new year, new credenza

My new year’s resolution is to finish decorating my apartment, and I’m pleased to report that four days in to the new year, I’m still going strong with my goals. I feel like a winner! This is a much, much more enjoyable resolution than, say, vowing to work out more or be more organized. Anyway, my first official apartment project of 2012 is this: I finally finished making over my vintage credenza. Woo!

Here’s how this piece started out. Good lines, solid wood, but a tired 60s/70s finish that was just dated and uninspiring. I picked this credenza up at a vintage furniture store somewhere in Westchester, after searching endlessly for months. I was looking for a very long piece for the long wall in my dining room, and honestly this one wasn’t quite as long as I wanted, but given my total credenza shopping exhaustion and desperation to unpack the last of my boxes, I decided it was close enough. The real selling point was the fact that the base is actually two separate pieces (with one solid top), meaning it would be waaaay easier to move into my three-story walk-up apartment than a long one-piece unit. Also it was pretty cheap.

So, I jammed it into the back of my mini-SUV-style Zipcar–it barely fit, reached all the way up to the ceiling of the car and was practically resting against my head (fun fact, this chair was also jammed into the front seat of the car, pretty much cutting off my ability to move the gear shifter)–and proceeded to drive home through NYC rush hour traffic in the rain with no rearview visibility whatsoever and only limited mobility of my right arm. That was thrilling. But my treasures and I made it home alive and up my stairs (thanks to my neighbor Christina, you’re the best!), and the credenza finally took up its rightful place in my dining room. At which point I stripped it of its dignity as well as its doors and hardware, and told it to get ready for some changes. I painted it with an oil-based primer, then two (or three, I can’t remember) coats of acrylic paint, then at least two coats of poly, with more coats on the top piece where I knew it would get most wear and tear. I don’t have a lot of experience painting furniture so I cobbled together some research and basically just winged it.

Here’s a process shot, after the primer coat. I’m not gonna lie, this kind of project sort of sucks if you live in an apartment. I think I could really enjoy refinishing furniture if I had a proper workshop, but a large-scale messy project like this in your dining room is a bit of a drag. As you can see, I spread drop cloths on the floors, and used my unpainted dining chairs (which were destined to be painted soon, so I didn’t care if they got messed up) as a place to rest some of the pieces. I was super neurotic about allowing everything to dry really thoroughly between coats so this process took a while – I think my dining room looked like this for well over a week. Then there was the time I spilled a whole can of poly down the wall. Let’s just say I was glad when the painting was over!

But finally I did finish, and all that annoying painting-in-cramped-quarters is but a distant memory now. My paint job definitely isn’t flawless, but it’s not too bad, and I’m working on being less of a perfectionist anyway. After everything dried, I reattached all the doors and whatnot, using all the original hardware.

I sewed new curtain panels for the doors in a neon green dupioni silk. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this color, but for now it’s a fun pop. And I love that these little curtain panels give me the opportunity to change the look of this piece without having to repaint. (Goodness knows I’d happily sew ten new sets of curtains before I’d repaint this sucker!)

I may eventually replace the door pulls and maybe even paint in some of the details on the woodwork. We’ll see.

For now I’m liking it simple solid grey. I’ve got a lot of other colors and patterns going on in this room, so I think the simple, solid color is the way to go for now.

It’s done! It’s done! And I really do like it. Would you think I’m crazy if I told you this whole cabinet is chock-full of Jello molds and cake plates?

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  • Vicki B

    If it were my cabinet, it would be stuffed with soap molds, so no, I don’t think you’re crazy. Love the new look!

  • Jennifer W

    nice job Brett! i can only imagine what your apt. smelled like for a whole week. hope you are getting plenty of fresh wintry air now!! ;) Your jello mold obsession is my tea pot & pitcher obsession. We all have one. Tsk, tsk. happy 2012!

  • Amy Armato

    I’m assuming the little clementine holders are vintage too. I just adore them. Thanks for posting.

  • Judith

    You have given that a real contemporary look. Looks great!

  • Trudy Barnes

    Wow, what a difference a coat of paint makes! I’m not sure I would have seen its potential. Nice job!

  • Cyn

    Miss B, as always, you amaze and impress, it looks fabulous!

  • Paige @ ArtsyAnthropology

    This is too cute! I completely understand the whole issue of walking over, around and between drying pieces of furniture in a tiny apartment… so kudos! Also, I find that lots, and lots of candles tend to mask the fumes… ;)

  • thezenofmaking

    I think it looks fantastic! I’d definitely add some detail paint to bring out the designs on the doors.

  • Lynne

    I love it and Fifi’s chair. You find the best furniture. I can’t wait to see more pictures of your apartment. I moved to a small 2 bedroom condo a year ago and still have boxes to unpack because I’m looking for the right size pieces of furniture. Thanks for all the inspiring ideas.

  • Peaches

    Fabulous!!! And it matches Fifi!

  • beverly pettengill aka Grammy

    wonderful job, I like the handles and the idea of painting detail is brilliant…as I am writing this comment your knit and crochet show is on create tv, wish it were on more often. You are truly gifted young lady….

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