Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The first undertaking.

My husband and I are experts at moving. Since the start of our relationship, we've moved a total of 7 times and we've only been together for about 5 years. This past year we moved 3 times including a cross country trip from Massachusetts to Texas. Now I wish I could say we've settled down, but I wouldn't be able to say it with a straight face. HAH! Not even close! We're living out a year with my brother and this most recent move proved yet again that we have a crapload of stuff. Both my husband and I love antiques and quality built furniture and we buy the stuff with the intention of lasting a lifetime. This and the fact that I watch the show "Hoarders," makes me worry that we're hoarding. But my husband has assured me we don't (without any explanation or defense). For some reason that made me immediately feel better. He says we aren't so we aren't. Whew!

You'd think we'd have learned by now not to purchase anything new until we've settled down, but we just can't live that way. When I don't have a place to nest, I buy permanent pieces to surround us in our temporary home. So the new piece I had to purchase was a bedside table. We've never had bedside tables and suddenly I felt I couldn't breathe, think, or function until I had the perfect bedside table. Quickly we decided we didn't want to have matching tables.  Different ones would give our bedroom more character! So we went troving the antique stores in Old Town Spring and I found this wonderful white distressed tobacco cabinet.

It was sturdy, heavy, and in decent condition. It had such great detail on the door and legs and the inside was completely lined with tin.

I paid $80 for the cabinet which actually didn't seem so bad considering the first picture I took above wasn't what it looked like when I bought it. The cabinet was completely covered in white paint, but because the paint job wasn't great, I decided it would be a good opportunity to see what kind of what was underneath and whether I could strip the paint and make the wood gleam. That kind of idea is exactly what makes me a rookie! Look at the legs on that stand. Who the heck wants to strip the paint off of those? And I didn't look closely enough at the piece. The top of the cabinet is made up of 4 thin squares of wood. It has a one full piece of wood underneath that, but you couldn't tell through the white paint that the layer on top was not a piece of solid wood. Another thing I failed to notice was on one of the curves on the sides was patched with wood filler. So part of the curve wasn't even wood. Of COURSE I couldn't just strip the whole piece. The wood filler wouldn't look right unless I painted it. At this point I knew I had wasted my time sanding and now I had to live with the fact that I paid way too much for it!

So after wasting my time sanding the flat areas with a electric sander, the rounder knobby areas with a sanding attachment on a drill, and hand sanding the rest with my own brute strength...I gave up. Only 1/3 of the paint was gone. At this point I felt defeated and just wanted the piece to be done. So I decided to take a shortcut and paint it all white again even though there were still patches of paint here and there.

I painted 3 coats of Behr's Creamy White paint from Home Depot using a medium size brush I bought at Wal-mart. It looked surprisingly good. The paint coated the cabinet evenly and I was relieved.

So that's probably where I should have stopped...

Afterwards, I tried to follow Miss Mustard Seed's directions to just distress the high points of the piece, but I wasn't really sure what she meant. They say that everyone distresses furniture to what's pleasing to their own eye, but I guess my eye is psychotic.

Mistake #1: Don't distress everywhere because you think it'll look more even, especially the flat areas of the wood. You think I would've figured that out since MMS suggested to distress the "high points"...but again when I say I wasn't sure what she meant. I REALLY had no earthly idea.
Mistake #2: Use a steady hand. I would distress one corner and suddenly the side of the cabinet would get sanded too. I might be too spastic for distressing, but I figure I can eventually use this to my advantage.
Mistake #3: Take everyone's advice and sand where natural distressing over time would occur. Not rocket science but something that needs to be hammered into my head.
Mistake #4: And last of all, here's what you SHOULDN'T do. You shouldn't try to glaze the cabinet before the paint dries. Yes, I'm often a moron and this is exactly what I did to part of the cabinet. Sigh. This didn't look so bad in the beginning, but once I started the glazing process I got some funky uneven colored streaks.

For glazing, I followed the MMS directions and used Minwax's Dark Walnut Stain. With foam brush in hand, I tackled small areas at a time wiping the stain on the cabinet, and then wiping it quickly off with an old t-shirt. Here's a helpful hint, DON'T keep using the same rag during this process if it's covered in stain. This will leave lots of fun streaky stain marks. I did see this hint later on MMS, but it was already too late. So I had streaks on top of streaks!

Even after all of that unecessary work, the frustration of knowing I paid too much for a piece of furniture, and far from perfect results...I ended up with a nightstand I love. It's my first attempt at refurbishing and it's a piece I plan to keep for life!

You may read this entry and look at the pictures and think, "Wow she really doesn't know what she's doing" or "If this was my piece I could have made it look so much better". But that's okay! I know I'm still learning and I'm proud of what I did.

And for those looking for more aesthetically pleasing pictures, here are the ones  I took with a better camera this morning.

My bedroom is a little crowded with furniture right now, hence the mahogany bureau sneaking into the first picture. But don't worry, I'm not touching that guy. When the wood is that nice, I leave it alone.

