Friday, July 5, 2013

Vintage Sideboard turned TV Cabinet

For the last few months I have been feeling energised and inspired with my furniture painting. This all came to a grinding halt this week with a few pieces of furniture that were extremely difficult and just plain hard, hard work.

One of them was this old sideboard I bought on eBay. It nearly had me giving up painting furniture! A blog reader, Jessica, asked me to keep an eye out for a television cabinet for her. Sideboards are generally too high for this purpose but this one was very top heavy and had ugly legs that I thought could be chopped off to make it the right height for a tv to be mounted above.

I asked the guy on eBay lots of questions including do the doors open and shut okay? Yes, he said, it's all fine. Well off I went to pick it up and fell in love with their house. It was amazing: imagine stumbling across an old crumbling French two storey mansion in the middle of Burwood. I was positively drooling ...until I saw the cabinet. OMG. It was filthy and I could see it needed more work than he let on but I thought I was up for the challenge (and I'd already won the auction so was committed to buy anyway). 

After a tour of the house, I got to work on prepping the sideboard for transport. I cleaned off a few spider webs and chopped the bottom H bracket off the legs so it would all fit in my car and brought it home.  They laughed a bit nervously when I pulled out my electric saw and asked "You're not going to get offended if I chop up your sideboard, are you?"


Once I got home I sawed the ball bits of the legs off and kept them aside (I'll show you later what I did with them). Once the cabinet was level, I took the back of the cabinet off. It was just plywood and nailed on with little nails so it just levered off. And so I started cleaning..and cleaning...and cleaning. 



I then sanded the top initially to get out a massive blue ink stain (where you can see the pale wood below after sanding) and then stripped the whole top back to bare wood. I used my orbital sander for this one. Best power tool ever.



Once the top was bare. I stained it with my favourite walnut stain and when that was dry I gave it three coats of wipe on poly, sanding between coats. After the final coat was dry I sanded with 1500 grit sand paper and gave the top a coat of dark wax and buffed it to a lovely sheen. Below is the top as it is finished. In other photos further below you can see the sheen. The oak grain is beautiful.  I also stained the inside and waxed it to make it all nice and clean and new(ish) again.




Because the oak sideboard was very dark wood and I wanted full paint coverage (rather than the see through look you sometimes see on shabby chic furniture)  I gave it three coats of Zinsser primer and 3 coats of white paint (Dulux's whisper white). I distressed it very gently after much discussion with my client. We both prefer furniture that is not heavily distressed but this old piece needed some distressing to keep in character and also to bring out the beautiful shape and carvings. 





So you are probably wondering where the stress came from - all the above seems very straight forward doesn't it. Time consuming maybe but nothing stressful.  Let me show you the little thing that did my head in.




The base of the cabinet had bowed (sunk in the middle) which pulled down the central panel that the middle doors hung off. This meant the doors DID NOT open and close properly at all. Thanks eBay guy. Although to be fair perhaps he doesn't know about cabinet making and he did sell it as a restoration project. At first I tried just tightening the screws on the hinges (this should always be your first step when fixing doors) but they still grazed the wood when opening. Without completely dismantling the cabinet and replacing the wooden base, I couldn't fix the bowed wood so instead I got out my portable belt sander and planed the doors and also rehung the central doors which meant they sat slightly high but swung well. This took me 4 and a half hours one day last week and I still didn't have it perfect and it was doing my head in and keeping me awake at night.

But then on Wednesday when I was at the Hunter Valley and I was telling my lovely friends how the cabinet was getting the better of me to the point I had woken up the night before and stayed awake for several hours thinking about the bowed base and how I couldn't get it "perfect" but Leanne and Jen were wonderful and supportive about my work, my furniture and the brand that I'm trying to create. Jen pulled me up and said "Fi, wait a sec, it's a very old vintage cabinet that your client's buying and it's never going to be perfect. That's not what you are about. You are about creating unique furniture and you will make it beautiful and she will love it." I just love  how good friends know exactly what needs to be said to calm you down. Thanks Jen and Leanne xx

So I came home last night from our little holiday much happier, confident and calmer and today I finished painting the cabinets, I made shelves for the video and foxtel machines etc to slide in out of thick MDF and painted them and glued them in place with Liquid Nails, I distressed the cabinet and gave it a quick top coat of wax (Howards feed'n'wax). It was picked up this afternoon and Jessica who bought it loved it. Phew!



