How to restore vintage furniture

DIY specialist and furniture maker Natasha Dickins from Little Red Industries has a never-fail plan to help you update pre-loved timber pieces, making them current and useful again.

While I find it rewarding to work with furniture that has stood the test of time, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start the makeover process.

So I’ve come up with a simple system that works for most revamps… 

1 REMOVE ONE PART by taking away the most dated or broken thing.

2 ADD A MODERN TWIST with a new element to improve the function.

3 UPLIFT THE EXPERIENCE by making it more sensory. 

This midcentury side table was probable designed to have a phone on the top, keep an address book underneath and maybe a notepad on the little shelf.


It’s been reinvented into a useful bedside table and charging station for devices with hidden access for cords through the back. It’s sealed all over with Monocle Clear Timber Varnish with a protective Satin finish.


The boxy top is made out of plywood clad in laminate. While the base was in good nick, no amount of sanding was going to make the chipped surface look better, so I chose this to be the thing that had to go.


TIP Fasteners in old pieces often develop surface rust. These were still functional, so I popped them into a jar of Bondall’s Ranex Rustbuster to soak for an hour. They cleaned up nicely, ready for reassembly.


A new top is cut from a 300mm-wide pine panel to the same length as the original box, and clad in a piece of close-weave bamboo rattan to compliment the original style of the table. I glued down the rattan using Bondall Bondcrete as a woodworking adhesive, taping it to dry. Then added a mitred frame cut from Porta shelf lipping in Tasmanian oak, securing with tiny 15mm bullethead nails.

TIP To add an access point in the back of the shelf for charging, use a 25mm hole saw, positioning it at least 25mm from the edges. Fold sandpaper to smooth inside and round-over the edges slightly.


In this case, the sensory upgrade is in the surfaces. Using Monocel Clear Timber Varnish with an aerosol application seals the table from top to base, soaking into the rattan to protect against moisture damage while bringing out the lovely rich grain of the solid timber legs.

TIP A good finish begins with the sanding. The lower the grit, the coarser the abrasive paper. 

I used 120-grit with a sander on the flat surfaces to remove most of the varnish, using a sanding block on the curves and corners. This is followed with 180-grit to smooth all over, removing the last of the varnish and rounding over the edges. Then smooth all over with 240-grit for a silky surface and wipe with a damp cloth to remove dust before varnishing.

Will you be refurbishing vintage furniture? Be sure to post it on Facebook and Instagram, tagging, @monocel.timbercare and @littleredindustries. We love to see your projects!