Using Furniture Transfers to Create a Special Look!

Yes, this is another blog about my love of refinishing furniture and what I have learned using designs known as “rub-on transfers”! I promise I’ll try to make it both instructional and funny…

A year ago I didn’t know a “furniture rub-on transfer” from a “train transfer ticket”. But now I am well versed (maybe) with creating art on furniture by using an assortment of furniture transfers and techniques. None of what I am about to show you is very costly or difficult. So, feel free to try it yourselves!


While I prefer to create a simple look with words and quotes interspersed among an interesting modern design, many of my “customers” like to have a virtual garden popping from their furniture. Below you will find examples of the most recent designs I have created – many by special request. Also, a few hints and links. Want a closer look? Just click on the images!

A simple 5 drawer dresser- painted blush pink with Benjamin Moore paint didn’t last long in the garage. I spotted it all tattered looking at a resell store. I knew I had to have it! The shape alone! The dresser is so unusual that I wanted to leave it without much “redo”. An uncomplicated “shabby chic” look. This piece sold to a family and was a gift for their daughter. Apparently, she likes everything “pink”.

A little deeper dive into this piece. The floral designs in the drawers and on the side were just enough to make it extra special and are becoming a “signature” of my refinished items. To create the floral design in the drawer I had to cut the flowers out from a much larger design on the transfer sheet that I purchased off Amazon – called Pressed Flowers by Thymeless Designs. Honestly, this set of transfers is one of my favorites and the ease with which they go on and stay embedded is fabulous! If we were giving scores this brand would easily be a 9 out of 10.

This is what the three panels of the THYMELESS DESIGNS look like when they arrive. Each panel is an individual sheet with a backing that needs to be removed or portions cut away.

Under the Sea!

Yellow, teal, and lots of sea creatures and sea shells make this look VERY popular. I have made chairs, two small dressers, a desk using this design available from Re-Design (again) found on Amazon. My only wish was that there was less “rope” in the package and more fish of different colors. I also mixed on one of the dressers a second design by PRIMA resulted in a rather interesting look and I think it will be a winner. My score would be a 8/10 for ease of applying but a 9/10 for the final look they help to create!

Let’s hear it for the color teal!

For as long as I can remember, teal and shades of aqua have been my favorite. Perhaps it is because I am a Pisces and my birthstone is aquamarine? Regardless, I find myself dipping into various shades of these colors over and over again (pictured Tropical Teal and Hummingbird). Oh- and items made with these colors usually sell like hotcakes! They are part of their Coastal Palate (and no I am not an ambassador for them – oh how I wish!) The transfers pictured are a mixture of some of my favorites. The “Cottontail Bunnies” on the child’s chair are paired with the Polish art designs. The picture frame’s art and some of the large expansive designs on the desk came from Maika Daughters via Etsy.

The floral transfers can be tricky to apply if not careful and the words also are a challenge from time to time. So, I give these transfers a 7.5/10 for ease but a 9/10 for the look and response from others!

Helpful Hints!

When using furniture transfers you need to be CAREFUL. I have yet to meet a design that doesn’t rip if not given lots of TLC during the transfer. Be sure that your surface is clean and dry. Do not transfer onto surfaces with gloss or semigloss unless the transfer is made for those finishes. Some are. Some are not.

Transfer with the support of a flat surface – so use a strong table or workshop bench when transferring to smaller objects (like boxes) or dresser drawers. If transferring directly to a piece of furniture make sure it is secure and kept steady.

Practice on something you don’t care about first so you can get used to how much pressure is needed and the type of instrument to use. The “sticks” they often send in the kit are in my humble opinion not very helpful with larger designs. I tend to improvise with other objects such as paint stirrers.

When I am working on a very large design I cut it into pieces. This helps to keep it manageable and also to create some interesting designs. You can overlap by completing one portion of the design and then cutting and laying on top of another portion. Be sure to complete the transfer of the first part before starting the second.

