This classic midcentury modern sideboard was found on Craigslist for a mere $45. Parts of it were damaged with some deep gouges and years of rough wear, but it was well-built so it remained structurally sound. So we stripped off the existing finish, patched up the gashes and then did a multi-tone finish using stain and a variety of paint colors. The challenge was to use just enough paint to cover up the damaged spots without covering up the beautiful pecan wood grain.
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.
Our piece was veneered (with what looked to be a pecan wood) So we had to strip off the finish.
Gather materials and tools and remove drawers and legs. You’ll want to strip, stain and paint pieces separately. Mark the inside of the drawers and legs before removing all of them to start the project (top-right drawer, middle-left drawer, back-left leg, etc.), since they usually are not interchangeable even if they look the same.
The area around your furniture piece should be clear of any overspray that may occur. Spray one coat over a large area — we did the top and sides of the cabinet all at once. Let stand for 15 minutes (it turns into a gel so it will not drip).
Make sure to put on your gloves before starting!
Repeat the process, but let it stand for only five minutes. This will take any last residue off the surface. Wipe off finish with a rag or paper towel. Lightly sand with fine-grit steel wool, which should keep you from having to sand anything down with sandpaper. Here you can see a drawer that has been stripped and sanded next to the ones that haven’t — a big difference!
Wipe down the whole credenza with a dust cloth to remove major dirt, then wiped it clean with a damp towel.
What about wood conditioners? It is not necessary if you don’t have a lot of nooks and crannies like carvings where stain can get hung up in. Plus it’s just one more step in the process.
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 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.
Here are our paint colors, all from Valspar:
We used latex paint/primer in one, so not to add more layers by using a separate paint and primer.
Planning for the color overlaps was the hardest part. Take your time. With all of the overlapping color blocks, the non-touching sections had to be painted one section at a time. For each color block, tape off outer edge, and PRESS that tape line down with your fingernail. You don't want any paint bleeding underneath the tape.
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.
You just need to protect all that work you’ve done. Apply polyurethane finish with a high-quality synthetic brush over the whole thing, and let dry two hours between coats. We did two coats. You can sand between coats with 220-grit sandpaper, but be careful, the sandpaper can scuff up the painted sections.