Samantha Pattillo · Mar 17, 2014

Mid-Century Modern Credenza Upcycle

Yay!! After being finished with this project for months now I am finally getting around to putting it up on the blog. It was a long process, but I think it turned out well, don’t you?

Do you guys remember how the credenza looked with I first found it? It was on that random craigslist run I posted about here. For 45 bucks I couldn’t pass him up!

This little guy was hidden in the back of a garage and I knew that he just had to come home with me. With a little love, creativity, and a lot of painters tape, I got to work. I’ll talk you guys through all of the gory details below…

1. Strip Existing Finish

I knew parts of him were damaged, he had some deep gauges and years of rough wear on his aged body. I wanted to see what the extent of the damage really was, and the best way to do that was to strip him down. (isn’t that the best way to really get to know anyone?…)

Stripping finishes can be a pain depending on the detail of the piece, but when you are working with furniture that has very thin veneer you can’t just sand it down.

{ Look at the back edge of one of the boards on the furniture to see if it is veneered or not. Only the back or bottom edge will show it since makers use ‘edge banding’ on the fronts to hide it so it looks like solid wood. If the veneer is less than an 1/8” you want to sand as little as possible. }

Since my guy was veneered (with what looked to be a pecan wood) I needed to strip that finish off.

You Need:

  • A paint, stain, varnish Remover (I like Dad’s Easy Spray, it comes with a spray bottle)
  • Cheap, disposable paint brush
  • Putty Knife, the flatter your surface is, the wider your putty knife should be
  • Chemical grade rubber gloves
  • Paper towels for accidental clean up needs

Make sure to put on your gloves before starting!! Very dangerous stuff people!

  • Make sure area around your furniture piece is clear of any overspray that may occur
  • Spray one coat over a large area, I did the top and sides of the cabinet all at once
  • Let stand for 15 minutes (it turns into a jell so it will not drip)
  • Scrape off bubbled up finish with your putty knife, being careful not to gouge the wood
  • Repeat the process once again, only let it stand for 5 minutes. This will take any last residue off the surface.
  • Whip off finish with an rag or paper towel
  • Lightly sand with fine grit steel wool, this should keep you from having to sand anything down with sandpaper.

Repeat steps on all surfaces of the piece that need stripping.

2. Fill damaged spots

Sadly this little guy had some spots that were beyond refinishing, so I needed to fill the holes and paint over them.

  • Make sure the damaged spots are clean and clear of dirt
  • Fill your holes (I like Durham’s Water Putty-it’s strong and easily sanded)

  • Let your putty thoroughly dry after filling all holes
  • Using a flat sanding block, sand the putty flush with the surface

3. Clean/condition your wood

I just whipped the whole credenza down with a dust cloth to remove major dirt, then whipped it clean with a damp towel. I don’t find conditioning necessary if you don’t have a lot of nooks and crannies like carvings for stain to get hung up in. Plus it’s just one more step in the process, get ’er done people!

4. Make a design plan

Now the fun part!! My challenge was to use just enough paint to cover up the damaged spots on the credenza without covering up that beautiful pecan wood grain. Part of what makes mid-century modern pieces so distinctive is their devotion to warm mid-tone woods. I wanted to keep what wood I could…so I went a little funky…

When I’m looking for pattern inspiration I like to shop stationary stores, art galleries, and see what other bloggers are trending. I love this angular pattern I’m seeing all over the markets right now. I talked about some of the specific images that I looked at for inspiration here.

When laying out patterns I usually start with a quick sketch then go to Photoshop. You don’t need a fancy computer program like that to do it your self though- just take a picture of your furniture, print it out and trace over it with a piece of paper. That way your pattern will be to scale and you can get a realistic idea of how it will look when you’re done.

Anyone who knows me or has been to my blog knows I LOVE teal, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that in the design somewhere. I started there, and just plugged and played with other colors until I found a balance I liked. Then I printed out my rendering and matched paint colors from Valspar’s paint line.

  • Coconut Milk 2007-10C
  • Everglade Deck 5011-3
  • Elegant Silk 5010-7
  • Woodlawn Valley Haze 5004-5C
  • Filoli Ginkgo Tree 5006-4B
  • Mystic Sea 5007-7A
  • Olive Suede 6010-3

5. Purchase materials (paint, rollers, tape, stain, poly)

  • I went with Valspar brand latex paint/primer in one, knowing I would already be doing a ton of coats, I didn’t want to add more to the mix with a separate paint and primer

  • When possible, on flat surfaces, I prefer to use foam rollers to apply paint by hand as opposed to brushes. It dries with a smoother finish.

  • You need GOOD QUALITY tape! For something this detailed it is key that you have clean paint lines. I used 3M Edge Lock-fabulous!!

6. Layout pattern with straight edge (I used tape)

This process was super tedious since all of the straight lines were crazy hard to do with all of the angles of the drawers.

  • I used masking tape to layout the initial design
  • Then I took a straight edge and ‘connected’ the dots

7. Tape off and paint!

This was the part that tested my patience…With all of the overlapping color blocks I had to paint one ‘non touching’ section at a time.

For each color block:

  • Tape off outer edge, and PRESS that tape line down with your nail. Nothing’s getting thorough that bad boy!

  • Roll on paint, allow 1st coat to dry for 2 hrs

  • Apply second coat, allow to dry for 24 hrs (I know, I know. Why so long? Since you will be taping over those color blocks to do the next color you want to MAKE SURE it is dry or you will ruin all you have done so far.)
  • Remove Tape (so satisfying)
  • Repeat for ALL color blocks (deep breaths)

8. Stain Wood

Since there were still some dark discolorations on the wood I decided the best way to cover them was to stain the credenza. Normally I would sand those spots out, but when you are working with a veneered piece you don’t have that luxury. My veneer was less that 1/16” so I only sanded enough to smooth the surface before painting.

I used Varathane Wood Stain in American Walnut finish. This stain is fab, super easy to work with and dries really quickly. You only need one coat to get a nice saturated color and it is dry in an hour.

  • First, I tested my stain on a sample board I made with a paint line. I taped one paint section off and left the other exposed. I wanted to see how/if the stain would affect the paint and if the tape would keep a clean line.
  • I decide that taping off was the way to go. Now I had to tape off ALL of my paint lines so that the stain would not ‘stain’ those. I just wanted to darken the exposed wood.
  • Apply the stain with an old, but clean, T-shirt or cloth. Wear latex gloves so you don’t stain your skin. Be generous with the stain; just whip the excess when you have covered the whole area.
  • Remove the tape when you are done. Beautiful!!

9. Apply Poly

Last step! You just need to protect all that work you’ve done.

  • I used Minwax Polycrylic Water Based Protective Finish in a clear satin. 2 hrs between coats, I did two coats. You can sand between with 220 grit sandpaper, but since I had painted a pattern I did not want to scuff up the paint finish.
  • Apply finish with a high quality synthetic brush over the whole thing.

10. Reassemble

Now the fun part - Put it all back together again!! (Remember to mark the inside of your drawers and legs before removing all of them to start the project, since they usually are not interchangeable even if they look the same)

Check out the whole process!

Hope you guys like it!!

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