The hardest of all transfers for me to apply involves quotes or letters. These tend to be very delicate and need much patience. I tend not to have a lot of that – so I often goof. I have learned to be better – but again – patience, patience, patience!

If you goof, try adding a “surprise” element. It is amazing how handy a butterfly transfer can be when you goof! Or a fun flower! I buy packets of butterflies just for this reason!

Oh and buy a big container of baby wipes to get the “oops” of designs off your fingers. You will thank me later.

Keep unused portions clean and tucked away for another day! And lastly…just have fun and let your creativity flow!

Thanks for reading!


p.s. Feel free to pop a link to your furniture refinishing projects in the comments!


As a mental health provider, I am keenly aware that the mind needs to keep busy during times of global “crazy”. Let’s face it – collectively we all have been wading through nearly three years of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on our lives. Everyone has had their own way to deal with stress, especially when we were “sheltering at home”. Some wrote books. Others explored beyond their backyards. My “stress reliever” was to learn how to refinish and refurbish furniture. So, with some paints and brushes that we had at home and a few extra cans I acquired from my local ACE Hardware store (double-masked, of course) – I started to de-stress with every paint stroke.

At first, I made hubby and me a small cabinet for cans to hold the endless amounts of plastic containers we accrued from take-out. Then I moved on to “estate sale finds” that I repainted and made space for in our home. A turn of events happened when neighbors would stop by asking me if they could purchase the piece I was working on.

This last week I gifted a little table to a hard-working woman who always helps me out at the local Goodwill. Now that stores are reopened and we are “free” to move about I find myself wandering the aisles looking for a few fun pieces.

This table below is a Goodwill find and it intrigued me. Small enough to be a desk, large enough to be a dining room table. I had to have it. So, for a mere $60 I took this home and started to work. My first vision was to make it all white-washed. I started to get rid of the old finish, sanding, and scrubbing. And then applied the white wash to it. Nope. I just didn’t like the effect. I then went and bought some grey wood stain. Nope. Didn’t love that either. Back to the store I went and this time I came home with a dark espresso stain for the base. Then I opened a can of soft blue paint. I discovered that “DIY accidents” sometimes happen with the best results as I dipped my grey-stained paintbrush into the bucket with my light blue paint. FINALLY, a color combo that seemed to work. Next step… I placed some flower furniture transfers on the leaves of the table. I didn’t even notice the leaves until I got the piece home. Below are photos of the steps from “love at first sight” to the finished product.

It is all about looking unique!

I have figured out in a short amount of time that people want unique pieces of furniture. “Statement” pieces. And, during these difficult times where stores can take months to deliver, people really are finding different avenues for their decorating needs. These few pieces – again from Goodwill, ReStore by Habitat for Humanity, Beacon House in Long Beach, and your neighborhood estate and yard sales finds – all flew out of my garage. Some before I could even put the finishing touches on them.

Let’s talk “embellishments”…

I have found that people like the little “extras” when I redo a piece of furniture. The furniture rub-on/in transfers (found on Etsy, for example) are super popular.

Next is the type of handles or drawer pulls you use. The one I have on the left and right side pieces is a sea turtle in a shabby chic motif.

Color is important, too. I use almost exclusively Benjamin Moore paint. I know that a lot of people love chalk or special order paints. I buy high-quality paints that last. Popular colors seem to be shades of teal, light sage greens, dark purple, greys, and basic cream. Using more than one color can lead to a dramatic effect.

Don’t forget that kid furniture is fun, too!

I LOVE creating fun furniture for kids! Especially if I can add an “educational lesson” to it, too!

How can something so labor-intensive be relaxing and help to lower stress?

I am not a runner. I don’t even like to run. But, I do like to give myself challenges, and learning to refinish furniture and play with power tools was exactly what I needed to do to help muddle through a pandemic. And guess what, I decided to keep it up even after the pandemic settles – although from the looks of things I may have dozens more pieces of furniture ahead of me.

I also decided to expand. Why stick with just furniture. I can make smaller items that will help channel some creativity differently.

