‘Look for used furniture with good bones’ is an adage we often hear from designers and vintage lovers alike. But how do you determine whether that slipper chair can be given new life or if it’s really on its last legs? When it comes to transforming old furniture into dreamy, custom pieces, there is no better source than Amy Fredrickson, principal of Revitaliste, a company that specializes in refurbishing furniture.

Amy recently worked with three top San Francisco designers – Benjamin Dhong, Emilie Munroe and Sayre Ziskin – to transform Chairish pieces that needed a little love. The designers unveiled their finished works at Simon Breitbard Fine Arts, a gallery that specializes in pairing gorgeous art with interiors. Check out these amazing before and afters, and score Amy’s top tips for revitalizing vintage pieces.

MAKEOVER #1: Emilie Munroe’s Bold Bergère

Traditional armchair with pink upholstery and wood trim

Emilie’s take on the original chair? “Stained and a little sad, but with good, classic lines!”

Traditional armchair with floral upholstery under metal wall hangings
The bergère chair transformed!

Emilie decided to bring the chair up-to-date and then some. “I imagined fast forwarding 25 years to Gwen Stefani as the most hip grandma you could imagine, and this little beauty rocking out in the corner of her living room.” Modernizing older designs is nothing new for Emilie. “Many of our interior design projects include homes with traditional Edwardian or Victorian architecture where our clients want to use furnishings and finishes to modernize and refresh the feel of the home, while still honoring the original detailing. This classic bergère chair presented the same opportunity to take something quite traditional and use fabric and finish to transform it into a vibrant, unique, modern piece.”
Details on updated chair with black-painted wood trim

MAKEOVER #2: Sayre Ziskin’s Groovy Nightstands

Mid-century style wood side table with brass handle

“Since the nightstands are a pretty standard Mid-Century design, I thought I would play with them and turn them into something more transitional,” says Sayre.

Refinished side table with colorful facing and white paint
Voila! These nightstands got a serious makeover.

Before Sayre gave her nightstands a vibrant new look, they were a little scuffed up and easy to pass over in a drab, dark maple. Yet they still had an interesting shape and nice hardware to catch Sayre’s eye. She envisioned them as a fun but complementary accent. “I could see these in a classic home with high ceilings and decorative moldings, or I could see them in a mid-century home with a bit of a 60’s vibe. These nightstands belong in a home that has other vintage pieces. Somewhere eclectic.”
Revitalized side table with colorful marbled front and rose gold pull

MAKEOVER #3: Benjamin Dhong’s Chic Coffee Table

Mid century style wood coffee table with six legsBEFORE:
The mid-century coffee table Benjamin picked had those ‘good bones’ – it was in excellent vintage condition – but it lacked pizazz with its linoleum top and maple base.

Revitalized coffee table with cloud upholstery under abstract painting
The revitalized coffee table under a piece at Simon Breitbard gallery.

Benjamin transformed the piece with gorgeous Fornasetti wallpaper (which has become a bit of a signature for him), left over from a recent project. It gave his piece the modern yet classic update he was looking for. “With this piece, I was I bridging old and new. I don’t know if I’m traditionalist who likes modern things, or a modernist who likes old things.” He also chose to update the legs with a high gloss clear coat, bringing even more dimension to the piece.

revitalized coffee table with cloud upholstery and white trim and legs


Amy worked with each designer to make their vision happen, and she’s got plenty of great advice for anyone who wants to revitalize a vintage piece.


Raw Wood 
“Many of us love the rustic, sophisticated look of raw wood, but it is difficult to know what is underneath a stained and sealed wood finish. We’ve found particle board and mismatched woods. We advise clients to keep an open mind as this design direction may require a plan B.” 

Hot Finish
“Colored lacquer finishes are having a big moment. Lacquering a piece is a fantastic way to modernize an otherwise “brown” piece of furniture.”

Add Pattern
“Furniture wrapped in bold wallpaper patterns and sealed with a high gloss clear coat. We love the stunning piece we did with Benjamin Dhong. However, the shinier the finish the more imperfections you’ll see. So, if your piece has an open wood grain or deep scratches, they’ll be more noticeable in a high gloss finish.”


Good Guts
“We do receive upholstery projects that come in which the fabric still has some life left but the cushion or foam is falling apart. We usually suggest that our clients upgrade the “guts” of the piece as long as the whole piece is being taken apart. This way you’ll maximize the life of the piece.”

Family Friendly
“We actually dissuade clients from looking at certain fabrics if they have young children, pets or entertain a lot. The good news is there are still many amazingly stylish fabric options even if you actively use your upholstered pieces. Thanks to technology advances in the textile industry, stain-resistant upholstery fabrics are now completely family-friendly and convincingly mimic everything from linen to bouclé to textured wools.”

Trend Alert
“Some upholstery trends we’re seeing and loving are richly textured fabrics in a neutral palette, bold botanical prints, vibrant colors and patterns in global textiles, and velvets. Piping, or contrast welting as we call it, is a great option when you want to accentuate the lines of an upholstered piece or you what to add a splash of color.”


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March 31, 2017

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