Redo a Vintage Sideboard




About: I am an artist and fashion designer, recently relocated to the Detroit suburbs (I travel a lot!), who is having quite a lot of fun experimenting with new designs, new techniques, and expanding my repertoire.

I needed a sideboard to use as both a buffet during parties and to store the serving dishes and large pieces our small kitchen had no room for. I went on craigslist and finally found a piece that would work. It was the right size, in good condition, and cheap. But BOY, was it ugly! It was in that 70s style, totally covered with wood-look laminate...

I finally decided I couldn't take it anymore, but it had those fake columns over the door, how could I repaint it so that it wouldn't just look like a 70s laminate cheapo repainted?! Any solid color would still emphasize those, and they really dated the piece! I wasn't really equipped to just remove them - they were really glued on, and I didn't want to build new doors.

A little bit of brainstorming made me realize they could look like tree trunks! I'd grown up in Colorado and seen beautiful colorful paintings of the aspen trees that covered the hills and decided I'd go for the look of one of those paintings.

Time: I did this in 3 days - including drying time, working just a few hours a day (you have to keep working, stopping to let dry, working, stopping, etc.)

Materials List :

(This list is a little imprecise because I'm a big fan of using what you have and adding your own style. I hate tutorials where they tell you you MUST use a size 4 round with X brand paint in Y color OTHERWISE IT WON'T LOOK RIGHT! There is very little in life that needs to be that precise. This is certainly not one of those things! This tutorial is intended to inspire your own ideas and spark your creativity. I've included all the important technical information, the rest is your own ideas!)

* 1 ugly sideboard you hate

* KILZ Premium Primer and/or Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer

* Nice wide brush for the background work, smaller brushes for the detail

* foam makeup wedges

* Background paint - I used Behr interior latex in some shade of blue I found cheap on the Oops shelf (paint that was custom-tinted and either came out wrong or was never picked up. Much cheaper, but no way to predict what you can find.)

* Second background shade to ombre - I used the little 3oz Behr samplers - tinted a shade of purple I thought would go nicely - a color called Wizard.

* Colors for trunks and leaves: I used a box of Golden acrylics I had for the trunks -

- Titanium White, Ivory Black, and Neutral Gray

- And then used Behr latex samples in red and yellow for the leaves.

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Step 1: Prep That Baby!

I decided to surprise my husband with the newly redone piece, so the first time he left on a 3-day business trip, I hauled that thing out to our covered porch with the help of the neighbor and got to work. In retrospect, this Big Reveal was not the best plan, and I really wish I'd had someone around to help move the stupid thing around (especially when Nature decided to rain in at a slant under the covered porch...).

I hated the thought of sanding or striping this piece - especially with those carved columns on the doors, so I removed all the hardware and I wiped it clean with a little lysol spray (I had done this when I first brought the piece home - I always clean everything that comes used! You never know what it's been exposed to), just to clean any new dirt and fingermarks off it.

I pulled the drawers out to do separately, and I coated everything with KILZ Premium primer - I love this stuff, it works on everything! I just used a nice big fat brush and just gave everything a quick coat - being especially careful to get the primer in all the nooks and crannies. This stuff is expensive (I scored some new cans cheap on criagslist from some really shady guy who wanted to meet at a gas station...), but a little goes a long way, so it's definitely worth it!

(SPOILER ALERT - step 2 perhaps could have been avoided if I'd used the Zinsser primer in step 1 instead of the KILZ. I have no way of knowing if the magic solution was the combined power of the two primers or if the Zinsser is actually better than the KILZ. I've done other projects with the KILZ and never had this problem before or since.... )

Let it dry overnight.

Step 2: SPRAY and BLOCK!

I don't have any photos of this step, but your second step should be to spray a stainblocker if you are, like me, painting laminate!

See, I didn't realize this, but laminate is VICIOUS! It refuses to go down without a fight!! After I started painting my background color, I realized it was starting to turn yellow and red in patches under the blue! Turns out, the chemicals in the laminate were leaching out, and the KILZ wasn't strong enough to block all of them. So I sprayed a generous coat of Zinserr's Bulls Eye 1-2-3 - another top quality primer - over the whole partially-painted piece, then repainted the parts that were yellowing and it was totally fine after that... (Don't forget to spray your drawer fronts too!)

I stopped for lunch while I waited for it to dry, then came by and tackled the painting!

Step 3: Mask, Then PAINT YOUR HEART OUT!