As a little extra for Jess, I also turned the round bit of the chopped off legs into candle holders. Jessica's husband is going to tap them so you can inset a long candle into the top.  I painted one in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint French Linen with a lighter wash over the top and the other I whitewashed to bring out the oak grain. 


I think they'll look beautiful on top of the tv cabinet once it's all set up in it's new home.  I am actually very relieved how it all turned out and also that I have a few weeks off painting any more furniture. I won't start any more pieces until after the school holidays. It will be good to give my kids some undivided attention for the next week and a half.



I absolutely love painting furniture but find that it is a bit of a roller-coaster with my emotions and confidence at times. I wonder if it is like that with any creative endeavour. If you also paint furniture, do you find this? When it's all going well, I'm on a creative high but when I struggle with a piece or sales are slow it can really get to me. 

I wish I was born with a more even keel...but hey where is the fun in that!

Fiona xx


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36 comments:

  1. Well this piece looks great! And how you repurposed the legs into candle holders... really cool and creative! I also find slow sales and frustrating pieces really get to me, but when a piece goes smoothly, I fell much better.

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    1. I'm feeling better already!! thanks so much Reeves,

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  2. I totally understand. I always bit off more than I can chew, and most pieces take way more work than I think. I hate the repair part, but it's a necessary part of redoing furniture. I got so frustrated this week with a couple pieces that I almost decided I'd only but new unfinished dressers from IKEA! Ha. I love the character of old pieces, so that means I need to learn how to roll with the punches and let myself off the hook shooting for 'perfect factory finish'. Your piece turned out just awesome, and your friends are right....if the client wanted vintage, she wasn't expecting 'perfect'. :) Great job!

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    1. You are just so spot on with everything you’ve said in your comment , Cindy. Thanks xx

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  3. Wow! Looks amazing! Your friend gave great advice! x

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    1. thanks Ness, I'm thrilled that my client is thrilled with it.

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  4. Oh wow, I can totally relate ... and that's why I have a "too hard basket" and "leave it for another day" pile!! I'm starting to work on some of those pieces now. You have done an amazing job!! Love your work!

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    1. i need one of those piles, Sharon! thanks so much, looking forward to your next piueces also. Fiona

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  5. Hi Fiona, it's so beautiful and I can just imagine how frustrating it would be when wood is warped and pieces aren't what you expect. But you have done a wonderful restoration job on this and I'm sure your client is thrilled. I love the candle holders as well. You are very creative and talented.
    Beth xx

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    1. thanks Beth, warped wood is hell, and I love those candle holders also. Was bit tempted to keep them! cheers Fiona

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  6. Looks fantastic - you are so skilled!
    What did you do with the sideboards drawers??? I am seeing a lot of drawers repurposed into shelving (ie hanging them on the wall). I know it's not your french provincial look but with wallpapered backs and distressed finish they look great.
    Libby

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    1. hi Libby
      the sideboard didn't even have drawers when i bought it. that's part of why I thought it would be perfect for this project. I've seen people do that with drawers and like it (but yes not for my house) so thanks for suggesting it. next time??
      cheers Fiona

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  7. this is stunning!!! i love the light distressing and the wood top! gorgeous!

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    1. thanks Cassie, and now for a break! can;t wait to go away with my sisters next week. hope you are having a good summer.
      Fiona xx

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  8. It's all stunning Fiona, you should never doubt your ability xx

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  9. I love the way it came out. I never would have thought to cut off the legs!
    The past few weeks I have had beasts of projects that have basically stopped me in my tracks! But when they do stop me, I am able to go back to them with a better perspective and finish them up. I will make a point to try to do a bunch of pieces that are easier on me so I don't get discouraged.

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    1. so glad it's not just me! good idea about doing simpler pieces. I have a few that seem simpler but whether they work out that way is still to be seen
      Fiona x

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  10. It's absolutely gorgeous Fiona, and so very unusual with the detailing on those doors. LOVE the idea of repurposing the ball feet as candle holders. Genius idea! When I'm fiddling (painting) bits and pieces of furniture I am ALWAYS worried it won't look perfect i.e. my paintwork. I haven't experimented with all the waxes, polishes and other effects that you do; I'm too new at this, but what your friend said makes sense - these lovely old pieces are never going to be perfect but they can look totally AMAZING with a new "do"!!! :-)

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    1. thanks so much Petra, the cabinet is so lovely with all it's detail and oak grain. I am fins with my paint finish - it's the cabinetry that gets to me. At last your paint work is under your own control (usually and with good problem solving)
      glad you are enjoying painting. so addictive
      Fiona

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  11. Hey Fiona, great post. Life can be a bit like this I guess but I hate it when something keeps me awake at night! Nothing is really worth that. Great that you got it finished and what amazing friends you have, you lucky person!

