Thursday, July 21, 2011

Done and done: Painted China Cabinet

I finally finished my china cabinet!  Here she is:

Here are the before photos.  The peeling paint was so so sad.  And so so annoying to get off.

Here's the process I used for refinishing.
Note:  I tried to repaint our bathroom cabinets a few months ago and failed.  The paint comes off when you scratch you fingernail across the surface.  I'm pretty sure it's the paint's fault (Behr) because the Kilz primer is still on there!  I undoubtably overkilled this project to make sure everything would permanently stick.  I'm having trouble letting go of old scars.

1-  Disassemble
First, she had to be taken apart.  All hardware, drawers, and cabinets were removed.

2 -  Sanding
The paint had to go.  The previous owner spray painted the cabinet without any sanding or prep work, so the paint was literally peeling off the heavily varnished wood.  Remember putting Elmer's Glue on your palm and peeling it off during art class?  Yeah, we had that going on.  I used my handy electric sander with 120 and 80 grit sandpaper and went to town.  I really, really didn't want to take all of the paint off since I was just repainting, not staining, the piece, but since the paint was still gummy and coming off in long strings, I felt like it all had to go so I could get a clean surface.  Bummerface.  Two days later (plus a garage COVERED in a fine, white dust), sanding was complete.

{If I had remembered to take a picture of the sanded pieces, it would have gone here.  Drat.}

3 - Priming
After several passes with the ShopVac, a wipe down with a damp cloth with castile soap & water, then another wipe down with a clean, dry cloth to get any other dust off, I was ready to prime.  My "research" led me in the direction of Zinsser brand primer.  I ended up buying the shellac instead of the oil based primer for some unknown reason (inhaling too much sanding dust?).  Whatevs.  The shellac was reeeeally thin, drippy, and difficult to work with because it dried almost immediately in my hot garage.  Immediate drying = streaks and drips.  However, it did stick to the wood and covered really well.  No hard feelings, Mr. Shellac.  

4 - Painting 
Painting!  Finally!  I went with Benjamin Moore's Aura paint (semi-gloss, Navajo White).  It's my favorite.  It covers anything (like a red semi-gloss kitchen) in 2 coats and it's really easy to work with.  Painting was the easiest part.  Yes, there were a ton of little crevices, but it was something I knew I couldn't screw up too bad.  I painted 2 coats on the entire base and top portion of the cabinet before doing any of the cabinets and drawers.  I needed to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I also did some sanding before I started to get rid of some shellac drips.  

5 - Distressing
I wanted my china cabinet to look like it has been around for a while.  Some people wonder why you'd make a perfectly good piece of furniture look like it was rolled down a hill, but I like it.  So there.  I started sanding the edges with a sanding block to take some paint off.  It wasn't going fast enough so then I used the electric sander with 220 grit sandpaper...Much easier.  I distressed mostly on the edges and corners so it would look semi-realistic.  I didn't go overboard since my dining room table is solid wood and I didn't want an incredibly chippy china cabinet next to a finished, solid wood table.  Too much contrast for me.   I also roughed up some of the center surfaces so the wax/glaze would have something to stick on.  

6 - Finishing:  Wax/Glaze
I was undecided about whether to wax or glaze on the piece after distressing it.  I honestly don't know a ton about either, so I went with my "research" again and got a can of Minwax Dark Wax and Minwax Dark Walnut Stain to use as a glaze.  Basically, I wanted an aged finish on the clean, white, newly-painted wood.  I tried the glaze first: I wiped on some stain with a foam brush and then rubbed off with a lint-free cloth.  Eh...I wasn't impressed.  It wasn't as shiny as I wanted it to be.  Next, I broke out the Wax and a lint-free cloth.  I rubbed the wax into the wood...And it looked the same.  So, I glopped the wax on the wood without rubbing it in and then went back a minute later to smooth it out.  Big difference!  The wax stuck to the paint and left a dark residue.  I thought it ended up looking dirty instead of tastefully aged so I went back and buffed it with a cloth again.  Finished.  Finally.  (Below is a close up of the distressing and wax on the top of the cabinet)

7 - Putting everything back together
Apparently it takes about 30 days for latex paint to fully cure.  But, I went ahead and put the hardware back on the piece and I left all of the drawers and cabinets open so things could dry out for a little while.  I guess I could have left it unassembled, but I was getting impatient.  In a couple of weeks I'll start deciding what goodies I'd like to have displayed in my new china cabinet. :)

8 - Next steps
I'd like to put some fabric liners in the drawers and in the cabinets.  Nothing too fancy, just fabric cut to the size of the area.  The previous owner spray painted inside the cabinets so they need some help to both look and feel less rough.

What I've learned...
-When you're painting a piece and planning to distress it, it doesn't need to be perfect!
-Painting unpainted furniture is probably easier than re-painting poorly painted furniture (less prep!)
-Dry paint brush = amazing dust remover for nooks and crannies
-If you're a novice (like me), try working on simple tables to figure out what you're doing.  Don't start with a gigantic china cabinet with a lot of detail (unlike me).
-I want to try Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint.  No sanding or prep work before painting!

A huge thank you to the blogs Miss Mustard Seed and Perfectly Imperfect.  I pretty much learned how to do this from these talented women!

My next project?  Painting the bathroom cabinets.  Woohoo!

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Sharing at...
Domestically Speaking
Primitive & Proper
Modern Country Style
Not Just A Housewife
Sugar Bee Crafts
Addicted 2 Decorating
Miss Mustard Seed



  1. I saw this at Addicted 2 Decorating. I have this same china cabinet, but it's still the original wood stain. I liked what you did with yours. I think it looks really good in white. Makes me want to paint mine!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Amanda! I appreciate your kind words :) It was most definitely a big undertaking for my first project, but I'm SO happy with how it turned out! Good luck with yours!!

  3. Looks wonderful, you did a fantastic job..!
    I recently bought a vintage tv cabinet, after a few weeks of labor & new hardware it has been turned into a french style armoire.
    Ziba Anne

  4. Thanks! I'm looking forward to using it once the paint cures :)

    Isn't it awesome what a little bit of paint can do?!

  5. gorgeous! i love the style and lines on that cabinet! the white paint was perfect on this piece!

  6. Oooh, it looks gorgeous! I love what you've done. I had to scroll back up to see that it was the same piece from the 'after' shot.

    Thank you so much for linking up to my 'Paint, Please' link party.


  7. That is beautiful! You did a great job.