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Are you ready to see my Mid-Century Credenza Makeover? I like to think that I am bringing it from the mid-century into THIS century! How do you feel about painting vintage wood furniture? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Truthfully, I’m of a mixed mind on it. It really totally depends on the piece of furniture. I’m okay with painting furniture when the situation warrants it. And I’m a big fan of talented furniture painters, that make a piece MORE fabulous by adding paint, like the ones in this post. But sometimes I think the original wood finish needs to shine through. So, I have gone with a mix of shellac, stain and paint to give this piece of furniture it’s next life 🙂
I bought this long narrow credenza about 2 years ago. I talked them down from $120 to $80, so it was still a substantial investment. And it’s HUGE! It measures 74″ long. I updated it for our den, which will also be our TV/ game room when I’m done decorating it. This is going to be the anchor piece.
It’s a solid heavy piece of furniture. I think it’s mahogany, but honestly I’m not sure. The top is a solid piece of wood. So nice to be working on a piece of decent wood furniture, since the last few furniture projects have been particle board and veneer furniture. And I wasn’t even sure if would be able to get it into the room when it’s done. I figured if we couldn’t, then I would have sold it 🙁 Since I couldn’t have used it anywhere else in the house. Luckily, I managed to get it in there after it was completed – whew!
Here is the “full frontal” before shot. It’s a nice piece, but a bit blocky, and I HATE those crappy little stick legs…
Here are some of the details. The doors have a nice little inlay detail.But the finish has definitely seen better days It’s going to need a bit of rehab. The white circle you see in the photo below, was already there when I bought it, I think it’s a water stain.
But I LOVE these little key holes!! I don’t have the key. But it’s not a big deal because you can replace the little box that’s behind the keyhole and have a new key!! If I were selling this piece I would probably replace them, but I’m okay without keys.
The first step for any furniture project is to give it a good cleaning. First I wiped it down with lysol wipes to get rid of any grease and surface dirt. Also, I used my shop vac to vacuum out the insides and in all of the crevices. Oh, and my cat peed on the leg, so good thing that I’m replacing those! Don’t be mad at him he’s old, he gets confused, it happens to the best of us 🙂
I removed all of the drawers and also unscrewed the doors and removed the piano hinges as well. I didn’t want to fill them up with stain when I stained the doors. Don’t forget when you are working on your furniture makeover project to put all of the bits and pieces associated with the piece that you are working on, in a ziplock bag or plastic container. Almost EVERY time I forgo this step, I end up losing pieces. Can you visulaize me crawling around on the garage floor, or digging through the garbage?? Trust me,Both of these things have happened!
It was always my plan to do this piece in a very dark finish. I have used General Finishes Java Gel Stain quite a few times. It’s a great stain, and very dark. It’s an oil based product, so you need gloves, and good ventilation. If you want a full tutorial on how to use gel stain, check out this post. First I tested it on the ends of the credenza. This was where the wood was in the best shape. I did 3 coats, and decided that I was happy with the colour and continued with the java gel stain on the portions of the piece that I wanted dark. I really love the deep dark colour of this stain, until I find something better, I’ll just keep using it.
Before staining, I gave the top of the credenza a coat of shellac. This is a trick I just recently learned, that I wished I would have known sooner. As you can see from the photo up above, the top was pretty faded and the finish was very uneven. Giving it a coat of shellac helps the stain to go on more evenly. It also protects the wood for future makeovers 🙂 If you use a coat of shellac, before you stain, you won’t get the uneven areas that you get when your surface is splotchy of faded. I used this spray shellac, and it dries almost instantly, and you can stain over it in about 10 minutes. Now that’s my kind of stain 🙂
The top of the credenza, the sides and all of the edge trim areas I did with 3 coats of java gel stain.
Time to Add Some Paint
To add some depth and dimension to the formerly orange striped credenza, I taped off the small recessed areas around the doors and drawers, which I did in General Finishes Lamp Black. This was the first time I had ever used GF Lamp Black Milk Paint, and I really really love it. It just has such a beautiful satin finish to it. I am already trying to think of other pieces that I can use it on, because I love the finish so much.