Why yes, that is a cool pipe. Isn't it great? My husband carved it from briar. He's been carving and making pipes for over a year now. Don't you love the natural shape of the pipe and the craggy surface? It looks perfect on my tobacco cabinet nightstand!

Linking to:
Transformation Thursday
Beyond The Picket Fence


  1. What a beautiful the finished project...I'll be the first to follow and I hope you have many happy followers ever after!

  2. Thanks to you both! I really appreciate the feedback. You're my first readers and your encouraging comments totally made my day. Now I'm officially an avid follower to both of your blogs! Although I've come across them before, I've never spoken up (I can be a little Internet shy). Now that I know how it feels to be on this side of things, I need to pay it forward!

  3. Hey Emily,

    I'm visiting from Restored It Wednesday. What a gorgeous and interesting piece of furniture! I live in NC (former tobacco capital of the U.S.) and I've never run across a tobacco cabinet before. If I ever see one, I'll know what it is! :)

    I love your honesty in this post--I even laughed out loud--though *with* you not *at* you. ;) I'm relatively new to painting furniture myself and it can definitely be a trial and error process as one experiments with finishes, techniques, paint colors and the like. I'm just glad you love your new bedside table!

    Take care,

  4. Hi Erin!

    You're so kind to leave me such a welcoming comment! I feel comforted to know I'm not the only furniture newbie out there. It means so much to me that you responded and enjoyed my post!

    Also I just wanted to let you know I love what you wrote about blogging in one of your posts. I'm still in the early "birth" stages of my blog, but I feel exactly the same way. Of course I couldn't have worded it as beautifully.

    "I write this blog for the simple enjoyment of participating in a community of women who like creating beautiful spaces and objects, and transforming things with their own hands. I cherish all the comments and emails I receive, the budding blogging friendships, and I have to say I feel so fortunate to be a little part of such a creative, supportive environment."

    All the best,

  5. Wo - its a very lovely little furniture - I never see it before - best regards from germany

  6. It turned out great and you are too funny! I have one of these cabinets in my garage just waiting for a face lift. Think I just might copy yours :)

  7. I think you did great ... and I'm secretly glad you took the long route to finishing the piece; that's exactly how I do it, too! (Ahem, the "wrong" way.) But it looks wonderful, and I am thrilled you love it, too!

  8. Thanks so much Jacqueline! I wish I could read German...your pictures are so wonderful. I'm envious of all of the pieces you posted!

  9. Thanks Sue! I've come across your blog before and loved your latest table. I can't wait to see how your cabinet turns out! I'm actually jealous you already have one...I want to try to find another for my husband that doesn't look exactly like mine, but has a similar shape.

  10. Thanks A&P! While I was still in the middle of the painting/sanding/glazing debacle, I kept regretting my initial decision to strip the cabinet. But it definitely paid off in the end. Plus all of this great feedback reinforces the fact that I should always go with my instincts.

    Thanks again everyone!

  11. This is a gorgeous piece of furniture...I think you did a great job. I'm glad you told us what the pipe was...I was trying to figure it out!!!
    Have a beautiful weekend!!!

  12. What a darling little cabinet~ it's so sweet and charming~ well done!! Thanks so much for sharing at Feathered Nest Friday! :)

  13. I love the cabinet! My first piece was a night mare too and I did everything wrong but I love it and still have it.

  14. TBHearts - Thank you for the kind note! And I'm happy you noticed the pipe. My husband is particularly proud of that one. I'll have to include his other ones in my future photo shoots :).

    I also wanted to mention that you take wonderful pictures in your blog. Can't wait to see more!

  15. Courtney - Thanks again for the kind comment! It was my first time participating and it definitely won't be my last. I hope to have another new project feature this coming week. See you then!

  16. Thanks Carol! I knew it wouldn't be perfect, but I didn't realize how quickly I would come to love those imperfections. And it will always be a reminder of how far I've come.

    I love your garden pictures! I hope to have your talent one day (being able to take lovely pictures and keep flowers from dying :D).

  17. How adorable! I am so impressed how it turned out. I am a rookie too and I've made some of the same mistakes! You're just braver than me to blog about it!

  18. I love it! I am back to read your archives. I can totally relate to you; I'm a huge MMS fan and I get all inspired but then I get myself into projects that turn out to be much larger than I thought.

    That's what's great about blogging. Everyone supporting each other!! I'm cheering you on! I love how the tobacco cabinet turned out and I look forward to reading more posts!

  19. Somewhat off-topic: we've moved a lot too - 27 times in 29 years of marriage (one summer we moved 7 times!) and STILL I have way more stuff than necessary. Every move we purge and by the time we move again, there's plenty to toss. @@@
    My 1st attempt at redoing a piece of furniture failed because it turned out to be particle board instead of "real" wood. LOL. Never fear, eventually you figure things out.