Author Archives: lisasnancefurnitureredesign

About lisasnancefurnitureredesign

Professional writer, married with two children and 3 grandchildren. Passion for redesigning, painting, and refurbishing old or unwanted furniture.

Why I Love Waterfall Furniture

Why I Love Waterfall Furniture

Back in the 1920’s, newlyweds didn’t get married and move into a beautiful new starter home like they do today. Instead, they moved into a bedroom at Mom and Dad’s and saved for the day when they could move out on their own. To make their little piece of heaven their own, they would purchase a brand new bedroom set. Because cash was tight, the new bedroom set was usually a “waterfall” set, constructed from the latest construction material, plywood.

The ability to use plywood to make curves during furniture making caused these pieces to be labeled “waterfall” furniture. The distinct curved wood that “fell” over the edge of the front of these pieces and their clean lines made them feel modern to newlyweds and a far cry from  the heavily carved pieces of their parents. Since these pieces were the first major pieces of furniture bought by many of our grandparents or great-grandparents, they have sentimental value and have remained in families for generations.

Today, as our grandparents pass on and leave their furnishings behind, you can find wonderful waterfall dressers, night stands and vanities at thrift shops, flea markets and the occasional yard sale. But, as charming as they are, because they are made of plywood with a specialty wood veneer, age and the heat and  moisture from attic and basement living have caused most of this type of furniture to be in not so great shape.

For the purest of furniture restorers, waterfall furniture can be painstakingly glued, patched and polished to bring back some of its former glory. But for those of us who prefer painted furniture, these pieces can be the coolest blank canvas for all kinds of treatments.

I love the romance of this furniture and recently came across a dresser at a thrift store that I got for a song! (I didn’t actually sing, that probably would have been a bad thing…)

Waterfall dresser

It was in pretty good shape, with just a few bad places along the bottom edges. The drawers were another story. The stops were still in place, but the backs were in serious need of glue as they were popping off. There were spiders’ egg sacks and big dust bunnies living inside and underneath and the veneer was covered in years of wax and grime. Of course, I fell immediately in love.

After cleaning, sanding, patching, gluing, priming, painting, distressing and varnishing, my drabby waterfall dresser has a new shabby chic look.

Waterfall dresser after

Waterfall dress after 2While I was working on this, I went to Pinterest to look at other waterfall makeovers.  Here are a few really creative redos:


How cute is this? Couldn’t find the exact blog site for you, but you can go to and check it out.


The smart folks at Furniture-Ology combined this dresser with my favorite – chalk board paint. Love it!


Not just dressers, but vanities look great painted.

I love that the top was in good enough shape to save. What a great contrast to the white.

Last, but not least, we all need a faux soda machine in our homes!

waterfall 4

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey into the past and I hope the next time you come across a piece of waterfall furniture it’ll warm your heart just like it does mine.


Stencil Smarts


When it comes to painted furniture, I love the distressed look best of all. But, when a stenciled design is added to the painted surface, it takes on a richer and more interesting appearance. Whether it’s numbers, florals or geometric patterning, I love a stenciled design that adds a bit of whimsy or vintage inspiration to a piece.

I’ve stenciled everything from acanthus leaf borders to sailboats to numbers and letters to birds on furniture. My latest endeavor, as I begin the process of redecorating using a  shabby-coastal theme, is this little side table I found it at one of our many Goodwill Thrift Shops, here in Vegas. When I purchased it, it was missing a drawer,  which is funny because that is the kind of table I’d been looking for.  I’ve seen so many cute tables lately  using baskets instead of drawers, I really wanted to do the same. Here is what it looked like before the “makeover:”

Drawerless Table BeforePretty sad… It was dirty and scraped up, but very solid.

I decided to paint it a light, faded blue and to stencil it in white.  At, first I thought of using a floral design, but I came across a variety pack of beautiful stencils from Martha Stewart at Michael’s and changed my mind.

Last, but certainly not least, the hunt for the right size basket began. This proved to be a bit more difficult than I thought, since I was determined not to spend an arm and a leg on one. The whole point of up-cycling furniture is to recycle materials to make the entire piece affordable and “green.” I must have visited every thrift shop in Las Vegas, and that is saying something, yet could not find a rectangular basket in the dimensions I wanted. My husband, who by this point had also become involved in finding the “perfect” basket, saw some baskets on clearance at Lowe’s and told me about them. Something about finding the basket in the same place I buy my paint and other supplies seemed in line with my whole furniture re-do philosophy, so I headed to Lowe’s and not only found the perfect basket at a very low price, but did I mention it is woven of paper?

