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Refinishing a Rustic Cabinet Project – Photo Tutorial

Well, just so you know, I am a complete amateur at refinishing furniture and until last year, I had never even considered it. Then my sister-in-law Luciana inspired me and I started looking at our old furniture with new eyes.

Take this old cabinet for example. After we moved to Brazil, this was the cheapest thing I could find at a used furniture shop that provided storage for our shoes. It was not beautiful, but it was functional, and it was what we could afford.  It had an old-school yellow-ish stain, with a glossy varnish finish – not my favorite.  So, I began to imagine what I could transform it into with a little paint and some creativity. Oh, and some time. And that is what I seem to always be short on. 
The inspiration for this project came about nine months ago, at which point I bought the paint, and then life happened and I never did a thing with it until last week.  And even then, it was probably a bad idea, but somehow I squeezed it in and now it is done and I’m glad it is. Anyway, I  mention that to say that I am a busy mama with very little time, and so I do things in a FAST way, or not at all. This was a FAST project because I don’t have time for any method that takes too long. 
So here is the cabinet before I got started. All I had done so far was break my back getting it to the garage, as Fabio was out of town, and that was part of the reason I had a window of time to work on it. It is HEAVY!Then I paid my Joshua, 11 years old, to sand it for me.  He likes to make money, and I like to save time. He is cheap too! wink. I still had to sand it a little more when he was done, but I expected that. So this is what it looked like after sanding. We did NOT sand it very well. Just enough to get off that brilliant, glossy finish.  And we used an electric sander.
Post sanding:

 Okay, so far I haven’t done much. It is still before lunch time on Wednesday, and I just improved on Joshua’s sanding job a little. Now I wiped the sanding dust off and decided to slap on a quick coat of paint before lunch. I used some dark brown left over from a wall we painted last year, using a nearly dry brush, and just brushing it on lightly – not to cover completely. I delibrately left stroke marks from the brush. Where the paint seemed too think, I wiped it with a wet rag to blend/ minimize the thickness.  This took less than 15 minutes.  Then I went to make lunch for my troop.

This is what it looked like after the brown paint:

By the time lunch was over and cleaned up after, the brown paint was dry, so I figured I could slap the next coat on. This time I used a cream color, also leftover from a wall we painted last year, using the same technique as with the brown, above.  My ultimate goal is that it look like there are some “layers” of oldish paint, even though my ultimate goal for the color is turquoise. My current fave.  Again, this step took 15 minutes or less.

So this is what it looked like after the cream coat:

Then I went and put the littles down for their naps.  Did a few chores, got the olders started on some school work, and went back out for the final coat. The first two layers dried really fast because they were so thin, and the sun was nice and bright that day too. Time for turquoise! This time I brushed it on a little thicker, but still not exactly “full coverage”.  Again, I left brush strokes, always going with the grain of the wood. Wax on, wax off.

This took me a whole half an hour or maybe even 45 minutes. Good thing it wasn’t longer, because by then my husband had arrived home and my baby was awake. Done with this project for today!

This is what it looked like after the turquoise coat:

Well, at this point, when I went back out to look at it the next morning, it just looked like a bad paint job, rather than a lusciously rustic piece of furniture.  I was a little discouraged. There was too much gloss, too bright of color to look rustic, too much definition of the paint layers, too much too much.  But… a hand sand job turned the situation around.  You might not be able to tell a lot of difference in the photos, but it did make a huge difference.  This was the worst part of the job. But the most rewarding! I used a rough grain sanding paper, and used a leather glove. Always with the grain!! This blended the layers beautifully, took enough of the brilliance off the color and removed the glossiness of the paint (even though it was not a glossy paint), and gave me the rustic look I had hoped for.  I didn’t bother to sand the back of the cabinet or the inside of the doors. Did I mention that I am a busy mama and I don’t have time for projects that take too long?? Ya. So, this last bit probably took me an hour. Or it would have if I had been able to work on it straight. I rarely get to work on anything without a thousand interruptions, but anyway, I did get it done on Thursday. Started Wednesday, finished Thursday. My kind of project.

My dear husband chipped in by screwing these handles on that I picked up nine months ago when I got the paint, and for a total of about $15, I got a “new” cabinet! 

Here is the finished project:

Just one more look at the “Before” so you can compare: