After photo of den taken for John and Sherry Petersik's website (John and Sherry Petersik/JOHN AND SHERRY PETERSIK)

One of John and Sherry Petersik’s favorite low-cost methods for improving a space is painting. But that doesn’t mean changing just the wall color. Giving old furniture a new coat of paint can re-energize an entire room.

When it comes to revitalizing tired pieces, the Petersiks are self-taught pros. To spruce up their homes, they’ve repainted or repaired the finish on light fixtures, dressers, bathroom vanities and kitchen cabinets.

“We’ve always had a use-what-you-have mentality,” says Sherry. “But if you don’t have what you need, the next best thing is something someone else has previously owned.”

Shopping Craiglist, Freecycle, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and thrift stores is budget-friendly, and old furniture is often much better quality than new pieces found in chain stores, she says.

“A lot of new stuff is laminate, which is awesome, but you can’t reinvent it as easily,” says Sherry. “Repainting laminate isn’t recommended. It can be done, but it won’t yield the same long-lasting results as painting wood.”

While it takes practice, persistence and lots of latex to become a painter as skilled as the Petersiks, they offer this advice for first-time DIYers:

“Don’t be scared,” says Sherry. “Often, the pieces that look the worst are the easiest to update. Sanding, priming and painting is child’s play. Anyone can do it. If you can wrap a gift, you can refinish something.”

From the blog

For the Petersiks’ step-by-step instructions on painting furniture, visit www.younghouse
and search for “How to Paint Furniture.”

For instructions
on refinishing furniture, search for “Refinishing a Veneer Dresser.”

Makeover Breakdown

The Petersiks completed their budget-friendly living room makeover (pictured above) with the help of these thrifty finds.

-$1,200 Sofa, Pottery Barn

-$450 Hardwood flooring, Lumber Liquidators

-$119 Slipper chair, Target

-$130 Rug, Pottery Barn

-$25 Ikea chair, bought at a thrift shop

-$83 Primer and paint, Home Depot (wall color: Eloquent Ivory by Glidden)

-$41 Frames, thrift stores, Target and T.J. Maxx

-$20 Drum shade and spray-paint for ceiling fan base, Home Depot

-$36 Blinds, Wal-Mart

-$19 Mirror, HomeGoods

-$24 Curtain panels, Ikea

-$200 Other furniture and accessories, including: media cabinet, pillows, horse head, plants, pots and ottoman tray.