Recently I had a customer come into What’s Old Is New asking if I could make a custom buffet for a small dining room. She had been looking for months at traditional furniture stores but everything she saw was way too big for her space. The main problem she was running into was width, she needed something at most fourteen inches wide. Most of the buffets she saw in stores were eighteen to twenty-four inches wide. That wouldn’t allow room for guests to sit on one side of her table.
The other thing she was looking for was storage for her china and crystal. Many of the furniture sales people suggested a council table that could be used for serving. But that wouldn’t help with her storage needs. The months of searching did pay off in one way, she knew what she wanted. She came to What’s Old Is New armed with measurements, photos of pieces she liked and colors for the finishes. All I needed to do was find the right piece of furniture. And that turned into quite a challenge.
I started by grabbing my measuring tape and going through my stock of furniture waiting in my barn to be refinished. All too big or much too small. Then I paid visits to some of my favorite people who have old furniture to sell to see if they had anything that would fit the bill. When I didn’t find a workable piece in those places I drove out to Sam’s farm to see if there might be something right for the job there. Nothing, and Sam wasn’t even home to make the trip worthwhile – darn.
On the drive home from the farm I had a flash of inspiration. Instead of going home I went back to the house that was my first stop of the day. They were having their kitchen remodeled and in their garage, stacked on top of each other, were all the old kitchen cabinets. Lucky for me the owner was home and gave me the okay to sort through them. Right at the top of the stack I found the perfect thing, an upper dish cabinet – forty-eight inches long and twelve inches wide. Bingo! Big enough to store lots of china and crystal. Skinny enough to allow guests to sit around the dining table.
Now all it needed was to pass my touch test. I laid my hands on it and let its memories wash through me. A little girl, maybe three, sat on the counter next to the cabinet, she fiddled with the door, waiting for her mom to gather ingredients so they could make cookies. The little girl grew up in that kitchen, cooking and baking with her mom and grandma. There were other family members in and out of the memories, grabbing a glass or a plate, but the girl was the star of the images. As she grew her skills grew too, she made many beautiful things and some flops too. The cabinet seemed infused with warmth and sweetness. It really was perfect for this project.
Of course, I forgot, once again, to take a before photo. I just took it home and got to work.Oh well, I made sure to take after photos.
How I Transformed It
- I gave it a thorough dusting, a light sanding inside and out so the paint would adhere, and then another dusting
- First I gave the inside of the cabinet and the inside of the doors a couple of nice, fresh coats of white paint. Just to make it look clean and new.
- After the inside dried I started on the outside of the piece. My client was going for a very formal look to match her dining table and chairs. She chose dark maroon and gold for the color scheme. I removed the doors and hinges then simply brushed on two layers of satin finish latex paint in the dark maroon color. Using a natural sea sponge, I applied metallic gold paint over the maroon base coat. By lightly dabbing the gold on with the sponge I created a cloudy look to tone down the maroon. The gold doesn’t really show up as metallic.
- The cabinet doors were very plain. To dress them up I stenciled on a Fleur de Lis motif and boarder with gold stencil paint. The stenciling gives the illusion of carved doors and ads an elegant element.
- Next I needed legs and a top to turn a dish cabinet into a dining room buffet. These beautiful carved legs I salvaged a few months ago were just the right size, all they need was paint. I repeated the maroon and sponge painted gold finish I used on the cabinet on the legs. After drilling hole in the underside of the cabinet I screwed the legs in place.
- The top I had to make seeing as I had no salvage pieces that would work. My client has a lovely maple dining table with serpentine edges that I used as a template for the buffet counter top. At the local lumber yard I purchased a one inch thick maple board. Using the template, I cut the serpentine edge then beveled it using a router. After sanding it I finished it with a maple shade, polyurethane stain. Turning it all upside down I attached the top to the cabinet using screws. After attaching the top the width (at the widest curve of the serpentine edge) was fourteen inches. Once the top was in place I turned the buffet right side up and reattached the doors.
- The last thing the buffet needed was some hard ware. For that I had to go back to the store. These round scalloped knobs mirror the shapes in stenciling as well as the muted gold color. After those were attached the buffet was ready to deliver. It fit perfectly in the dining room, with plenty of room to sit at the table. I’m happy to say my client loved it
If you’re going to work on a refinishing project remember to read all product instructions carefully. Also make sure you have safety gear like eye protection and gloves, etc.