How to Refurbish an Antique Bed – Even When It’s Disgusting

The before pictures of our antique bed.

I knew when I found an outdated and disgusting antique bed for $50 on Facebook Marketplace that I HAD to have it.

The fact that I didn’t even have a house to put it in at the time was irrelevant. I convinced my husband to go with me to pick it up and we stored it at a friend’s house until our horrible PCS was finally over.

It was months before we were able to start working on it, but it was worth the wait!

The refurbished antique bed with cow hide upholstery.
(The finished product!)

Here’s how to refurbish an antique bed!

Step 1: Remove Old Tacks & Fabric

Our first step to refurbish an antique bed was to remove hundreds of old upholstery tacks. This was the part that I was dreading the most because there were SO MANY of them.

Pulling the upholstery tacks out....all 684,651 of them!
(There were hundreds of upholstery tacks to remove.)

We used a flat head screwdriver to pry the tacks out. It didn’t take nearly as long as I feared though. After pulling enough tacks out to get our fingers up under the fabric, we could pull up the fabric and pull multiple tacks up at the same time.

When we refurbish antique bed we take the tacks out with a flat head screwdriver.
(The upholstery tacks came out pretty easy with a flat head screwdriver.)

Once the tacks were removed, we removed the old and stained fabric. We decided to leave the cushioning underneath since it was still in good shape. But I did spray it down with bleach to make sure it was clean.

Pro Tip: Don’t throw the old fabric pieces away yet!

Refurbishing a bed frame.
(The cushioning underneath was in surprisingly good shape.)

Step 2: Sand It Down

The second step to refurbish an antique bed is to sand it down. Sanding is my least favorite part of any project, which is why my sweet husband did most of the sanding on this one.

Refurbish step 2: sanding.
(Husband of the year award goes to…..THIS GUY!)

Sanding the bed really made the ornate feet on it stand out. I was sooo tempted to just leave it as natural wood and just put a coat of polycrylic sealer on it, but the light-colored wood wouldn’t look right with the cow hide fabric that we picked out.

The feet of the antique bed we refurbished.
(Look how pretty the feet looked after sanding!)

Step 3: Time for Stain

After we sanded and wiped down the bed frame, it was time to stain it!

We decided on a medium shade of wood stain. We used Rust-Oleum Ultimate Wood Stain in Barrel Brown from Wal-Mart and it came out beautifully!

Refurbish an antique bed step 3: stain.
(We applied our stain with an old rag, but you can always use a brush.)

Step 4: Cut Fabric to Size

The next step to refurbish an antique bed is to prepare the new fabric.

I traced to the old pieces of fabric that we pulled off the bed onto the back of the new fabric.

Pro Tip: Make sure that you lay the old fabric face down onto the back of the new fabric.

Once we traced the old fabric onto the new fabric, it was time to cut it out.

Pro Tip: When cutting the old fabric add about a half-inch on each edge, to account for folding the fabric under when you tack it down.

Step 5: Re-Upholster the Bed

The next step turned out to the be the most aggravating and time-consuming of all. It was time to reupholster the bed.

Starting in one corner of the upholstery section. I folded the fabric under to make a straight, neat line, then placed a tack in the corner and drove it partially in. Then used my fingers for spacing to place the next tack.

(It wasn’t a very scientific or precise approach, but it actually worked out really good.)

Pro Tip: Instead of trying to hold the tack you are hammering with your fingers, use a pair of needle nose pliers instead.

After partially driving in a row of tacks I went back and hammered the tacks all the way in. We didn’t put them all the way in at first in case we had to pull them out and adjust the spacing.

Also, they tended to move around and bend when we were hammering them in, so it best to use gentle taps with your hammer. Don’t try to drive them in with one or two hard blows, it’s only going to break the head of your tack.

This step would have taken me MUCH longer, but thankfully, my husband helped me. One of us would fold the fabric and hold it down, while the other place the tack and hammered it in. It made the whole process go much faster!

We were able to reupholster this whole bed with almost no wrinkles!

Reupholstering a wooden antique bed.
(In this picture, he’s holding the fabric and the tack and I’m hammering it in.)

Step 6: Put It Together

Since the upholstery was finished, it was time to put our ‘new’ bed together and enjoy!

(It was finally time to move the bed into our room!)

The introduction of this cow print fabric into our bedroom changed everything! We needed new bedding, since our navy buffalo check quilt just didn’t look right.

When I bought this ‘janky thing’ we had no idea how to refurbish an antique bed, but I think it came together so well! I am beyond pleased with my $50 find from Facebook Marketplace!

I can’t wait to do a little more decorating and maybe even put together a post showcasing our ‘new’ pretty bedroom. Since this is the first time I have EVER really decorated it. It usually just gets the leftovers that are discarded from other rooms in the house.

For more of our refurbishing projects check out:


  1. May 12, 2022 / 3:36 am

    very good post, i definitely love this web site, keep on it

    • findingmandee
      May 12, 2022 / 8:13 pm

      Thank you!

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