Here is how the table looks with its new “do:”

Drawerless Table AfterDrawerless Table After 2

I can’t wait to put my Coastal Living magazines on the shelf with some bleached seashells  and put this table next to my favorite wicker rocker out on the screen porch. The perfect spot for morning coffee…

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few more stenciled gems-


Big, bold stencils can make a real statement.

orange trunk

Love this color!

stencil birds

Love these birds!

painted filing cabinet2

Even office furniture is transformed with stencil magic! 

Painting and distressing furniture is fun, but using stencils is like adding just the right accessories to an outfit that makes it truly your style. Play, have fun, go forth and stencil!

Black Boards – Not Just for School Anymore


When my children were in school, I always felt like September was more like New Year’s then  January 1st. For, me it was always cause for celebration as we got back to our routine after a long summer of shuffling them to and from daycare and the hustle and bustle of out-of-town vacations.  September brought a snap of cooler weather and the beginning of the new school year, full of potential and new experiences.

So, in honor of the “New Year,” I would like to show you some really creative uses for chalk board paint. Today, schools use more white boards than black boards, but I can still see the big black. or sometimes green, chalk boards in my elementary school and remember the joy of being chosen to “clap” the erasers at the end of the day. (For those of you not  of a certain generation,  clapping the black felt erasers together helped clean the chalk from them and had to be done every day.)

Black Board Paint Graduates to DIY

Black board paint may have left the classroom, but it’s entered the realms of home decorating and some talented DIYer’s have elevated the art of using black board paint to create unique pieces, not to mention all the beautiful typography that has  appeared.

My own humble attempts of taking advantage of the decorative and utilitarian properties of black board paint include painting the interior side of my back door, facing into my kitchen, with black board paint and using it as a giant chalk board to remind me of things I had to do, important dates and just general notes to self.

When I moved into an apartment I found a neat idea on Pinterest and recreated it:



I bought a silver-plated tray from Savers, a charity thrift shop here in Las Vegas, and after punching holes in the top with a hammer and screw driver, I painted it with the black board paint. I used sand paper to smooth the holes on the back and then threaded a ribbon I had saved from a present my sister gave me and hung this in my kitchen.

For more inspiration, here are  some ways others have used black board paint:


I found this cool metal cabinet on the Handy Girl blog.  I have a true love affair with metal cabinets of any kind, so this fulfills two of my faves.


Although these are chalk board vinyl stickers, I think it would be easy to recreate this look using a stencil. But, since I’m also a big fan of instant gratification, I may look at the SimpleShapes etsy site for these.  Either way, I love the clean and graphic look this would give a wall in a kitchen, home office or playroom, plus I’ll finally have a space large enough to write everything; so much better than the calendar I get every year from my bank.

DIY-Ball-Blue-Jrs-Chalk-Labels-                                                   Easy-DIY-Chalk-Label-tutorial

I love the look of hand-written labels and really love being able to reuse the same label. You can find chalk board labels at office supply and craft store, but on the Flour on My Face blog, Arlene shows how easy it is to make your own. Love this idea not just for Ball jars, but for the large vintage pickle and restaurant-size jars I collect.

kooky altered art work

Here’s a kooky idea, purchase a piece of art at the thrift shop, paint a portion of it with chalk board paint and voila! you have a whimsical message board. Or, you could go the The Mosaic Butterfly etsy shop and buy this one.

As for beautiful chalk board typography, here’s an especially nice one from Tanamachi Studios:

Chalk Board Quote

Have fun!

Celebrating My Book’s 10th Anniversary


my book

On December 29, 1999, my husband, Miller, received a heart transplant. It was a momentous occasion for our family, which came after a year of hospital visits, intensive care stays and ultimately the long wait for a heart. Miller would endure the wait 500 miles from our home in North Carolina, at the famous Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. I would spend my time during those six months, trying to maintain his business, while trying to keep my freelance writing career going and our two teenagers from going off in all directions.

The Decision to Write a Book

After Miller received his new heart, I spent the next year writing a memoir of my experience, since at the time there was not a book on the organ transplant experience from the point-of-view of a family member. I didn’t publish the book until two years later, when an editor told me she thought the book might not make a lot of money but it had the capability of helping a lot of people.

10 Years After

This year marks the 10th year anniversary of my book and in that time I have gotten many notes, letters and even messages through Facebook about how my book has helped others going through the same or similar situations.  There have been teens who have converted the book into a play for their drama class and there have been wives who have “friended” me on Facebook to tell me of their loved ones’ transplant stories. I have probably given away more books than I have sold, although I continue to get quarterly royalty checks all these years later.

