from old to bold

I’m definitely not the first person to figure out that old furniture + a coat of paint can equal a beautiful thing. But I had never actually tried to refinish anything until last year.

We happened to hear that someone in our building was moving out. In NYC, these are magic words. Free furniture– no delivery fees, no shopping through tourist- or flea-ridden stores– all we had to do was get it into our apartment before the cleaning crew stopped by. Honestly, this is how we got most of the furniture in our apartment. Some pieces are nicer than others. These had a lot of promise but needed some major work.

Both pieces from this particular apartment were antique reproductions and currently painted a filthy ochre. I did a bit of research, and purchased an aerosol paint stripper, tons of sandpaper, and rubber gloves.

Every website ever will tell you to do this outside. Well I will tell you, this is NYC. We don’t *do* outdoor space. All our outdoor spaces are taken up with beer gardens. So I opened our two windows all the way, set up some tiny fans, and crossed my fingers.

I applied the paint stripper three or four times… spray it on, watch NY1 until Weather on the 1’s comes back on (this is what we use as a timer when we don’t have a watch or a clock. Or cable TV.), and scrape it off with the plastic shovel thing. I also used a whole roll of paper towels to get the smaller spaces. I sanded down the whole thing by hand and gave it a few days to dry.

Note if you’re doing this with crappy furniture (or furniture from an unknown source): the paint stripper will completely f up anything plastic. Those little adornments on the front of the dresser drawers were (unbeknownst to me), and after letting the it sit for 10 minutes I had a bubbly, wrinkly mess. I ended up sanding off a few layers and then applying way more paint to that spot, but despite my best efforts it’s still rather visible.

Next step is priming. I bought some cheap-o black spray primer and put the dust mask back on (windows open, fan on, of course). I started with the nightstand and ended up using the entire canister. There was cursing, and then running in flip flops and ragged painting clothes to the local hardware store. Many hours and two coats of spray primer later, I was back to playing the waiting game. It’s super important to let the primer dry to get smooth paint application!

Painting is the fun part. 3 nice coats, let it dry in between. I used Behr Mosaic Tile (lacquer). It’s the perfect shade of deep teal… I love it (it also happens to be the color we painted our living room).

Aren’t they pretty?! I just want to hug them.

For drawer pulls, I didn’t want to reuse the originals. They were grimy and even if I spray painted them they would still look super old lady-ish. Which is cool sometimes, but not what I had in mind. I found brushed nickel pulls at Home Depot for the dresser, but the bedside table was so awkward I either had to drill new holes or make my own pulls. I opted for the easy secret option C: not using drawer pulls, until we got into the new apartment and inspiration struck.

Rope! I threaded thick twine through the holes, double-knotted it on the inside, and we have a nautical drawer pull. Tada!

So there you have it. Do you love them as much as I do?!

Oh, and by the way. Like a week after I finished this, Apartment Therapy posted this: (can’t find the original page but tracked down the photo to Something’s Hiding in Here)

Am I a genius or a pre-emptive copycat?