January 7, 2012

Painting Pointers: Transforming My Dining Room Hutch

Posted by Kristin

When setting up my dining room in our new apartment, I knew I wanted a pop of color and specifically I wanted teal.  I already had a color palette of red and black and wanted to throw in teal for some contrast and more importantly, for some fun! I decided that the recipient of the teal paint would be a hutch that I had already. But I knew that a bright teal hutch would look a bit intense for my aesthetic so I wanted to age the furniture by applying a stain and sanding it down. I'd never done this before but picked the brains of some people that had and figured I would also learn as I went. As you'll read in a moment, the hutch cost me no beans, that's right it was free, so I figured I wouldn't be too upset if it turned out not so great.

Pinned Image
One of my found inspirational photos via

And another one via

I started out with two separate pieces of furniture. Lets start with the dresser. I got it for free in college. When I first got married, I painted it white, paired it with this same hutch top (from my parents house, so also free) and used it in our kitchen. Then we moved to Massachusetts and I ditched the hutch top, painted the dresser black, and used it in my dining room in Easthampton. Well, the two would be joined again when I decided to paint them both teal. Hence, where we are today.

Sorry for this terrible but necessary before shot of the dresser (missing 2 drawers of course).

The hutch top before.

First I set up a work station outside where I could scrub-a-dub-dub both pieces of furniture. Due to both pieces of furniture being in the kitchen at one point or another, they were covered in a film of grease, so a thorough cleaning was required. I ended up using an automotive hand cleaner which had a bit of grit to it. This really helped get up all the grime and left a clean surface after being thoroughly wiped off. After that, I sanded the snot out of everything, getting every little crack and crevice. (Sorry if the reference to 'snot' is a bit gross for ya, but I needed to convey just how thoroughly I sanded). This wasn't so fun considering I did it by hand, but none the less, a necessary evil.

My supplies of choice: soap and water, cleaner, a small brush, and an electric drill to remove the hardware.

Best cleaner ever.

After wiping everything down with a tack cloth, I moved all the furniture up to the attic to paint it. It was getting too late in the day to paint outside and I already had an area set up in the attic with drop cloths and plastic. Now, I know some of you are thinking "Hello- where is the necessary ventilation!?" but I assure you that I had the windows open and had a good cross breeze going. So I sprayed my little heart away (I'm notorious for spray painting furniture- I hate having to do the whole brush and roller thing!) and ran around doing other things between coats.

My painting set up in the attic. Yup, totally ghetto.

Not too much more legit looking from this angle either.

Or this one. 

My weapon of choice.

It took about three coats to get all the surfaces covered thoroughly and that was just paint, no primer. On day two, I moved all the furniture outside and started the sanding process again. Before I started sanding, however, I did have a moment of panic, thinking "Holy smokes, this teal is really, really bright. Like blinding bright. My husband's gonna kill me".

Oh, the blinding teal light!!!!

Quick, put on your sunglasses.

But then I figured I couldn't make it any worse and forged ahead with the sanding. This time, I was more selective with my sanding because my end goal was to make the furniture look aged. I focused on edges, corners, cracks- basically anywhere where paint would normally wear off over time (that's alot of where's and wear's in one sentence, yo). I also did a rough sanding on the flat surfaces of the dresser, such as the drawer fronts, tops, and sides and the flat surfaces of the hutch top.

Here's a comparison: left is pre-sanded, right is sanded.

A close up of some sanding action.

Kinda of a neat comparison. The top is freshly painted. the bottom is freshly sanded,
with some of the black paint from underneath starting to show through. A nice surprise? I'd say so.

After I got it to the aged look I wanted, I started getting pretty excited. My vision was coming to reality before my eyes, even though I really didn't know what I was doing! Then I wiped everything down with a tack clock and small brush. I wanted to make sure that I got every last bit of dust out of the cracks and corners. I also swept my work area so that a breeze wouldn't blow anything back onto the furniture.

Next up was stain. I snagged  a small can of walnut stain from my parents' house and applied it in thin coats with a rag. I found that I had to wipe it off immediately or it would get too dark, so if you use this technique, be prepared to move quickly.

Unfortunately, this is the only photo of have comparing sanded and stained
 (top) to just sanded (bottom). The stain adds alot of depth to the surface.

Once both pieces of furniture were done, I let them thoroughly dry for 2 days before putting them together. Then I simply placed the hutch on top of the dresser and filled 'er up. More specifically, I filled up the top with my free roadside finds I talked about here. So aside from three cans of spray paint, this project cost me nada, zilch, zero, nichts (any German speakers out there?). Just my kinda project.

The finished product, bare bones.

And all filled up with happy things.

Closer view of happy things.

Like little cups filled with wine corks.

Or milk glass vases turned candle stick holders and a bowl full of rope.

Or my favorite, the cow. Yay Vermont.

And a fun close up of the worn down corners and edges that a bit of sanding and stain led to.

So its been about three months now and the paint job has held up great. More importantly, my husband didn't go blind when he saw the finished product. Surprisingly, he actually said it looked good. And then walked away. That's about as much input into decorating as I can expect from him, so I'll take what I can get.

Has anyone else experimented with different paint techniques before and had success or failure? Its ok to share, we're pretty nice here over at PEC, if I do say so myself.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! Yes, the cups and other milk glass finds were just a bonus I stumbled upon during a run. I guess you never know what you'll find on the side of the road!