Sure, it didn't look like much, but for some reason this piece gave me vision. I was immediately drawn to the geometric design of the cutouts around what used to be the speaker vents. I just knew that I could give this piece a little love and new life. When I picked the piece up, the furniture dealer who had posted the piece gave me a little background story on the cabinet. Apparently the girl who had sold it had been given the piece by her father. He had converted the top areas into a drawer and a cabinet and put the plaid inserts into the speaker vents in the early 80s for her to use the piece as a tv stand and have storage. Her father had told her at the time that she would have to live with the piece forever because of how much work he put into converting it for her. I don't know why she got rid of the piece, but I was happy to carry on her father's "make it do" spirit.
The first thing you want to do when refinishing any piece of furniture is to go in and remove any hardware you don't want painted and in this case, any fabric panels that need removing and replacing. You will see in later pictures that I left the hardware on the front of the piece attached. While I would like to claim that this was a purposeful design choice, the fact is that the handles are attached with specialized furniture screws I don't have tools for.
The next step for any refinish project is of course to wipe down any debris from the piece and sand it down. If I were wanting to stain this piece a different shade, I would have needed to sand it down to the bare wood all over. Since I was going to paint over it and distress it, I took the topper down to the bare wood grain, but just gave the rest of the piece a good sanding to remove the shiny finish so that the paint would stick. For this step, you want to use a coarse grain sandpaper or sanding block. If you shop at a certain blue home improvement store, the sandpaper is sorted into strip, smooth, and finish. You want to select a block from the strip section. This is what the top of the cabinet looked like when I got it down to the bare wood.
Sanding can be a lot of hard work, but the fun part is coming. For the paint color, I selected "Betsy Ross House" by Valspar. I purchase the paint plus primer version in an interior semi-gloss. The color is a very bright turquoise that leans more toward blue. For this project I could have gotten away with a single quart and had some leftover, but I got two quarts just in case I needed to repaint the whole piece or in case I wanted to paint anything else to match later. Better safe than sorry.
I popped my paint open and went to town, making sure I got down into each little cutout. Design tip: if you are planning to distress a piece and want to do less distressing work, don't saturate your brush with paint in the same way you would to paint say a wall. Using less paint on your brush will allow brush strokes to shine through and automatically give it that worn look. I just painted over the hardware and am actually happy with the way that turned out. If you don't want painted hardware, just remove it or tape over it before you start painting.
While I waited for the paint to dry so that I could distress the piece, I went ahead and recovered the fabric panels. The fabric on these was TERRIBLE. It was a really awful brown plaid upholstery fabric. Think the most horrible late 70s couch EVER. So what did I do? I replaced it with the most horrible, putrid gold polyester suit fabric that was handed down to me from my great grandmother. I have no idea what drew me to this fabric, but for the project at hand it just felt right. At this point I was sending nervous text messages to my friends asking if it sounded like I was maybe losing my mind for choosing this fabric.
At any rate, I just popped the staples out to remove the old fabric. Then I place the wood panels on top of the new fabric I selected and cut the fabric leaving enough margin to wrap it to the back of the panels and staple in place.
Once I had the fabric cut out, I stapled it all into place around the back of the panels making sure to tuck in the corners. For this step you want to take note of how thick your plywood panels are as opposed to how long your staple legs are. I would really hate for someone to do this project and staple wood panels down to their floors. (Not that I did that...ok I did, but the floors are vinyl plank, so the holes closed back up)
Once I had finished recovering the panels and the paint dried on the cabinet, I went back in with a fine grain sandpaper block to distress it a bit. I don't usually like things to look super distressed, so the picture here is about the most distressed spot on the whole cabinet. For this step you want to use a sanding block with a fine grain that is from the finish section of the sandpaper aisle. Please excuse the little peep of finger in the bottom right corner.
Once I distressed the cabinet to the desired level, I reinstalled the fabric panels. Then I stepped back to admire my handy work.
At the end of the day, I am SO happy that I chose the fabric that I did. I love the way the putrid gold polyester pops against the Betsy Ross House blue. I can't say for certain, but I think the girl's dad would be happy to see the piece brought back to life to be loved for many more years.
Here is a before and after shot so that you get the whole effect.
Have you tried any restoration projects of your own? Comment and let me know about it.