From Curb to Chic: Side Table Makeover

You may know that doing the Avon 39 Walk for Breast Cancer is an annual tradition for me. The two-day walk gives lots of time for long talks with my friends. Last year, an old friend asked our group to think about what our “dream job” would be. I already have my dream job, but I took the opportunity to reflect on what an alternate or next career could be… something I love doing, but which is not so practical… the easy answer was that I’d love to refinish old furniture with fresh looks.

It makes me so happy when I can take a piece of furniture with great classic style but a little (or a lot of) wear and turn it into something beautiful and full of personality. I’ll list some of my favorite past projects at the bottom of this post.


Now on to today’s post… It has been a while since I picked this little end table up off the side of the road. My oldest was with me and remarked, “There’s mom being mom” in the affectionate way you talk about a lovable, quirky relative.

While I loved the Chinese/ Chinoiserie style of this little table, I was a bit intimidated by its poor condition. You can’t really appreciate in the picture how water-damaged, chipped, and uneven the wood was. Still, it was sturdy enough, and with my newfound love of gardening and greenery, I thought it would make a great plant stand.

I sanded the table aggressively, used wood glue on one of the legs that was cracked, and then painted it with three coats of white latex enamel (leftover from the interior trim of our house). I didn’t even try to fully even out and fix the surface, letting a lot of the dents and scratches show and add character.

The white paint did a good job brightening up the table and made it look more finished, but it was kind of plain… time for a touch of gold spray paint to cap the legs, and I love the finished product!

Here is my new old table in our living room. I think I’ll probably move it up to my bedroom later, but I’m still experimenting with how to use this handsome accent piece!

If you like this project, check out some of past “fabulous furniture makeovers”:

Wow, that was a longer list than I expected. I guess I have a good start on that next career, when I’m ready!

Happy furniture hunting and painting!

“Jewels”

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Jewel-Toned Antiques

I was running errands in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco when I came across a unique and stunning boutique called Forgotten Shanghai.

Forgotten Shanghai logo

Amazing and unique store in SF. Click the logo to go to their website.

Their showroom is packed with furniture and decor items that range from Chinese antiques to modern designs with an Asian feel.  There are lots of treasures to browse, and I could have spent hours there, if I didn’t have two kids in tow who were on the verge of becoming the proverbial bulls in the china shop (haha!).

The products that caught my eye the most were the wooden chests and screens that were painted in blue and green jewel tones:

forgotten shanghai boxes

Media and File boxes in gorgeous colors. Click the picture for the product website.

Lacquered wooden screens in a range of fresh colors. Click the picture for the product website.

Tragically, at several hundred dollars a piece, their prices exceeded my budget.  I kept thinking about them, though.  I love adding Asian elements to my home – the classic lines are elegant and complement the Arts and Crafts pieces we have.  And with the fresh blue and green lacquer, these classic forms feel contemporary.  Luckily for me, I had a couple of pieces at home that I could make over to get the same look.

Painted wooden chest

I picked up this solid wood cedar chest off craigslist for $99 a few years ago from a woman who used it for staging homes.  It is stamped inside with “Wills Cabinet Shop Somerset, PA,” which looks like it is sadly no longer around.

chest before

Before: Cedar chest bought off craigslist.

Regular spray paint comes in limited colors.  I had a false start painting with a really unfortunate electric blue from the craft store.  If you don’t find the color you are looking for at the hardware store or regular craft store, I would recommend Montana Spray Paints, which are artists’ paints.  I found this color, Fjordonline, but I later discovered that Aaron Brothers carries Montana paints.  After sanding, priming, and painting, I added several layers of a glossy clear coat.  This really helps give a finished look as well as prevent any color from rubbing off on walls, etc..

painted teal chest

After: chest painted in Montana Fjord with a glossy finish.

Window screen

Another great find was this Chinese wooden window screen that I found at a consignment store for just $65!  Similar screens usually cost several hundred from a knowledgeable seller.  I was torn about painting it, as it always feels a little “wrong” to paint good quality wood.  In the end, I went ahead, thinking that I really needed something to brighten up our living room, which already has a lot of wood on the floors and in the larger furniture pieces.  The paint color is “Swept Away” by Benjamin Moore.  I had it leftover from painting our kids’ bath.  Again, I finished it with several coats of a clear finish to seal it.

Painted screen

Chinese wooden window screen painted in pale blue "Swept Away" by Benjamin Moore.

I’m so happy with how my Forgotten Shanghai copy-cats turned out! I’m especially excited that I make them from things I already had around the house. I have one more screen that is left-over from a carpentry job that I am thinking of painting in a glossy black for the foyer. I’ll post a picture when it’s done!

“Jewels”