How to Update Furniture Without Paint

This month I’m sharing furniture projects with a few friends and bringing you along for the ride. My project was inspired by a secretary that my parents bought for me when I was a teenager. It’s a nice piece of furniture, but it doesn’t fit with my style any more. Things change after xx years.

I was tempted to sand off the finish and let it be raw wood, BUT after looking more closely at it I’m scared to do that. It looks like it is wood veneer and the veneer looks really thin. I don’t want to paint it either. I feel like my mom would have a heart attack.

Instead I decided to update the look of it in other ways. How’s that you ask? Check out the before and scroll down for the changes.

Update Outdated Furniture with Hardware

The hardware on this desk is really old looking. AND it’s really annoying because as you walk past the desk (even small things like the dog), the handles of the drawers clink against the brass hardware. I wasn’t sure what new hardware would do for this desk but I really like it (see the end result below).

If you haven’t shopped on ETSY for hardware, you should try it. It can take a few weeks for delivery, but I’ve purchased brackets for my book shelves and now this hardware.

I choose every product I review. I may earn an affiliate commission if you buy from one of the product links, at no extra cost to you. This income supports this site. See the full disclosure.

updater hardware

Add wallpaper to furniture

I tried putting fabric in the back of the desk but I couldn’t get it to stay up with tacks and I didn’t want to staple it. Instead, I decided to try the self-adhesive wallpaper, formerly known as contact paper.

There is a huge variety of wallpaper right now. I really love many of the styles available on ETSY but I went with this black and white paper from Amazon for a faster delivery.

This was a great learning experience for me with wallpaper. I learned that IT’S HARD! I tried to match the pattern but didn’t succeed and decided it was good enough. I will be putting books and decorative items in front of the wallpaper.

Here’s the finished desk. It has a more updated look. Maybe I’ll paint it later.

Here’s another example of wallpaper applied to wood furniture. You can do the shelves themselves in a fun pattern.

I also added wallpaper to this hutch.

dining room

Add Fabric to Furniture

I added fabric to the doors and back of this armoire inside and out.

You can also slipcover chairs that you don’t want to paint.

slip cover chair

If you liked this post, you might also like how to slipcover dining chairs.

Similar Posts


  1. I can’t believe that you’ve had this secretary since you were a teenager Andrea! I only wish I had a piece or two from the past. You have given me something to think about. I have a glass cabinet in my living room that I would like to spruce up. I love the thought of adding wallpaper to some of my furniture pieces. There was a phase I went through that I added beadboard to all the backs of my cabinet. Thanks for the inspiration! I loved how your piece turned out, it really makes a statement.

  2. Mari Lynn Markey says:

    Beautiful updates & fun project ideas, Andrea! Thanks much for all the great designs you share.
    Mari Lynn

  3. Wow – beautiful job Andrea! I love the changes, and removeable wallpaper – brilliant!! I have an old secretary too, and now you’ve got me thinking! Thanks so much for another round of inspiration my friend! Hope you’re having a lovely Easter!

  4. I love your desk makeover. The wallpaper gave it a modern twist!
    Happy spring,

  5. What a great idea with the wallpaper and new hardware! It really does update the look without making a more permanent change like paint! I have several pieces of furntiure that, like you, I hesitate to paint because I inherited them from my mom and I think she would not be happy about it! 😅

    I’ve pinned for future reference, Andrea, and would love for you to also share this on my Sundays on Silverado link party!

    Niky @ The House on Silverado

  6. Looks fantastic Andrea, I love how a little paper in the back of a bookcase, entertainment center, etc can add so much depth and dimention. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Andrea, I love this piece of furniture. I have something very similar and I, too, have thought about painting it (my husband would have a heart attack) or updating it somehow. I LOVE the wallpaper idea! So very clever and it really does take it up a notch. Really a very pretty addition. Thanks for the inspiration!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *