Many years ago, I visited some friends that owned a grain elevator in a neighboring town. When I walked in to their office/work-shop I saw this lovely antique, hand-made cabinet, completely out of place, in a filthy, dusty, repair shop. It was being used to store greasy parts and tools (Oh the horror!) I had wanted a cabinet just like it for years but they were so expensive, even at the flea markets, I could never afford to get one. The shop-owner, my friend’s father, looked at me like I was crazy when I told him I would love to
rescue have the cabinet if they ever wanted to get rid of it! A year or so later when their business closed they were kind enough to think of me and gave it to me for free, not even vaguely understanding my excitement over this filthy, old cabinet!
This poor old girl had some hard use but I loved her crackled paint finish and her original latches and hinges. She had a spot on the front where someone had put a sticker or label that had been removed but it left a dull, square patch on one of the doors. There were oily patches, crackled paint patches, dark-stained patches, patches of dried glue and gunk from years of use. Some of the oil and dirt was impossible to clean off. At the time, I had a small retail candle shop and so I cleaned old “Patches” up as good as I could and she made the perfect, rustic display cabinet in my little country-store.
Eventually though, she found her way into my home and that was when I started wanting to spruce up her finish. I have tried my hand at re-painting furniture over the years and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t learned much about it until recently. So, over the years I experimented on Patches. I used paint stripper to remove the white paint from the hardware. I tried dry-brushing the whole cabinet with some latex paint in a similar color. When I didn’t like that I tried putting some stain on and rubbing the excess off with a rag, hoping it would settle in the crackled finish (didn’t turn out too good😬 ). Years later, a second attempt with a different color of stain. Patches always just looked dirty to me. I finally gave up for fear of further ruining her old finish and just accepted “Patches” as she was.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when we had a bad weather day with travel advisories. I was bored and it was too cold and snowy to leave the house. So after years of staring at that patchy paint, I decided to take my chances and completely re-paint old Patches. Unfortunately I didn’t have much paint to choose from. I just used a Mr. Clean Eraser and some water to wash off any dust and dirt. I had just enough Folk Art milk paint in Petticoat to get the job done. You can see the big difference in the picture below after just one coat on the top right side of the cabinet.
I was really pleased with how it looked after that second coat! The soft white color looks so much fresher and cleaner and really makes the hardware pop! The only thing I’d ever done to the interior was to put contact paper on the shelves. So, while the exterior was drying, I started working on the interior.
Again, I did not have enough of any one color to accomplish the whole task so I tried mixing a few colors together to come up with a light green color for the back and insides of the doors. I removed the old contact paper and just used a flat white latex paint on the shelves. I have terrible lighting in my house for photo taking so it is hard to tell but it was a huge improvement!
When the outside surface had dried for 24 hours I applied a clear wax finish. I was toying with the idea of applying a dark wax over that to enhance the crackled paint but wanted to wait a few days to see how I liked it with just the clear finish first.
When I walked out the next morning there sat Patches, looking all patchy again 😐.
Something had happened after applying the wax that made the finish look all splotchy. I was so disappointed! All that time wasted! I gave up, irritated with myself for wrecking my favorite cabinet again.
The next day when I came home from work and looked at Patches, she didn’t look so patchy. I turned light on her from all angles to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me! No more patches on Patches! Did the universe take pity on me and wave a magic wand at her? Maybe it took the wax that long to fully cure?
She didn’t look dirty anymore either! The fresh, white color works well with the color scheme in my home and the original crackled finish I loved so much is still visible (though hard to see in the picture). I think it’s missing that contrasting color in the cracks and crevices like that top picture, featuring the original finish. Question is, do I push my luck and apply the dark wax now or leave well enough alone? What do you think?