This beautiful piece was a craigslist score and had been sitting in my garage for several years unclaimed. One of my customers saw it in my website's “furniture available for customization” album, and knew it would be perfect against a large blank wall she had in her home. There were a few cosmetic details she wanted to change, but she could see the endless potential, just like I could.
A unique feature, and honestly one of the coolest things about this piece, is the secret drawer hidden underneath. Since this a buffet, it's meant to be used in the formal dining room, and the hidden storage is the perfect spot to discreetly store your silver utensils, and for easy access during elaborate dinner parties.
Amid our initial consultation, my customer mentioned that she wanted to replace all the hardware. We rummaged through my hardware collection and found some vintage pulls that she was able to compliment with additional drawer hardware she found online.
She also decided on the perfect two-tone color combo for this piece - Soapstone Fusion Mineral Paint for the body, and Cappuccino Stain & Finishing Oil for the top. Soapstone is a beautiful gray/blue that makes everything it touches sparkle! I chose this color for my Fusion Mineral Paint display, and it's looked beautiful and timeless in every space I've put it in. The color is very universal, and I've learned that the blue tone comes through more and more as additional light is introduced to it.
One change my customer wanted to make was to replace the metal support bars between the legs with wood supports that matched the design of the buffet. Not a problem, Chris was able to take his grinder and cut the metal braces off, then fashioned four wood braces from some leftover oak to support the legs. To do this, he took some measurements, cut some boards to size, and carefully chamfered the edges with his router to match an existing design element on the buffet. This gave the buffet a nice, cohesive look, a look it should have had from the beginning. To make sure everything came together nice and solid, he used wood glue and screws to tighten everything up. This piece is looking better already, and I haven't even started painting!
The next issue to tackle was the badly deteriorated veneer…dun dun DUN!!! Due to neglect from the previous owner, there was substantial water damage to the veneer top, and also some of the drawer fronts. Whenever I face veneer in this condition, I almost always decide to remove it. For me, regluing is only an option when I'm working with small pieces of delaminated veneer, not large sections.
For this task, I grabbed my heat gun and wood chisel and went to town! The heat gun liquefies the glue so you can “easily” separate the remaining veneer from the wood underneath. It took me a little over an hour to remove all the veneer from the buffet top, which wore my arms OUT!
You may be asking yourself “why do companies use veneer anyway?”. Well, that's a good question! There can be a myriad of reasons, but after removing the veneer from this buffet, I can tell you that this furniture company wanted their product to look expensive and elegant. The wood underneath the veneer is low quality, but still solid. You can see it's not a premium quality wood because of all the natural pitting. To save money, companies choose a lower grade wood, then put expensive looking cuts of veneer (which is a thin layer of a higher quality wood) on top.
Once I saw the condition of the wood underneath, I knew my customer would probably not want it stained because I would have to fill all of those imperfections with wood putty (fun fact: wood putty is not stainable, no matter what they tell you!). Thankfully I have a trick up my sleeve for this one! I love Fusion Mineral Paint's color Chocolate because it mimics a dark, luxurious stain. After a quick phone call to find out if this substitution was a viable solution for her, my customer said "Go For It"!
Now that the top was taken care of, I switched my attention over to the drawer fronts. As you remember from earlier, the drawer fronts also had some veneer damage. This was tricky because the drawers have decorative molding on them, and at first, I wasn’t sure how the molding was attached. I got out my wood chisel and carefully felt around the molding, gently lifting the edges, making sure I didn’t break it. Ultimately I found that the molding was held by small brad nails, and all the nail holes were filled so they wouldn't be visible. Once I discovered this, I carefully went about removing the moldings and then took off the veneer that was hiding underneath.
Are you guys still with me?! See how much work is involved before a single drop of paint is applied?! Depending on condition, older pieces of furniture can be a lot of work. In preparation of getting my first coat of paint on a piece, I often spend hours, if not days, repairing damage. My motto is, “If you aren’t going to take the time to do it right, then why do it at all?”.
After many hours of filling small holes, and then sanding everything, I was finally satisfied and ready to apply the primer, YAY! I primed the top and decided to also prime the new wood that used to support the legs because it's raw, porous, and will soak up a ton of paint if I don’t prime it.
Once the top and leg supports were primed, I could now spray a couple coats of Chocolate on the buffet top. When that was complete and dry, I papered the top to keep the Soapstone from getting on what I had just painted. I sprayed two coats of Soapstone on the rest of the buffet and it looked BEAUTIFUL…until I applied poly.
Oh no! I noticed some horrible bleedthrough where I just applied Soapstone! Considering the age of this piece, I should have known better and primed the whole thing instead of a few spots. Thankfully I'm a problem solver and can remedy this with some spray-on Shellac. After applying the Shellac over the entire body of the buffet, I had to re-paper the top, then re-apply paint and poly to the body of the buffet. Whew, I'm beat!
This is the finished product, isn’t the transformation incredible?! When my customer came to pick it up, she FREAKED OUT (in a good way of course). Her vision had come to life! After she safely got it home and situated in its new space, she sent me TONS of pics!
Even through all the trials this piece put me through, there's something about these restorations that has me hooked. The frustrations all melt away when you see how happy your customer is, and knowing that this furniture has received a whole new lease on life, when it might have been thrown out for all of its defects.
Most issues can be fixed and all furniture can be transformed, it just requires talking to a professional who knows how to get it done!
If you have a piece you would like painted but don't want to do the work yourself just click my picture below for more info on custom painting.
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If you want to see the whole process of painting this piece beginning to end, please watch the video, click below.