The credenza in my living room is getting a makeover, and I’m just about finished.
Sounds innocent enough, right? Simple, even. A nice antique credenza gets a cute little makeover — a little paint, a little polishing, and voila! Done!
Let’s start at the beginning. This is the credenza I’m talking about.
It has been in my living room between the two smaller windows. You can see it here in this “progress” picture I showed you in my last post of 2013…
The veneer on the drawers was in really bad shape — chipped, cracked, and bubbled all over the place. Since the piece is so dark, it doesn’t really show up in pictures. But in person, you could certainly tell it was in really rough shape.
A credenza makeover has been on my “to do” list ever since I purchased it on Craigslist, but after I posted my living room progress, and after about the 20th person asked me about the fireplace in my living room , I decided that there’s no better time than the present for a credenza makeover.
So I took a knife and spent about 10 minutes removing all of the veneer that was flaking, cracking, bubbling and peeling, and I ended up with this.
After removing all of the badly damaged veneer, I had a problem. The rest of it was stuck on there very well. I mean, really well. As in, stuck so securely that I couldn’t even wedge a knife under it at all.
So I asked for some advice over on my Facebook page. The main suggestions were heat, steam, and water. I started with heat using my iron on the hottest setting. It didn’t work. Then I tried steam using my iron on the hottest steam setting. Still nothing. Then I tried using my iron over a wet washcloth. Nothing. Then I tried a hair dryer on the hottest setting. And still nothing. Many people suggested a heat gun, but I figured that if leaving my iron on it for a full minute on the highest heat/steam setting didn’t even budge the veneer, a heat gun probably wouldn’t be much better.
So even though it made me really nervous, I went with the water option. I placed the drawers in the bathtub, put a hot wet towel over them, and left them for 24 hours. (I added vinegar to the water at the suggestion of several people. I have no way of knowing if the vinegar actually helped, but vinegar is good for everything, so it probably didn’t hurt.)
And by the way, this is probably common sense for most, but evidently not for me. Don’t use your good washcloths or towels for this! You can see the washcloth that I used with the iron there on the side of the tub. It soaked up that red mahogany stain very quickly.
After 24 hours, the veneer still wasn’t coming off easily, so I scored it with a razor blade, and put the towel back on for about eight more hours.
That did the trick. Now I’ve read where other bloggers described the veneer as scraping off easily like a hot knife through butter using this method. I don’t know if they just lucked out, or if I just had some really stubborn veneer. Mine certainly didn’t scrape off that easily, and it was still hours of hard work, banged up knuckles, one very deep gash on my thumb where the scraper got away from me, and some incredibly sore hands for a couple of days. But the water definitely did soften the veneer and the adhesive to make it possible to scrape off.
I used this 5-in-1 tool from Home Depot, and that little pointy side was a huge help.
But all of my hard work paid off, because I discovered the most awesome striped wood drawers underneath all of that veneer.
Isn’t that awesome?! If y’all know me at all, you know I LOVE STRIPES!! So when I uncovered this, I felt like I had struck gold. I was so excited!!
Ever since I purchased this piece, my intention was to re-veneer the drawers. But once I saw these stripes, I knew that if I could get all of the veneer off without damaging the striped wood, and if it looked pretty decent, I’d make those stripes the focus of the whole piece.
Spoiler alert! The veneer came off just fine, and while the striped wood isn’t in perfect condition, it’s good enough. And I think the imperfections add beautiful character. I just sanded the drawers and gave them two coats of Rust-Oleum polyurethane in a satin finish.
Since my plan had been to re-veneer the drawers and refinish the whole thing, I was kind of at a loss about what to do now. I thought that the striped drawers with their casual appearance looked really awkward with the body of the piece still dressed up in fancy mahogany. Plus, the rest of it still wasn’t in the best condition, which is why I had always planned on refinishing it. Here’s what it looked like before I sanded and polyurethaned the drawers.
Lots of you said to paint it, which was no shock at all. Lots of you said to strip and refinish it. Still no shock. But so many of you said to remove the veneer on the rest of it. That actually did shock me.
But in the end, I decided to paint. The fact is that after dealing with those drawers for three days, I simply didn’t have the desire or the energy to strip and refinish the rest of it. And the veneer that’s on the rest of the piece is actually in really good condition, so I couldn’t bring myself to remove it.
So my option was paint. I might strip it and refinish it at some point in the future, and I figured that adding a couple more coats of primer and paint now isn’t going to make that job any harder in the future if I decide to do that. Or I could love the paint so much that I’ll decide to keep it. Although I do love the look and warmth of stained wood, I’m certainly not a wood purist who thinks it’s a crime to paint wood furniture…even antique wood furniture. There’s definitely a place for stained wood, and a place for painted wood in my home.
And this is where I’ll leave you today — the base primed and ready for paint.
Now I already know that a hundred people are going to ask me, “Why didn’t you use chalk paint?! You wouldn’t have to prime!” So let me go ahead and answer that.
I know from reading other blogs, as well as the warnings that many of you gave me, that if you use chalk paint over a piece like this with the really super dark mahogany finish, you’ll get some of that red bleeding through. So the suggestion is the shellac the whole piece first, and then follow up with chalk paint.
Well, I didn’t have shellac on hand, nor did I have chalk paint. And the “no prep” benefit of chalk paint — that very thing that you pay the big bucks for when you purchase a quart of chalk paint — would have been lost on this piece. So instead, I used what I already had on hand. And I always have Zinsser oil-based primer on hand. Always.
I also happened to have a quart of paint in the perfect color on hand. (Another spoiler alert! It’s not white. After seeing the primed piece in white, can you imagine how boring that would look against my white wall?) I was intending to use the paint on another project, but when I decided to paint this credenza, that color made much more sense for this.
But I’ll leave you in suspense until tomorrow.