It’s Not About the Money – It’s About the Message

I never wrote the book to make money. It was always about the message. which is that you never know when life is going to throw you that infamous “curve ball,” and that we all have the inner strength to get through those times, if we not only look inward but allow others in as well.  My father used to say that every situation in life is a chance to learn something and I have found this to be true. The lessons I learned during that difficult time have helped me get through more tough times that were to come.

A Message of Hope

Today, Miller is in the 14th year with his new heart. For those who are going through the excruciating wait for an organ transplant, please know that it does happen, miracles do happen. The most important thing is to never give up hope. If you know someone who’s facing the terminal illness of a loved one, or who needs to know there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, please have them take a look at my little book, whether they can borrow it from the library, find it in a book store or thrift shop or order it online (it’s now available on Kindle and Nook). I think they’ll find a glimmer of hope in the pages somewhere.

(And, you thought I only painted furniture!)


Playing with Paper and Paste


Today, everywhere I looked online I kept seeing decoupaged furniture. Which is great, since I love to decoupage furniture and just about anything else I can think of.

Years ago, my sister gave me some beautiful vintage-inspired drawer liner paper. What’s funny is that she gave it to me not for lining drawers but to use in one of my future projects. So, I found this dresser at one of my favorite thrift shops and decided to decoupage it using that rose-covered paper. I matched the paint color to the background shade of the paper, which turned out to be a really good thing, since I ran short of paper after covering the drawer fronts and sides and ended up cutting out individual roses and scattering them across the top. All in all, I think it turned out better than I expected.

decoupage dresser

If you like to play with paper and paste and want to try your hand at decoupaging furniture, here are some inspiration pieces with links to their sites:

another decoupaged dresser

 This dresser uses complementary wallpaper to give it a fresh look.

 music dresser

This dresser combines a distressed finish with sheet music.

decoupaged stools

                                     Decoupaged furniture doesn’t have to be reserved for dressers…                                                             love these stools and the use of vintage labels.

When it comes to decoupage furniture, the materials are endless….maps, old letters, postcards, doilies, wrapping paper, tissue paper, labels, pictures from magazines, book pages, flash cards, playing cards, tarot cards – the list just goes on and on. The most important thing is to have fun!



So many great wallpapers!

glass jars & photographs

I’m a big fan of wallpaper, properly used. I’ve never used much of it myself though, mainly because I’ve never learned how to hang it. But when I redo my study I’m seriously considering having a bit of a feature wall.

I seem to get an awful lot of press releases featuring new ranges, so I guess as a whole we’re still enjoying patterns over paint, and I must say that there are some truly adventurous designs around.

Here are a few of my favourites for the autumn winter season…

1) I love Pictus, the debut collection from St Vitus, which includes this gorgeous Cygnus design – not something I’d necessarily be brave enough to have in my own home, but I’d admire anyone who did:

Cygnus wallpaper (10m roll) £79, St Vitus

2) There are plenty of leaf print wallpapers around at the moment, but this one by

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What Inspires You?



As summer winds down, I’ve been thinking about the beach. I only had one chance to see the ocean this summer, when I visited my daughter in Palm Springs and we went to Oceanside Beach. I had never seen the Pacific Ocean before, having grown up in North Carolina and spending time on the beaches along the Atlantic coastline. It was beautiful and inspiring

I was perusing beach decor on Google images when I cam across this lovely room. The shade of blue, reminded me of the sky over the ocean and the bleached whites and creams were the colors of the clouds and sand.

I have this cute little table that I’ve been wanting to do something special to, so I decided to use this room as my inspiration for the color scheme and beachy look I want to give it (after pics to come).

Drawerless Table Before

Which leads to the question: “What Inspires You?”

When it comes to deciding what colors to use or what finish to create, I turn to a few tried and true ways of gaining inspiration:

  1. Nature – This is my best way of getting inspired. Here in Las Vegas, all I have to do is look toward Red Rock Canyon and see the incredible contrast of cerulean blue sky against the deep orange mountains and I’m inspired. There are dozens of different cactus flowers blooming, in yellow, pink and purple, along with coral colored tiled roofs and the beige of stucco surfaces.
  2. My favorite designers – When in doubt, I always look at the websites of my favorite designers to get inspired. MacKenzie-Childs always has some great ideas and color combinations as does Amy Butler. My all-time fave is Rachel Ashwell and just a few minutes perusing her Shabby Chic site or reading her blog make me want to grab my sander and start distressing everything in sight. My new love are the creations from The Junk Gypsies, who I follow religiously on Instagram.
  3. Pinterest – Need I say more? It’s like having a million decorator/DIY magazines at my fingertips.
  4. Fashion – I went to school for fashion merchandising and even though I’m not a size 8 anymore, I still love clothes, jewelry and shoes. Fashion magazines and people watching, especially here in Vegas, give a whole new meaning to the use of color and graphics.