My original plan was to leave the drawers out, and make shelves to go on top of the drawer slides. With the intention that the components would go on these shelves, like the PVR and video games systems. So, I used them to test out my colours. In the end I stripped them down to bare wood and sanded them. And then I just sprayed them with 2 coats of shellac. Although I still found the colour to be a bit on the orangey side, I absolutely love the depth that the wood has to it. Unfortunately, you can’t really see it properly in photos, although you can get a bit of an idea of how it looks in the light from the photo below.
I wasn’t really in love with the original hardware, and I am missing one of the handles, which is something I still need to deal with. It almost always surprises me how amazing old hardware can look with just a good cleaning. I used Twinkle and sos pads to clean these. You can also use vinegar and water, and some people even cook these in a crockpot. Twinkle is much faster. Check out the before and after handles below – so much better!
I contemplated painting the inside of the cabinets in a bright colour, but I really love the wood inside, it’s so warm, so I’m leaving it. The only thing that I did is cleaned it, sanded out any stains and sealed it with a couple of coats of shellac. Looks pretty snuggly doesn’t it?
I struggled big time with the doors. I think I stained and stripped them 3 or 4 times. In the end I stripped them all the way back down AGAIN and sprayed them with 2 coats of shellac. I was trying to get them to match the drawers. because I really loved the holographic effect that the shellac gave the wood on the drawer fronts. But for some reason I couldn’t quite get them to come out the same – ugh. So, at this point, it’s getting there but it’s still a lot of orange and a lot of stripes. And it still looks dated. I’m trying to take this to the next level.
I really wasn’t sure how to deal with the doors. Then one night I was lying in bed and I figured out how I could fix my issue and make the doors work better with the rest of the piece, while maintaining the wood inlays around the doors that I liked so much.
I taped off around the edges, leaving enough of the wood to show the inlay and the original wood finish.I taped off around the edge using the width of the painter’s tape for the exposed natural wood. After taping it off, I gave it a light sanding, without compromising the taped edges, and then applied 2 coats of GF lamp black milk paint. I’m kind of falling in love with this black, it’s just got such a nice satin finish to it. Here is what it looked like when the paint was wet.
Here you can see how nice the GF milk paint is. Any how nice it looks with just the edges retained in the original finish.And check out that clean crisp edge!
Do you remember the old legs? They looked like this – ick. The little dirty discs on the bottom of the legs, are just furniture ‘coasters” so that I can slide the piece around the garage. I won’t throw the legs away, because I’m weird about keeping the original pieces, but I’m replacing them with these legs
I actually really loved the light finish that they came in, but it really wouldn’t have worked with the colour palette that I had going on . So, I gave them a spray coat of primer and two coats of the lamp black, and then topcoat I really prefer the look of the oblique tapered legs over the original ones that didn’t have any style. Here is what the new legs look like up close.
One of the final tasks was to give all of the surfaces a good top coat to seal and protect the credenza as it enters it’s new life. I used a satin finish on all of it, except the doors, which I did in a flat finish just where the paint was. I masked off the shellac finish, because I wanted to keep it shiny. The drawers and the outlined areas on the doors is straight shellac on raw wood.
I’m so happy to FINALLY have this furniture makeover completed. I bought this credenza over 2 YEARS ago!! Since we have lived in this house it has been sitting in my garage under my chop saw!!
Until we moved it into the Den I wasn’t even really sure if it would:
- fit through the doorway
- Be too big for the wall
74″ is the exact length of the wall in the den that houses the TV, and the credenza is also 74″ long. So, when I was replacing the feet, I had to make a point of using high enough legs to ensure that the bottom edge would clear the top of the baseboard.
Here it is all finished!
And here it is in it’s proper home, in the den. Okay, no more excuses for not completing the rest of this room!! I just have to add wallpaper, some paint, and so on and so on… And we just bought an 70″ TV to sit on top of it.
I think my favourite thing about the credenza is that it’s been modernized while still retaining some of the original finish. And if you preferred it in it’s original state, I’m okay with that. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But I LOVE the way this came out. And it works fabulously in my den. And it has TONS of storage too. This is what I originally bought this piece for. What do you think?? Like it? Hate it? Love it? Let me know.
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