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    1. thanks so much Marianne, yes blessed with beautiful wise friends. have a great weekend
      Fiona xx

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  12. Hi Fiona, you did an amazing job on this piece. The beauty is that it isn't supposed to be perfect - it's unique to itself! If you hadn't done anything with it it could have ended up on a dump or broken to bits and that would have been such a waste.... You are such an inspiration and you friends are fabulous! I have friends like that also, who boost me when I feel low about myself and give great sage advice usually with a wine! Enjoy your break with your kids and look forward to more amazing pieces lovingly restored to a new life....! xx

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    1. thanks so much Jennifer, when my friend Jen said that it was such a weight off my shoulders. I know that when i do up pieces to sell but when working for a specific client or ding up their furniture it's always more stressful
      have a good weekend
      Fiona

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  13. This is stunning. It always amazed me when one can look at the piece as it is and "see" the new design. You have the vision.

    Small House / Big Sky Donna / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
    Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
    Blog: http://smallhouseunderabigsky.wordpress.com
    Facebook: donnaallgaierlamberti@facebook.com (for portfolio of chalk painted work)


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    1. thanks so much Donna, much appreciated
      Fiona xx

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  14. I can totally relate to how you feel. Sales are slow here (and I just had to rip the top off a desk and make a new one--ugh!) and it has taken a little bit of a toll on my confidence (my poor hubby!). The buffet turned out beautifully and you should be proud of your creativity and talent!

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    1. so glad it's not only me Lisa! my husband is also very patient!
      thanks so much
      hope your sales pick up!
      Fiona xx

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  15. Fiona,

    It's very impressive to hear you can buy a piece 'online'. I have to see it, open/close drawers, check legs, veneer, hardware, etc, before they get my dollars! You are so capable, you know you can take a nightmare project and turn it into a classic treasure.

    But the question is, knowing what you know now, would you buy it if you had it to do over again? And if the answer is "yes", what a wonderful sense of 'conquest' you must be feeling!

    Well done!

    Robin

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    1. hi Robin - I don't really like buying online as I've been caught out a couple of times before with people not describing furniture accurately but there were no sideboards at auction for several weeks so I had to resort to eBay!
      Yes I'd still do it all over again.. definition of insanity isnt it?
      cheers and thanks Fiona xx

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  16. Hi Fiona, you are very clever, I would never have thought to cut the legs down. I would have looked at it and thought "Too High" and that would have been that. I'm sure Jessica will treasure it. BTW Tom arrived down safely and so did the table. Even though you gave me the dimensions I was surprised at the size. I love the size and the table but initially thought it might be TOO big, but I have moved a few things, put some junk away and "I LOVE IT". It looks great. I will send you some photos in the next couple of weeks so you can see what I mean. Enjoy your time with the children and relax, relax, relax.
    Best wishes Brenda.

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    1. Thanks so much Brenda - I always have a vision in my head but I think that's from experience. So glad you are happy with the coffee table. it is big isnt it but I'm sure you will have it in a beautiful spot. so glad it (and Tom) arrived safely.
      have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing the photos.
      Fiona

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  17. Fiona - This is such a beautiful piece, I'm not surprised that the new owner loves it! I remember reading one of your posts a while ago now where you said that if someone was looking for something perfect, without brush strokes (perfectly smooth, as in spray painted) then your work wasn't for them and I've always remembered that. We love what we love, and those that love vintage pieces know they are not perfect, and that's what makes them beautiful.

    Hope you're enjoying the school holidays :)

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  18. Wow! That piece is EXACTLY what I'm looking for! We need a tv cabinet for new flat screen, I HATE HATE HATE all the lowline modern things, want to convert a buffet but hubby thinks too hard. You're not up for another project are you? :) :)

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    1. i'm with you Melissa, I hate those lowline modern things. Just send me an email to lilyfeldlife@bigpond.com to discuss and I can do one for you.
      cheers Fiona

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  19. I love this. Would you be willing to share which walnut stain you used on the top? I'm finding it difficult to find one that isn't sort of reddish or orange-ish. I need to find something that will imitate the old dark smoked finish on oak, to repair the finish on the top of a table. I hope i can get away with doing just the table top, so that I can keep the beautiful patina of the finish on the legs and frame. The colour of the top of this cabinet looks just right.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment! (Sorry if you have trouble commenting, I'm trying to sort it out)