Trash to Treasure Dining Room Set

My semi-flexible hours have made it possible to frequent local thrift stores during the day every few weeks. Much of what I see is absolute junk, but some of it, upon second glance, has promise with just a little tweaking on my part. Saving money on thrift store (and even curbside) furniture helps with our budget and gives me fun projects to do. I have zero carpentry or sewing skills, so any DIY projects I do must be SIMPLE.

Trash to Treasure: Thrift Store Dining Room Set


Today I thought I’d share our dining room set with you. When I first saw it at the thrift store: one orange-y brown table and five 70’s style chairs that reeked of B.O. and cigarettes, I almost turned on my heel and fled.  But something about the open design on the chairs intrigued me. This was six years ago, before we were seeing Moroccan shapes everywhere on fabric and furniture, but that’s what they reminded me of.

At the time, I’d been looking into buying a farmhouse table, but it was almost $1200,not including chairs, and it seemed like it might overpower our small dining room.

Before anyone else could grab it, not that it seemed like much of a risk, I plunked down $47 for the entire set. I then had the hassle of shoving all of the stinky chairs in my minivan and coming back later with a borrowed truck to pick up the table. I wasn’t sure my husband, Tim, would share my vision or even welcome the wretched furniture into the house, so I just left it on the porch to air out while I formulated a plan.

First, I cleaned the table and chairs with Murphy’s oil soap and threw the nasty fabric and chair padding away. It was a gag-worthy experience.

chair before

Then, I put the chairs in the grass and spray panted them with my favorite spray paint color, Heirloom White. It’s a soft, creamy vintage white that I thought would be very forgiving if the chairs got any dings over time.

Next, I added new foam from the fabric store, and used discount fabric to cover the seats. If I were to do this again, I would have chosen a more expensive, denser foam that would be softer on the rear during long dinners!

Making dining room seat cushions is one of the easiest, quickest home improvement projects, so if you are sick and tired of yours, don’t be afraid to jump in and re-cover them. All you need to do is fold the fabric over the padding and wooden seat base and then use a staple gun to secure it. If you can fold and staple, you can do it! I’m probably going to recover these soon, transitioning from the brown zebra print to the soft aqua velvet (right hand side of photos).

chairs after

Next, I bought a MinWax dark walnut gel stain.  Tim rubbed it on the table using an old t-shirt as an applicator, and the ugly orange surface transformed to a dark, almost ebony wood. It looked streaky at first, but as he added several coats, all of the streaks disappeared. He did not need to add a protective top coat, but that could make the surface even more durable.

When this project was finished, I had spent under $100 for the entire dining room set, and perhaps even saved this sad, smelly furniture from a land fill. What was going to be a temporary fix for our empty dining room, continues to serve us well. We add the two extra leaves and pull up extra chairs if we ever have a crowd.

What’s your favorite trash to treasure find?

Anna Whiston-Donaldson blogs about life and loss at An Inch of Gray. Her Memoir “Rare Bird: A Mother’s Story of Tragic Loss and Surprising Hope” will be published Sept 2014 by Convergent Books.

Product Links are Amazon affiliate links.


  1. Oh. My. Goodness. I am so impressed! It makes me want to DO something.

  2. Thank you, Jennie! It was so fun to do!

  3. I love it! I admit, I saw your set in the background of another photo a while back, and I thought it was straight out of West Elm or some other swanky furniture catalog. Nicely done!

  4. I love your makeovers, always have!

  5. Anna! This is such an amazing transformation, well done!

  6. What a great transformation there, works really well. I have put together some cheap dining room sets under 100 which are surprisingly good at such a low price. You should check them out and let us know what you think:


  1. supplementary private health insurance says:

    supplementary private health insurance

    Trash to Treasure Dining Room Set – Todays Work at Home Mom

Add Your Comment