Hello and welcome! As I mentioned last week when I shared my vintage bar cart styling tips, I am going for a vintage New York cabaret/nightclub/boite look for our living and dining rooms, due to our love of the time period of the 1920s and 30s, which is also the same time period in which our Craftsman-style bungalow was built.
Today I have this little cabinet that we picked up a few weeks ago at the Salvation Army Thrift Store when they were having their weekly half-off everything sale. It ran us $35, and although a veneer piece, was in perfect shape! With a little paint and detailing, I knew it could be a real vintage beauty.
This piece was going into the living room, where it would share space with not only the vintage bar cart, which is gold, but also a new bookcase that my husband is building. A matching style but larger bookcase is going into the adjoining dining room, and I knew that I would be painting the bottom of those bookcases in ivory, and then staining the tops in a dark brown finish. Because of all this, I had to be careful in selecting colors for this cabinet, and where I placed the color. I didn’t want all the furniture to match exactly, but I did want it all to work well together in the end.
I painted the outside in a rich dark chocolate brown. I used Pittsburgh Paints Ultra paint in the shade Friar’s Brown, and it matches the chandelier in our dining room, which helps to tie both spaces together visually. The doors were painted in the closest match I could find for the room trim color, which is called Morocco Sand. (Don’t you love how they come up with the most wonderful names for what is essentially beige paint??) I selected for both semi-gloss interior latex acrylic paint, because I know that this cabinet is going to get some use and have objects placed on top of it, so I wanted a tough surface that could withstand some wear and still look great.
Tip #1: Grab your digital camera and snap away so you have a record of what everything looks like before and after you take it apart,
I took the doors and door knobs off so that I could paint them more easily. When working on a painting project, be sure to keep the doors identified as to which side they go–this will prevent you from putting them on the wrong side when you put the piece back together after painting. Although at first glance it looks like the doors could go on either side, if you put them on upside down, they don’t fit and will stick (don’t ask me how I know:)
Tip #2: Use the paint-on Zinsser Cover Stain Oil-Based Primer Stain Blocker Bond Coat to prep your veneer furniture for painting.
You need a good bonding primer when you are trying to paint a slick surface like veneer, or else the paint will not stick. The Zinsser product worked well for me, but not in the spray-paint version. I had to apply a thick coat to get a really smooth surface on the furniture, and the paint-on worked much better for this purpose. Another thing–some people say that you can paint over this particular brand of primer in only one hour after applying, but that was not my experience. I had to give it at least 4-5 hours before I could paint. This is definitely going to vary depending up on the temperature and the humidity of where you live.
It is usually recommended that you sand a little bit after you prime. It was very hard to do this on the veneer. The sand paper–which was a very fine 400 grit–still wanted to pull all the primer off, so I finally just bagged it.
Tip #3: Invest in a good-quality angle brush.
I painted the inside and outside of the cabinet with two coats of paint, allowing 24 hours to pass in between coats so that it could dry thoroughly. I chose a one-inch wide Purdy brush, which was just under $9, but it was money well spent. I used this brush for all the painting I did, and that little angle was great for smoothing out the painted surfaces so you couldn’t see any brush marks, and it got into all the little corners and cracks very easily. I just love this brush–it made a big difference in the final appearance of this cabinet.
Tip #4: Do your best to visualize in advance what you think it will look like, but when it doubt, just go for it and try it out!
The outside of the doors were really a lesson in experimentation. I wanted to highlight all the neat details, so I tried painting the linear strips in the dark brown. What a disaster that was, so I had to start over, prime the door fronts again, and paint them ivory again. Don’t be afraid to try an idea out, because you can always prime and paint over it if you don’t like it. By experimenting with the colors, I did decide exactly what I wanted in the end, which was to create a brown stain to use on the cross-hatch detailing on the center of each door, and then switch out the door knobs with some cool vintage colored glass ones. I like how they turned out! I think those amber glass knobs look like vintage jewelry on this pretty cabinet. They came from a neat Portland, Oregon store that sells all kinds of fun vintage stuff for the home called Hippo Hardware, and they cost $6 each.
Tip #5: Be patient and wait for that final protective finish to really have a chance to dry and cure before you use the furniture.
After all the paint had a chance to dry for 24 hours, I gave it one coat of Clear Satin water-based Minwax Polycrylic protective finish. Although it says it’s dry in 24 hours, I wanted to make sure the finish was really cured due to the heavy victrola that was going on the surface, so I let it dry for 5 days. That was so hard–I really wanted to move it in and decorate it, but I was good and waited! If you can press a fingernail into the finish, it isn’t set up enough. Expect to wait about 3-5 days in order to get a hard finish. I know it’s hard to wait, but you don’t want to go through all this work and then put something on top that leaves a ding in it.
Finally, it was done! I love how it turned out.
I glazed the inside of the cabinet in a dark gold glaze, to pick up the other gold accents in the room. What a fun surprise when you open the doors!
The victrola is a reproduction that we bought years ago when we were in college. It languished, alone and forlorn, in its box for years because we didn’t have the right room or space for it. Now it has a happy home, where it will play my husband’s collection of vintage 78 records!
Have you painted veneer furniture before, and do you have any tips to make the process easier? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, so stop by for a visit!
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