If you're interested in making your new house a home or if you're looking for a hobby, try buying and refinishing someone else's discarded treasures.

First you have to find them. Auctions, estate sales, garage sales, consignment shops, flea markets and classified ads in the newspaper are all great places to locate these gems.Next, check for quality. Tables and chairs should be sturdy, not wobbly. Pull drawers in and out to make sure they slide easily. Hardware should be attached with screws that go all the way through the back of the piece.

If you are a true craftsman, even these types of imperfections won't be a deterrent, but for beginners, steer clear of the less than perfect.

Now that you found it and bought it, the real fun begins. I could tell you to take it to a professional refinisher because that would be the smart thing to do. But that wouldn't be as much fun, would it?

You'll probably need to strip the old paint, varnish or whatever off the piece. If the job is too big or too tough to do, then concede. Professional shops usually wash the furniture in a vat of remover, then scrub it with nylon or steel wool brush. If you're ambitious enough to strip it yourself, be sure to work in a well ventilated area and wear rubber gloves. And always keep all chemicals well out of the reach of children.

Now that the messy job is over, the creative part begins. You can paint it, stain it, oil it or wax it. Actually, if you like the way it looks in the buff, you may bleach it or stain it just enough to enhance the natural look. If you are truly talented, you might want to paint flowers or leaves, geometric or a trompe l'oeil on it.

One "previously owned" chair or cocktail table might be all you need to cozy up your room. If you want more than that, a large armoire will certainly do the trick.

And for those who truly enjoy refinishing as a hobby, the problem soon becomes when to stop.