Friday, November 29, 2013

Painting a vintage bookcase white step by step

Well the computer geeks came (GEEKS2U) and assessed our computer and all the other electronic devices as "non functional" but I did find that my photos are all backed up and saved so I'm relieved about that. I will be happy once we have a new desktop computer that I can work properly from. Thanks for your kind words this last week. 
I'm back. Phew!

I am always on the lookout for sweet vintage furniture that is in need of the magic that is white paint. When I spotted this lovely ornately shaped bookcase cabinet on Ebay a few months ago I decided to buy it even though it was located in Sutherland (and not in my 10km local radius that I usually search under).  I arranged to pick it up one morning and set off after school drop off but after 40 minutes crawling in traffic and still within 1 km from my house I cancelled the pickup. The lady then was heading away for several weeks on holidays and agreed to hold it for me.When she got back I drove down to the Shire one evening after the kids were in bed to pick it up. Luckily I was able to kill two birds with one stone as a lovely blog reader had some furniture to give me and she was located in Gymea and I managed to fit both pieces in the car so it was worth the trip!

I thought you might to see the evolution of a paint job. There is always a stage when you are painting that it looks terrible and you might wonder what you have started. This is a stage that lots of people give up at and think that they can't paint furniture. But you can! Have confidence! Don't stop. You just need to push through the disconcerting part and keep going.

Sand your piece lightly. Your aim is not to remove the previous finish (unless it is flaky) but just lightly scuff the previous surface. If you use Zinsser Primer or a Chalk Paint then you can often skip this step. I think it only takes an extra 5-10 minutes to sand using a sanding sponge that I usually always sand my pieces. Clean your piece well. Dust, grease and paint don't mix. I just use a damp cloth to clean unless there is greasy residue. If there is I wipe the piece down with Diggers Wax and Grease Remover. This product is fantastic as a pre-painting cleaner and allows the paint to adhere to paint very well. It can be used on all sorts of surfaces including previously painted pieces. If I had an air compressor I would definitely use the air attachment to clean the piece. For this piece I actually vacuumed it as well as wiped it down.

Even though I used chalk paint I gave my piece two coats of Zinsser primer. For this piece there was no danger of bleed through so I used water based Zinsser Bulls Eye 123. I save the more expensive shellac based Zinsser for pieces that bleed. You may wonder why I decided to prime even though I was planning to paint the piece in Chalk Paint. Because the wood was quite a dark orange colour and I like full coverage and was using a white with not a lot of tint in it I would need 4-5 coats of paint. Long ago I decided that when I'm painting white that two of the coats may as well be primer and then 2-3 of them can be the white paint. The photo below is after the primer. I actually quite like the look at this stage in the photo but in real life it looks quite messy.

Below I have done one coat of paint on top of the primer. You can see that it is starting to achieve full coverage but there are still patchy places. Keep on painting.

I didn't take a photo after it was fully painted but before I started distressing it. I had a hectic week and forgot this stage! I distressed this piece by hand using a medium grit sandpaper and also a sanding sponge. Always wait till your paint is dry before you start distressing. This is especially important with latex/acrylic paints as your paint is more prone to ripping / peeling than if you have used chalk paint. One of the biggest differences between regular paint and chalk paints (eg Annie Sloan Chalk Paint) is the way that it distresses. Chalk Paint is beautiful to use for a distressed shabby chic look. Once I have distressed a piece I dust off all the sanding residue and then make sure I am happy with the way it looks. Can you see the little distressed patch on the curved upper part of the cabinet below? It looks a little like a fly has landed on the cabinet. I didn't like this so I repainted that section again (I gave it a few coats so that for my final reveal of the cabinet this indented section is not distressed).

I waxed the cabinet to "set" the paint and protect it and to make it easy to keep clean.
Stage your piece and admire your hard work.

For this piece I didn't paint the inside of the cabinet, This timber is a nice contrast and is in relatively good condition. I do paint the top and sides of the doors and a strip along the base of the inside so that when the doors are shut you can't see glimpses of timber along the door line.  For more paint tutorials read here.

This little cabinet is now for sale. It's fantastic for a narrow hallway. Dimensions are 90cm wide by 30cm deep by 78 tall. Please email me if you are interested in inspecting it or for purchase.  I really love the shape of this piece. The lady who sold it to me said it holds heaps and heaps of books. I think the cupboard would be great for a couple of school bags also. Get them of the hall floor.

People ask me all the time where do I find such fantastic furniture? I can tell you that I'm a little obsessed and never stop looking for good vintage pieces. I have regular internet searches on eBay and other online auctions, I have several places that sell second hand furniture local to me that I pop into regularly weekly and I have a this blog that means lots of people approach me with pieces that they no longer want and either sell me or give them to me for free (thank you!) 

Hey, what can I say. I'm a furniture magnet :)

Have a great evening. I'm settling down with a glass of champagne. Time to relax.

Fiona xx

Paint: a mix of whites (Dulux Whisper White and ASCP Pure White)
Top Coat Wax: ASCP Clear Wax
Christmas Tree: Orange Grove Markets
burlap from Reverse Garbage
Christmas Reindeer ornament : Pashom stall, Orange Grove markets

Primer: Zinsser Bullseye 123
Corbels: second hand painted by me
Leatherbound Books: vintage , my mum
Silver Dish: my mum
Bird Door Wedge: Bed Bath n Table
Persian Rug: wedding present from wonderful friends who bought it in Iran

Sharing at Frugal Friday


  1. I love your cabinet and your step by step guide but wow I love your styling most of all, divine.

  2. wow this cabinet has come alive....great job as always...enjoy your champers!!!
    Bec x

    1. Thanks Bec, it’s good to get rid of that orange wood!

  3. So wonderful how you share your knowledge Fiona. Good to hear you got the photos back, you deserve the bubbly, I'm enjoying a glass of red. Judy Bx

    1. thanks Judy! i;m so relieved about the photos. hope you had a good evening
      Fiona x

  4. it's so pretty! i love the unique shape! you find the best stuff!

    1. Thanks Cassie – I love the shape also.
      I’m so sorry about Charlie. Jake must be beside himself. How are the kids handling it?
      Nice that you got to have thanksgiving with him.
      Thinking of you
      Fiona xx

  5. You're always so good at staging :-) Very decorative piece which has been enhanced by white paint - yay!

    1. thanks Petra - I just run around the house looking for things that I can dump on top of the furniture. LOL. but i love the christmas tree wrapped in the burlap. have a great weekend

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