Racheal Jackson isn’t afraid of a little elbow grease. When she’s not dreaming up a new paint project for her Vancouver, Washington home, the blogger and DIY expert can often be found with a staple gun in hand, reupholstering seat cushions or sanding down a nightstand she thrifted for $4.
Jackson’s Instagram account, @banyanbridges, chronicles all her DIY endeavours, from shampooing the heck out of a $200 Craigslist couch that reeked of dog to constructing a floor-to-ceiling bookcase out of upcycled classroom cubbies. Here Jackson shares her must-have products for refinishing wood furniture (shoutout to boiled linseed oil) and tells us about her most memorable flea market flips.
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Livabl: When you hit up a thrift store, flea market or are browsing sites like Craigslist or Letgo, what types of pieces do you typically look for? What do you avoid altogether?
Racheal Jackson: I always go straight to the larger furniture section of my local thrift store. Our store gets a lot of returns from big chains like Target, but they all come in blank cardboard boxes. So I make sure I always check the item numbers online so I’m not missing a deal. I love finding chairs and side tables. Man, I’ve found some great chairs while thrifting!
L: If you have the chance to inspect an item in person before buying it, what are some issues to be wary of?
RJ: Mites, mold, structural integrity. If I see that there is particle board or MDF involved, I (almost) always pass!
L: Do you find that certain furniture styles or finishes have more potential than others?
RJ: I usually gravitate toward anything lacquered wood with simple, clean lines. Intricately carved wood is so hard to strip or sand down, so you usually have to just paint those items, and I prefer natural wood finishes.
L: If you’re working with wood furniture, what do you need to do first to prep it?
RJ: I usually just start sanding! If I’m going for a natural wood finish, I will often scrape off the lacquer (if it’s brittle enough) with a dull edge — sometimes just a butter knife! After that, I start to sand. I find that if I scrape even just a bit of the lacquer off it helps the sanding go much faster.
L: What products do you keep on hand when refinishing wood furniture?
RJ: I’m a bit of a naturalist, and love to let wood stand out on its own. I keep sandpaper and boiled linseed oil on hand, and use them often! I also have started a small collection of stains from the different projects I’ve tackled.
L: What type of paint do you use on wood furniture? Do you have any suggestions for wood stains or sealants?
RJ: If you’re painting furniture, I feel like there are two schools of thought: chalk paint vs. primer and paint. Both are good and effective, it just depends on the amount of work you want to do and the products you’re familiar with. I have used both and like both — I prefer Annie Sloan chalk paint and Sherwin Williams’ wood and wall primer and paint with enamel.
L: What are some beginner reupholstery projects you’d recommend to readers? What tools do you need to get started?
RJ: Recovering chair cushions!! This is the easiest, most user friendly process! It requires the fabric of your choice, scissors and a staple gun (which is less than $20!). It’s so easy to recover chair cushions, ottomans, stools… once you start, you’ll be hooked! One trick I use is to remove the fabric from the chair itself and use that piece as the pattern for cutting out your new fabric.
L: What are some of your favorite “vintage revivals” in your home? What was the most challenging thrifted makeover you ever worked on? What was the easiest?
RJ: The easiest? Recovering stools. Hands down. My hardest was scraping all the lacquer off of a set of dining chairs. It was simple, but took FOREVER to get done! They now sit at our game table with some colorful, funky fabric cushions and I couldn’t love them more!