Inspiration is everywhere and you don’t have to live in a city as colorful or diverse as Las Vegas to gain a ton of ideas for your next project. After all, I was inspired by the beach right here in the middle of the desert.


There’s Nothing Better Than a Good “Before” & “After”


When I first started painting furniture, I used to wish I had taken pictures of the piece “before” to show the wonderful transformation that happens with a little paint and an idea. It wasn’t until I started selling the furniture that I began keeping a notebook of before and after photos, which now includes other information on each piece, such as where I bought it, how much I paid for it and the cost of the supplies, paint and embellishments that went into the ultimate redesign. Now, I also include the color of the paint, in case I want to use that specific shade on another project.

My Latest “Before” & “After”

Because I know I like a good before and after, this blog is going to be filled with them, from me and from other sights, where I find inspiration.

This is a sweet little table I purchased at one of our local Goodwill Thrift Shops. It’s solid wood, in great shape — all it needed was some personality.

Table Before —

side table before

Using this Thistlewood Farms post as my inspiration, I painted it flat black, stenciled on some numbers, roughed it up a little to make it look “traveled,” and added these cute red, spigot knobs (Hobby Lobby, 50% off!).

Table After —

chest aftertop of chest

How great is it when a piece turns out exactly like you saw it in your mind? Pretty wonderful, as this one did.

Lessen of the Day

Keep your phone or camera handy when you start a project to grab a quick ‘before” pic. It makes taking that “after” picture so much easier and fun. After all, who doesn’t like to take pics of their loved ones “before” and “after” they’re all grown up?



My Life Through Refurbished Furniture


It was the 1970’s and my family had just visited Colonial Williamsburg when my mother discovered a new trend in decorating. It was called “antiquing” and involved painting a table or chair, letting it dry and then covering it with a thick, brown glaze, which was wiped off just enough to leave lots of residue in the cracks and stringy brush marks that would resemble the discoloration of age. For good measure, you could rough up the surface by beating it to an inch of its life with a chain or pounding it with a hammer, all of which my mother did to anything she didn’t deem a “real” antique. We called it her “avocado and gold eagle stage,” as little colonial “Jim-cracks” began appearing around the house.

My Mother: The Original Furniture Upcycler

When it came to taking existing furniture and reinventing it to fit the decorating trends of the day, my mother was ahead of her time. I watched over and over as she re-covered chair cushions, repainted wicker and recycled unwanted pieces by “donating” them to her children. Furniture was something you chose with thought and old furniture wasn’t something you threw away. I learned from an early age that a cozy home was full of old and well-loved furniture.

Mother 1976 001

Teenage Furniture Rescuer 

As a teen, I was a true rescuer. I was known in my family as the dog rescuer for the many times I adopted strays from the pound. As I got older, cast off furniture became my focus as I spent Sundays at flea markets looking for pieces to save.  All those years of being dragged through antiques shops by my parents, with strict orders not to touch anything, began paying off as I began recognizing which old furniture was worth refurbishing.

Furniture Refinishing: The Mother of Necessity

When I married and became a young mother, without much money to spend on furniture, I really hit my stride as my sister and I scoured thrift shops, hunting for pieces before the kids got home from school.  I remember an especially sweet score; a Victorian dressing table with a big round mirror that probably cost a whopping $25, big money back then.  Once, I spent months with Homer Formby doing a full-scale refinish of an old high-boy my mother-in-law gave me; that piece helped me lose the baby weight.

Lisa refinishing 001

I taught myself to stencil on a dilapidated armoire, whose doors never did close right, but I loved those fuzzy morning glories all the same.

The Furniture Face Lifts Continue

Now, a grandmother, who’s downsized to a two-bedroom apartment, my love of refurbishing old furniture hasn’t diminished, instead its grown even stronger as I see the need for less stuff going in landfills. Now, I consider myself the cosmetic surgeon of all the old furniture that still has good bones, but just needs a little “lift.” Like an archaeologist, I dig through thrift shops, flea markets, yard sales and yes, dumpsters, on a quest for that hidden piece of furniture that needs my help. I take it home, give it some love and provide upcycled furniture for sale at consignment shops. I also do custom orders, for those like me, who just aren’t ready to part with that old friend.