The Dreaded Cabinet

As I mentioned previously, I have been working on painting a little console table / end table / cabinet, which I obviously don't know what to call, so from now on, let's just go with "cabinet." So this cabinet, which I bought at a yard sale awhile ago for $10 started out looking like this:

I thought, "Great, I like the shape of this piece, and it has a terrible paint job (you can't even see how bad it was... really bad), so I'll try my hand at painting it!" Which sounded great. I had already painted my dresser blue with spray paint, which turned out excellent (I will take some pics another time to show it off), so I figured this would be a fun little project. I also had some colorful latex paints lying around just waiting for an opportunity like this. I read the wonderful directions for painting furniture over at Young House Love to make sure I wasn't missing anything, and then brashly decided to jump in. Bought some oil-based primer, as recommended by Sherry and John (of YHL), and cleaned, sanded, and primed until the cabinet looked like this:

Don't be fooled by the picture: this took forever. Probably because this cabinet has a ridiculous amount of hard to reach places and nooks and crannies. When I finished I had lots of fun (not really) remembering how annoying it is to wash oil-based paint out of brushes (classic Julia art= oil paintings, so I have spent way too much of my life attempting to get oil paint out of brushes. I still don't believe it's actually possible to get it all.)

Still, I felt it was going pretty well. So I pressed on. This is where the real problems began. I decided to go with a complex color palette of grey, deep blue, and mustard yellow. Part of the problem was the colors just didn't seem as dark once they were on the cabinet and I kindof hated it. I really wanted to like it, but I just didn't.

I even got all fancy with my paint placement, thinking I would emphasize some of the architectural details, which took lots of time, frustration, and episodes of bad television. But it was to no avail. That yellow, which was much to bright, had to go.

I think the main problem I really had was a lack of direction. I just wanted to experiment with painting and see how it went, but we don't really have room for this cabinet in the apartment anyway so it was always in the back of my mind that this wasn't really for me. Then as I was toiling away trying to get it to look at all attractive I was haunted by doubts: "Why am I even doing this?" "How much time am I wasting on this stupid cabinet?" "Why am I painting it so many colors??" "Who is ever going to pay me money for this thing?!" You get the point.

And so, annoyed with the yellow, I decided to swap it out for bright green, and to paint the side panels. This is what happened:

Yeah... too much. Still, I liked the green better than the yellow. I decided the part that was really bothering me was the stripe detail around the top, so away with it!

I painted it grey, allowing a little bit of the green to peek through the textured architectural detail, and that part I actually really like. At that point, I was so tired of painting this thing I decided it was done. The colors aren't as good as I would like, but hey, it would look great in a colorful family room or kids room, etc. Here's the final paint job:

Finally I topped it off with a couple inexpensive but attractive clear acrylic knobs and called it a day. Whew!

It actually looks pretty good. And knowing that thing is done just makes me happy inside. Now I'm going to list it on craigslist and get it out of my life!

I have to admit, it was probably really good practice for future painting endeavors. Next time, it will be so much better (I hope...).

Update 9/29: the cabinet is on our For Sale page, which is linked to craigslist. I have a few people interested so it may be sold soon!
2nd Update 10/2: the cabinet is SOLD! Went to a nice couple who are going to put their tv on it.


  1. It looks great! You're very brave to redo furniture in your little apartment. Good skills to have!
    What do you think this interesting cabinet was originally? It has the shape of a baby changing table or could have been used for a TV and VCR? Anyway, if it seems tall enough for a baby table, I would advertize it as one of it's possible uses. Someone would just need to add the edges along the top, to contain a cushion and baby. Really cute for such.

  2. I feel like I can relate sooooo much to this kind of frustration! It's as if the paint colors never really come out looking like what you had in your head, or it just becomes too fussy, and then you end up too tired to fix it. I love the outcome though, and it seems like you really took this banged up cabinet and gave it new life.

    Also, I agree with you: getting oil paint out of brushes is a spurious myth. Curses!


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