For varnished furniture with scrapes, scratches or water damage, rubbing on some Old English oil can make them magically disappear, temporarily. In a few hours, the marks will begin to come back. Doing this will make things look acceptable when company comes. If your buffet has marks from being wet or from hot dishes, a table runner looks very nice and hides the spot. The diningroom table is also an easy one, especially if you don’t eat there on a daily basis….put a table pad on and cover it with a nice tablecloth. Furniture can also be painted with an opaque paint to match your decor. You can get as creative as you like with this and experiment. Since its old furniture, what do you have to lose? Anything is an improvement, right?
Couch: If you are in a multi-cat/dog or multi-kid household, your couch is probably suffering. Usually the integrity of the frame holds up a lot longer than the upholstery. The only solution to this problem that I know of is to cover it. If your couch is new or in good shape, cover to protect. Otherwise, cover it to hide. Slip covers are expensive though. Keep your eyes open for good deals. Surefit has some beautiful things. Its worth checking the sale webpage. I have the best luck at overstock.com. You can, of course, use a bedspread but they don’t stay put very well and if you have kids that will be squirming on the couch, you will get tired of adjusting it very quickly.
before and after Chairs: Upholstered chairs can have slip covers, too. Chairs with cane seats that are going bad can be hidden with a chair pad. Nicks on the wood part can be concealed with Old English or with furniture putty/pens. I know they sell these at the grocery store, but there might be a better selection at a hardware store.
Changing drapes and bedspreads can help spruce up the bedroom and make things look more coordinated. Again, look out for the sales.
Got an old futon with an icky mattress? I bought a very nice and very cushy new mattress for mine for a reasonable price from Overstocks.com. You can even get a special slip cover for your futon with a “skirted” front. I bought one made of denim fabric. I think it will do a nice job protecting the new mattress from the cats and kids. What a world of difference it made. It is sooo comfortable now and certainly passable as a decent peice of furniture.
All these quick fixes can add up and become expensive in themselves. It is important to consider if the piece is important enough for you to actually keep. Keep in mind that a lot of furniture made today isn’t nearly as substantial and sturdy as furniture made 40 years ago or more, so it might be worth it to refinish the piece if possible.