So, I started decorating boxes, picture frames, and just about anything that can be morphed into art and/or a gift. Here are some of the early designs. Oh – in case you haven’t figured it out – blues and purples are my fave colors.

You are never too old…

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here – you are never too old to try something new. It may at first seem impossible … but you will never know until you try. For me, “challenge accepted!”

You can find many of the products used on my designs via ETSY. Links below:*

Fairy Designs on the chairs, etc. can be found here

Several of the designs were using products from this Etsy store – MaikaDaughters

* I am not a brand ambassador for these stores at the time of writing this blog.

Refinishing Furniture – Lessons I have learned

Have you ever seen something and thought to yourself, “I could do that!” A long time ago I had ideas on creating crib toys with black and white graphics – but no sooner did I have my prototype completed a toy company beat me to it! I also thought of play centers for kids that were both educational and fun – lost out on that too – remember Discovery Zone and Gymboree?! Now, I decided I am going to join an already established community of people who refinish used furniture and morph it to look vintage or retro. I have spent quite a bit of the past months scouring over Pinterest and online magazines. I have visited resale/consignment shops and creative art centers. I am gleaning from various resources a plethora of fun ideas.

Enough reading – time to sand, prime, and paint!

TIP 1: Collect common sense and useful resources on how to refinish furniture.

Tip: Not all furniture uses the same materials or steps in the process of refinishing. Taking an old broken cabinet from a garage sale and painstakingly going through the process of repair, preparation, painting and, finishing – takes time. It is not a few hours of just slapping on paint.

I decided to go to the ReSTORE, owned by Habitat for Humanity. This is how one can buy get gently used furniture that isn’t too worn and also give back to the community. Here I bought my “practice piece” for $10 and one that I am most likely will just resand and use wood stain finish.

TIP 2: When you pick a piece of old furniture to “redo” make sure it has “interest” value.

For me, this means that the furniture has some cool features such as interesting etching in the wood, an unusual design or shape, and/or hardware that is really groovy!

I got this piece during my second visit to a second ReSTORE and bought it because 1) it was made by Ethan Allen 2) The handle knob was cool and visually interesting. Scroll a bit more to see how I transformed this sad little table to something a really “groovy”!

TIP 3: Add some pieces to your collection, but remember you only have so much space and time.

I spotted the piece below on the left at an Estate sales website. The lady asked for $75. I offered $10. We settled on $15. Now it sits in my living room. Milk paint on the top with a polyurethane finish. Resanded and refinished the wood on the sides and painted the interior of the drawer. It is pictured here drying in our very used and crowded garage. I could have picked up three or four more pieces in the set. I opted not to do so because I wanted to be selective. One was enough.

Until the next day.

That is when I picked up the lovely side table with drop leaves (right). Sure it needs some TLC – but I can’t wait to “sand this baby”! (Aww I am talking “DYI” speak!)

TIP 4: Let other’s know about your new creative venture and maybe you will make your hobby profitable.

I have been working out of our garage. So far, just by having people walk by – I have sold two pieces. One isn’t even started yet!

Below is the little Ethan Allen table that was kinda “sad”. Slide the arrow in the middle of the images below to see the “before” and “after”.

Here are the steps:

  • Sand the top wood with very light sandpaper. Preferably using a small electric sander.
  • Paint a primer coat (white) over the wood and let dry completely.
  • I used Benjamin Moore paint (eggshell) in the color WROUGHT IRON. I painted three coats on this piece. Thanks to the people at my local ACE hardware for being great resources and my “support” team for picking great colors!
  • I then used a furniture wax for painted furniture to give it a bit of sheen.
  • The old knob, which I liked, but didn’t think matched well with the new look, was replaced with this one from Home Goods. (Came in a set of four) I think this new knob gives it a more contemporary look.
  • Lastly, I lined the inside of the drawer with contact paper that does not stick (in case the new owner doesn’t like it and wants to replace it).

Voila! In a day or so this table will be ready for a new home (obviously not completed yet!

gold, black and white knob
The knob

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