I knew there weren't going to be any white tree trunks on the top, so I went ahead and painted the top blue. I used painter's tape to cover the columns on the doors first, then added some more strips of tape to be tree trunks all around the piece. I put some at slight angles because trees rarely grow perfectly straight and symmetrically spaced... I left the drawers off for this step too, because I planned to put only leaves on the drawers, no trunks.

I wanted the trunks to be bright white, and it seemed easier to mask them off here when they were still the white of the primer, rather than background paint the whole piece and then have to cover the blue to get a good white...

Then I painted over the whole thing in my background colors of blue shading to purple at the bottom...

Step 4: Tree Trunks!

I waited for the background to dry, then peeled off the tape masking the tree trunks. There was almost no seepage, but it wouldn't really have mattered. Part of the beauty of this style of painting (sort of expressionist, not realistic) is that you can be really generous with 'mistakes' and spatters and things.

See my pretty white trunks?

I used my white to touch up the trunks, making sure they were really white, but especially leaving a thicker edge of white paint all along the left side of each trunk - which is where I'd decided to emphasize the tree's curve.

Step 5: Tree Trunk Detail

While the white was still wet, I then used some black and gray to first draw a line down the outside left edge of each trunk to indicate the shadow where it curved back, then I added some bars and dashes in the thick white paint and brushed it to the other side of the trunk in a curve - so you can see the bark curving around, but the darkest value was on the left side. I went back and added in some dark bars and dots going across the trunk because that's how aspen tree bark is. The whole thing now had a great expressionist textural look going!

I did this on all 3 sides, then waited for it to dry.

Step 6: LEAVES!!!

Once the whole background and trunks were dry, I sqooshed some red and yellow paints onto a plate and used one of those foam makeup wedges to dab in both the yellow and red paints and just went made sponging the leaves on. Remember to turn your sponge direction as you apply so you get variety. Keep an eye on your colors, and try to make sure you aren't getting too much of one color. It all blends to uniform orange really quickly, so be sure to go back and add some pure red and pure yellow to counter that.

Remember that leaves almost never show up as single blobs, always in clusters. Leaf clusters can appear almost anywhere - there are low branches and high branches, so while the majority of your leafing should be near the top, don't forget to scatter some across the trunks too. This is also a great way to hide anything you didn't like from the previous steps!

I put the drawers back in for this step so I could get the splatter and color right, but made sure to carefully pull them ajar to dry when I was done so they didn't get painted shut.

Step 7: Finishing Details

I found some great hardware (since discontinued! ;( ) at World Market - little metal birds, owls, and dragonflies. I used an assortment of those as the cabinet and drawer knobs. After wowing my husband with the big reveal and living with it a little, I decided the top needed some clouds, so I very delicately used a large round sponge to gently ponce on some wispy white clouds.

I also discovered that the top didn't cure perfectly - items left on it for a while sometimes stuck a little. This can sometimes happen with latex paints, and can be caused by several factors, including environmental temperature and humidity. I was careful to follow the recommended temperature and humidity guidelines while working, but of course, it had rained several times while the piece was drying, and that spike in humidity could have prevented it from curing totally. The solution to this is just a nice coat of a polyurethane. In this case, only the top needs it, because the piece doesn't get handled anywhere else and we don't have kids or pets to stress the body. If you do, you might want to coat the whole thing.

Step 8: ENJOY!

Stand back and marvel at your artistic piece! Applaud yourself, give yourself many pats on the back (ignore any stares from the awkward position you're in), you did a brilliant job of breathing new life into a vintage laminate monster! Well done, you!!! Look at how spiffy it is!!

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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago

    All my life I have enjoyed refinishing old furniture, and I sure enjoyed this ibble! As I was reading along through all the steps, I had to keep going back up to the top for another look at the picture of the finished piece. At first I couldn't see the columns; it's amazing the way the tree trunks camouflage them, and how the columns give the trees a realistic knobbly appearance. The shading and textural effects work great. You are so inventive!

    Thank you for the hints, too. I recently built and painted a couple of RAST chests of drawers from IKEA and have found that some things do tend to stick (in spite of our living in a very dry climate with warm temperatures and my having painted the pieces indoors), so using a coat of polyurethane on the top is now on my list of things to do. Your comments on the primers are going to be helpful, too. I had despaired of getting rid of the yellowish stains that came through from the knots quite a while after I painted a little piece with pinewood shelves in our kitchen. Looks like Zinserr's Bulls Eye may come to the rescue.

    Last, but not least, I enjoyed your humorous, yet precise writing.


    3 years ago

    Gorgeous! And a great camouflage job. I had to zoom in on the picture of the trunks to be sure the columns were still there!


    3 years ago

    I love it! Thank you for sharing a great idea :-)

    1 reply