Thursday, August 20, 2015

Adventures in Hutch Painting

This hutch came to our family for free, and I still maintain that some of the best finds are in fact, free.  A friend of my stepfather's was moving and he no longer had room for this, so my mother inherited it.  And I'm thankful she did, as I've been staring at it for years and seeing the potential for something very elegant beneath that fake wood veneer exterior.

If it had not been for the Zinsser BIN shellac primer my friend Marty gave me, this project would not have been a success.  While the hutch was a solid wood base, it had a laminate overlay on the main shelf plus veneered sides and trim.  And I know from experience (the ultimate failure of my latex paint job on my teenage dresser / nightstand set) that without more tooth for the paint to stick to, it would not be easy to paint over those materials.   So, I recommend it for painting over anything with a plastic or poly-urethaned surface.  BIN, you have my enthusiastic endorsement.  I can't wait to try it when I redo said dresser and nightstand. 

Anyway, here are some pictures of the process I went through.  Of course, a thorough cleaning and disassembling of the doors and drawer was key before I began priming. 

If you do use the BIN, know this: it might not be what you are expecting.  It is very liquid and it dries extremely fast.  So, by the time you are brushing on the water like substance, when it touches the wood surface it nearly immediately turns to the consistency of glue.  It was a rather drippy and time consuming process to cover the entire piece.  Marty recommends lighter coats of both paint and the primer and I agree.  You will get better adhesion and it will be more likely to NOT peel off if you use a lighter touch when applying your paints, stains and primers.  I have also learned this the hard way.  Globbing on the paint will result in a thick peeling surface later.   So, be sparing with the primer.  But act quickly as it's not easy to spread around once it starts to get gluey.  Just coat your surface and let it soak in.

 I let the BIN dry overnight before I began applying the Chalk Paint. Technically you don't have to wait that long: the Zinsser website says it sets up in 45 minutes and I believe that based on how quickly it was drying as I applied.  I used the Folk Art brand again, in Rich Black.  I bought my chalk paint at Jo-Ann's Fabrics.  Michael's may carry it too.    I bought the 16 oz size which costs $13.99.  I ended up needing 1 and a half containers, so buy two for a project of this size.

And then I got to work on the first coat.  As always, I was finishing the first coat late at night and it looked great.  But I ran out of the first container and had to wait until the next day to hop over to the store and get a second to do the finishing touches.  So, I took that opportunity to start spray painting hardware on the sidewalk in the middle of the night.  Yup, that's how I roll.  By the way, I just used Rustoleum in Satin Black to repaint the brass hardware.  I love old hardware.  I wouldn't replace old hardware unless it was very ugly.  Besides, it's difficult to fit new hardware on older furniture.  The spacing of the holes on hardware is not always standard and you don't want to destroy something by having to drill new holes.

you can't see this because it's dark (hardware before)

guess what: it's still nighttime and you can't see the finished product either

still nighttime, but you get the picture: you can get this at almost any hardware store

And of course, the harsh light of day revealed that I had a ton more work to do on the cabinet itself.  Our dining room is very dark as it is, thanks to the beautiful but light blocking Craftsman woodwork.  And so, I got to work touching up the piece.    And then I thought it was finished.  It looked beautiful.  Until I decided to ruin it with matte varnish.

at the point where I "thought" I was done
So, I painted every shelf surface only with matte varnish.  I used a roller and it looked like it went on smoothly.  I have used matte and satin varnish poly finishes before, and I was thinking it would protect the surfaces, etc.  What I didn't count on, is that even matte poly, is still shiny in comparison to the ultra matte finish of chalk paint.  When I woke up the next morning, it looked terrible and streaky.  I should have taken a picture to show you the mistake.  And it was a mistake.  I lightly sanded the varnished shelf surfaces and just painted one more coat of chalk paint over it instead and decided to say "f it" to poly altogether.  If it gets scratched or water stained from people setting their drinks on it, I will just do another coat of chalk paint and give it a light sand in the future.  That's my plan for the coffee bar desk as well.  When we move I will give it a quick sand and a touch up coat.

So, it took me a day or so to style these shelves.  It's a hard business, tweaking things.  The colors have to balance.  I wanted a very full, stuffed, farmhouse look.  I didn't want it to be too sparse, modern, or too precise.  I think that part of what makes décor look "farmhouse" is the feel of something being a little imperfect, a little messy, a little rustic.  You get the idea.  So, I filled it with my treasures.

I think it's important to mix textures as well as colors.  I wanted a little metal, some wood, basket material, ceramic, and of course, a vehicle for displaying my ironstone collectables.   Some of these pieces are very old: colonial American era.  And some are newer.  I love the patina, the crazing and the aging on some of the pieces.  I don't want them all to be the same shade of white. 

And I just love how the black matte paint brought out the details of the piece that I barely noticed before with the old finish.  Look at that molding!  Look at how beautiful the cabinet doors look!  Not to mention that World Market White French Drying Rack for my Mugs.  Worth every penny of the $14.99 I spent on it and more.

I hope you enjoyed the outcome of my project!  Every time I walk by it now, it puts a smile on my face.  It is very satisfying to see a vision realized. 


  1. Replies
    1. thank you Bethany! This project is going to be a favorite for a long time.

  2. wow, it looks awesome friend!! you are so good, you've really found your calling. I also agree that most free things are the best, hidden gems! this looks straight out of pottery barn!