A couple months ago, my wife ran across an older Heywood Wakefield nightstand at a junk shop. It was incredibly beat-up, with major damage to the finish on all top and side surfaces, as well as stickers stuck all over it. As if that weren't enough, there were a couple dark marks on the top, where it looks like a candle was left burning.
It certainly didn't look like the sort of thing you'd want to bring home and put in your bedroom.
While the surface was damaged, the piece (which is made out of solid northern yellow birch, and is incredibly heavy for its size) was in fine structural shape, and for only $2 she simply couldn't pass it up.
Here's a couple more angles, just so you know what we were dealing with.
My wife started the job, and got a good portion of the old finish off it, then I spent another solid afternoon working on the piece while listening to some football on the radio.
The particular finish used on this piece (which goes by "champagne") is actually a rather impressive concoction of colors and finishes, and instructions for mixing it seemed incredibly daunting. Even then, it seemed like results were pretty hit-or-miss.
Fortunately we found a fellow on the internet who sold pre-mixed batches that he had put together using a tried-and-true method that got rave reviews from other armchair furniture refinishers. At 40 dollars for a quart, it was kind of expensive, but worth saving the headache on trying to mix our own.
After five hand-applied coats, the last coming on one of the last true nice days of the fall, our nightstand was finally ready to be re-introduced to the world (or at the very least, our bedroom).
Total cost of the piece ended up being just under $45 with tax, which is one-third or less what we would have paid for a decent used piece. Sure, it still has a few blemishes (like a small reminder of the candle burn), but I figure it gives it some character.
This wasn't the first time we've rehabilitated a cheap piece of furniture from a sale or store, and it won't be the last. For furniture, beauty is way more than skin deep, and if you're willing to put a little elbow-grease into it, a nice piece of furniture will last a long, long time.