The Wow Factor: How to update furniture with upholstery tacks


You may have a dresser just like this… old oak and desperate for an update.  You see the textured wood grain finish, the giant ring mark on the top drawer, maybe some dings and scratches, and you don’t have a clue where to begin.  So it sits – good bones and lots of potential – yet unstarted and unfinished.  I am here to help you get motivated.

(Before) How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

I’ve added upholstery tacks to two dressers and a vanity now, and they all get a lot of compliments when people see photos.  The first two sold almost immediately from my booth and this dresser will hopefully sell quickly too at the Hunt & Gather vintage market next month.

A dresser with this much natural texture needs some prep work.  This post contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, so you can easily find some of the products I love to use.  Learn from my mistake and Prime First!  I didn’t prime since I wasn’t worried about bleed through (and I was excited to get started), but I forgot that my paint would seep into all the wood grain grooves and get soaked up.  It took me three coats of Aubusson Blue Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan – four coats in some areas.  Chalk Paint® isn’t cheap, so you’d much rather use a couple coats of primer first and then only 1-2 coats of Chalk Paint®.  I like Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer.

If you’re going to replace the drawer pulls with knobs, fill the holes that you won’t be using with wood filler and let it dry for about 24 hours before sanding and painting over.  (I worked on parts of this makeover at night while the boys were in bed, so some of the photos may be dark or a bit fuzzy. But you can still get the idea.)

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

Once your furniture is painted and your topcoat is dry, you can add nailhead upholstery tacks to really transform a piece like this into something stunning.  First, sketch a little drawing of your dresser onto paper.  Draw out a pattern with a pencil for how you want the tacks to look on the drawers.  You can find inspiration online from designer furniture stores, blogger projects, and Pinterest.  It always helps to sketch out your plan on paper ahead of time to avoid problems or confusion later.  Sometimes I work my drawer pulls into the design too.

I thought it would be fun to curve around the outer drawer edge of each pull, so I used my son’s baby formula lid to mark a half circle (by poking a hole directly in the center, inserting the knob, and then actually sliding it into the drawer).

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

Use a yardstick to mark straight rows, like I did at the top and bottom.  The marks are about one inch apart, and they’re light enough so I can easily erase them if I need to make adjustments as I go.

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

 Choose tacks and pulls that coordinate – mine are all from Hobby Lobby.  I used about 3.5 boxes for this small dresser, but I used about 400 tacks before on a huge vanity I did where the tacks were all side by side.  Remember that the closer you want your tacks to be together, you’ll end up using more of them.  You can still make a bold impact by having them one inch apart instead of side by side.  Note: I am aware that upholstery nailhead trim exists and some people really like using it.  It can be great if you’re just making straight lines.  However, I prefer individual tacks.  They may be a little more work, but you have a lot more freedom to be creative with your design.

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

To start adding your tacks, push one into the wood a little where your pencil mark is so that it makes a dent.  Hold the tack in place with pliers where you made the dent.  Hammer it in with your other hand, using the pliers to keep it straight and making little bends and adjustments as needed. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the top, it might pop off.

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

Oops!  It happened to me twice on this dresser.  Since oak is such a hard wood I could not pull out the rest of the tack myself and had to call in reinforcements (Mr. GITG).  All it took was a wrench and muscles.  Making a mistake is common, I’ve done it many times before – just touch up the area and then you can try again with another tack.

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

And in the end you will have a truly one-of-a-kind piece of furniture:

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.netIt’s funny, once I had it painted and hadn’t even started on the nailheads yet, my husband walked by and said “That looks like a completely difference piece – it doesn’t look old anymore!”  Yes dear, that is the amazing power of paint.
How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

One drawer had some dark stains inside so I ended up painting them blue too.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic inside the drawers.

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

So what do you think – is this something you can see yourself trying?

Upholstery tacks can really take a piece from yawn to WOW!  It’s extra effort but can really look amazing, especially if you’re redoing furniture to sell (since I rarely see other furniture painters use this technique).

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

I’d love to know your thoughts or if you have any questions or concerns – please leave me a comment below.

How to Update an Old Oak Dresser - girlinthegarage.net

Visit my other posts for more tips on adding upholstery tacks to your furniture (photos below):

Chic Nailhead Dresser Makeover (top photo)

Nailhead Vanity Makeover (bottom photo)

How to add WOW to furniture with upholstery tacks - girlinthegarage.net

You can also get even more inspiration here:

13 ways to update furniture with nailhead tacks - girlinthegarage.net

Have a wonderful weekend, my creative friends!

Jen

If this post has inspired you, please share it with others.


 photo just-paint-it-ad-border-wide_zpsmka7ckdc.jpg

8 Comments on The Wow Factor: How to update furniture with upholstery tacks

    • Jen
      August 19, 2016 at 6:27 pm (5 months ago)

      Thanks so much, Stacey! Aubusson is a beautiful blue. Have a great weekend 🙂

      Reply
  1. Mari
    August 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm (5 months ago)

    Jen looks beautiful just pinned!

    Reply
    • Jen
      August 19, 2016 at 6:27 pm (5 months ago)

      Thank you Mari – have a great weekend!

      Reply
  2. Shelley
    August 19, 2016 at 8:46 pm (5 months ago)

    love it….even the “oops”…..

    Reply
    • Jen
      August 20, 2016 at 10:48 pm (5 months ago)

      Haha! There’s usually an “oops” somewhere in each of my projects 🙂

      Reply
  3. Paula@SweetPea
    August 20, 2016 at 8:40 am (5 months ago)

    This looks great, Jen! I love the look that the upholstery tacks give it.
    Paula@SweetPea recently posted…Best of the WeekendMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      August 22, 2016 at 7:02 pm (5 months ago)

      Thank you Paula! It’s always fun to add some bling to otherwise plain furniture 🙂

      Reply

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