Oct 112011

how to safely use vintage furniture in kids roomsKids are rough on furniture. That’s a given in life. If you’re worried about nicks, dents, and scratches on new furniture, your answer might just be using vintage instead of new. (Labeling furniture as secondhand or hand-me-down doesn’t sound as appealing—so we call it vintage!)

Proceed with caution before placing vintage furniture in kids’ rooms. Think safety first! Use these guidelines to help determine if your vintage find (with ‘character marks’ already built-in) is durable enough to safely use in a kid’s room.

Test and Inspect
  • Look it over—carefully. Don’t be impulsive in your selection. Check all surfaces, inside and out.
  • Pick it up. Lean on it (gently). Turn it over. Pull drawers out. Open doors. Open lids or tops. Sit on it (if it’s a chair).
  • Well-made pieces DO NOT wobble or shake, no matter what.
  • All four legs should touch the ground at the same time.
  • Check for splinters, cracks, rough or sharp edges. Can they be repaired or smoothed?
how to safely use vintage furniture in kids rooms

All four legs on the floor? Table doesn’t shift side-to-side? Then it’s ok to use in a kids room.

how to safely use vintage furniture in kids rooms

Check to see if veneer and decorative application is securely attached.

Materials and Components
  • If you want it to last, only use solid wood or wood veneer over hardwood.
  • Look for strong woods like birch, oak, and poplar.
  • Be sure any veneers are securely overlaid on wood and not particleboard which bloats when wet, fractures when damaged.
  • Check veneers for cracks and chips.
  • Applied decoration must be secure or removable.
Joints and Connections
  • Look at joint assembly and how pieces are connected for durability.
  • Joints should be tongue and groove, mortise and tenon, rabbet, or dovetail.
  • Connections should use hardwood dowels, bolts and glue with corner blocks, not staples and glue only.
  • Connections should not need more than a little wood glue and screws tightened.

how to safely use vintage furniture in kids rooms

how to safely use vintage furniture in girls rooms
Hardware and Hinges
  • New hardware may be all that is needed to make a piece functional.
  • Give handles and knobs the pull test. Does it fit a child’s hand? Can they pull it off?
  • Are hinges secure and tight?
  • Are drawer glides secure? Do drawers move smoothly?
  • Check metal for sharp edges to avoid cuts, scratches, and snagged clothing.
Finish and Seal
  • Check condition of finish. Does it need more than a thorough cleaning? Does it need refinished or repainted?
  • If it is painted and pre-1980, check for lead in the paint. Pick up a simple test kit here.
  • DO NOT remove lead paint by sanding; only use solvents. Better yet, have lead paint removed by a professional, then refinish yourself if a DIY project is tempting.
  • Is there any rust present on metal components?
how to safely use vintage furniture in kids rooms

No splinters or cracks? Chipped paint is ok for teen rooms but still must not contain lead paint.

how to safely use vintage furniture in kids rooms how to safely use vintage furniture in kids rooms
Sturdy and solid…. like new with a little paint


Of course, some pieces are better suited to tweens and teens rather than toddlers and kids, but if the vintage furniture you want to use passes all these guidelines, feel free to use it. Only you can decide if your vintage find will safely withstand your little monkeys!

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