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. 

Step 1



Is It Veneered?

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.

Step 2

Disassemble and Label

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.

Step 3

Apply Stripper

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).

Pro Tip

Make sure to put on your gloves before starting!

Step 4

Remove Stripper

Scrape off bubbled up finish with your putty knife, being careful not to gouge the wood.

Step 5

Do a Second Pass

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! 

Step 6

Don't Forget the Extras

Repeat steps on all surfaces of the piece that need stripping, like these legs here. 

Step 7

Fill Holes

Sadly our credenza had some spots that were beyond refinishing, so we needed to fill the holes and paint over them. Make sure the damaged spots are clean and clear of dirt. Fill the holes with putty and let the putty thoroughly dry.

Step 8

Sand Smooth

Using a flat sanding block, sand the putty flush with the surface. 

Step 9

Clean the Wood

Wipe down the whole credenza with a dust cloth to remove major dirt, then wiped it clean with a damp towel. 

Pro Tip

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. 

Step 10

Lay Out Pattern

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:

  • Coconut Milk 2007-10C
  • Everglade Deck 5011-3
  • Elegant Silk 5010-7
  • Woodlawn Valley Haze 5004-5C
  • Filoli Ginkgo Tree 5006-4B 
  • Mystic Sea 5007-7A 
  • Olive Suede 6010-3 

We used latex paint/primer in one, so not to add more layers by using a separate paint and primer. 

Step 11

Tape on Pattern

Lay out the pattern with a straight edge. This process was super tedious since all of the straight lines were crazy hard to do with all of the angles of the drawers. I used masking tape to lay out the initial design. 

Step 12

Pencil It In

I carefully transferred the pattern onto the dresser using a pencil. 

Step 13

Connect Lines

Then I took a straight edge and connected the dots. 

Step 14

Apply Painter's Tape

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. 

Step 15

Apply First Coat

Roll on paint and allow the first coat to dry for two hours. Apply second coat, allow to dry for 24 hours. Why so long? Since you will be taping over those color blocks to do the next color you want to MAKE SURE it is dry or you will ruin all you have done so far. 

Step 16

Repeat For All Color Blocks

Continue the process making sure to allow plently of drying time in between coats. 

Step 17

Remove Tape

This is one of the most satisfying parts of the project. Peel slowly and at an angle. 

Step 18

Photo by: unknown


Painting Complete

Here it is with all the angled painted.

Step 19

Stain Wood

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.

Step 20

Do a Test

Test the stain on a sample board. You may want to try the stain next to your paint colors to make sure they look good together. Tape one paint section off and leave another exposed to see how/if the stain would affect the paint and if the tape would keep a clean line. 

Step 21

Tape Off Painted Sections

Tape off ALL of the paint lines so that the stain would not stain those. 

Step 22

Apply Sealer

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.