off the layers of paint and stain. The paint was stubborn and wouldn’t all come off. But, I discovered the white flecks that were left gave it character, so I left a smattering of them.IMG_1903 (1)
  2. After the finishes were removed, I was surprised to see how bright the wood still was after all the years. I wanted the bookcase to look old and weathered. To help nature along I power washed it. And that strong white paint still stuck. Then I let it sit out in the hot summer sun for about a week to mellow out the tone and make sure it dried thoroughly.
  3. Using a dove grey stain, applied with a soft cloth, I gave the whole bookshelf two coats. Then let it dry for a few days.
  4. The last step was sanding. The wear and tear marks on a piece like this would be the tops of the shelves where books slide on and off. As well as the sides where little hands would hold on while children reached for books. For depth, I sanded the top and sides to show the layers of color under the grey stain. Most of the white speckles were left inside and on the undersides the shelves.
  5. Finally, I dusted off the residue from sanding and carried it up to its new home. The last step was to fill it with favorite books and precious treasures.

When working on any project always remember to read and follow all product instructions and use safety gear like eye protection and gloves.

Calling all fellow DIY enthusiasts. I would love to see what you’ve been working on! Please visit me on Facebook and share ideas and photos of your projects.



Dining Room Buffet


Hi Everyone,

Recently I had a customer come into What’s Old Is New asking if I could make a custom buffet for a small dining room. She had been looking for months at traditional furniture stores but everything she saw was way too big for her space. The main problem she was running into was width, she needed something at most fourteen inches wide. Most of the buffets she saw in stores were eighteen to twenty-four inches wide. That wouldn’t allow room for guests to sit on one side of her table.

The other thing she was looking for was storage for her china and crystal. Many of the furniture sales people suggested a council table that could be used for serving. But that wouldn’t help with her storage needs. The months of searching did pay off in one way, she knew what she wanted. She came to What’s Old Is New armed with measurements, photos of pieces she liked and colors for the finishes. All I needed to do was find the right piece of furniture. And that turned into quite a challenge.

Continue reading Dining Room Buffet

The Green Chair


Hi Everyone,

Today I want to tell you about this really cute chair I found a couple of weeks ago. I’d show you a before shot, but I forgot to take one, again. Too bad really, this one was a beaut!

I was out at a farm east of town. It was a beautiful, blue sky summer day that reminded me of the day I met Sam. Ah, but I digress.  What was I talking about – oh yeah, the chair.

I found it in the milking barn. Covered in about a hundred years of cobwebs and bird poop. I could tell it was a find through it all. Mrs. L, the lovely matriarch of the family, who now owns the farm, said her dad used to sit on it when he milked cows. The family sold off the dairy herd shortly after his death decades ago. Since then the barn hasn’t been used for much.

It looks like an old- fashioned dinning chair, not too fancy. Definitely hand-made, with no screws or nails. Wonderful craftsmanship.  What drew my eye was the geometric cut out pattern on the back and the gently curved front legs.

Continue reading The Green Chair

Francie’s Furniture Blog – Introduction

If you read my novella, A Filigree Heart, you know Francie Quinn refurbishes furniture to sell in her shop, What’s Old Is New in Prairie Grove, Illinois. She scours attics, barns, basements and the like throughout the Midwest to find items that time forgot. Then uses her talents to transform them into beautiful, useable household items. Francie loves to experiment with technics and finishes to revive and update once unloved furnishings. When she’s finished with them they are one of a kind works of art.

After being asked “How did you do that?” a thousand times by her customers Francie started a blog. In it she tells a bit about each piece. What it is, where she found it, and what only she can see about its past with her special gift.

Then she walks us through the techniques she uses to transform items, along with project photos. I would like to say before and after photos, but Francie rarely remembers to take the before shot. I think she gets so excited when she finds something good that she just can’t wait an extra second to snap a quick pic before she dives into work. Oh well, the after photos are the best to see anyway.

I thought it would be fun to check in and see what Francie is up too. So, I’ll be posting her blog entries here from time to time. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse of items you might find in her shop. Maybe learning some of her tricks and tips might inspire us to try our hand at transforming some of the long-forgotten items in our own attics.