Vintage Buffet Makeover - Trash to Treasure

5 Materials
3 Hours

Before I started blogging full time, my primary source of income was custom furniture makeovers. I had grown a very nice clientele and loved bringing their old pieces back to life. One of the most fulfilling custom jobs for me is working on old pieces of furniture that have been handed down for generations. Sometimes, they are in bad shape from being in storage for quite some time. Like this vintage buffet. You can see a brief video below. Read on to see the vintage buffet makeover.

Damaged Buffet

This was the client’s grandmother’s piece. She also had the table and chair set, which I will do in a separate post (you can see the before at the end of this post). I was honored that she asked me to help save her grandmother’s piece.

As you can see from the photo, the buffet was pretty banged up. One of the doors had the veneer completely peeling off.

Veneer Damage

The top was severely scratched and dinged.

Damaged Top

On the bright side, it had such a beautiful detail. The beautiful carvings and appliques were gorgeous and really made a statement.

Beautiful Carvings

I knew this buffet was going to be beautiful again. I was determined to bring Grandma’s piece back to the charming piece it once was.

First and foremost, the buffet needed a THOROUGH cleaning. It had been in storage for a very long time. Spider webs, dirt, grime, you name it. I knew I had to tackle this piece with a degreaser. I mixed water, vinegar, and a little Dawn dish detergent. It would be perfect for the job, and it does not have the awful smell that a regular degreaser would have. Yes, I would be sanding later, but I wanted to remove any stains, crud, and grime before. I did not want to take the chance that the dirt or stains on the surface would soak into the wood when I sanded it.

I scrubbed the entire piece inside and out using a soft bristle brush. The inside and the bottom were also cleaned. After the doors and the drawers were removed, the inside was cleaned as well. I then wiped it with a clean cloth dampened with water to remove the degreaser. It's vital not to leave any of your cleaning agents behind because the paint will not adhere to it. 

Now, onto the repairs. The Hubs removed the doors and the hardware for me. The hardware had a few dings and minor scratches. We decided to paint it black. I usually do not paint original hardware if I do not have to. However, in this instance, there were just too many scratches and dings, even after cleaning them. 

I used two coats of Rust-Oleum Universal Matte Farmhouse Black Spray Paint and Primer In One.  I allowed several hours of drying time in between paint coats. After the final coat had completely dried, the Hubs sprayed them with Polycrylic Spray to seal them. 

The first order of business was removing the veneer from the damaged door. It was already peeling off, so I was praying that it would just lift right off. And thank goodness, it did. I just used my paint scraper to get under the veneer and lift it up. There were a few small spots, but those could be sanded away. The second door was not as damaged, but both needed to look the same. Luckily, it's veneer removed easily.

There were several small areas of veneer that needed repairing. Apply wood filler, smooth, allow to dry, and then sand.

After the damaged veneer was repaired, and the peeling veneer on the door was removed, it was time to sand. This piece was heavily scratched and had a few areas that needed smoothing. I used 120-grit and went over the entire buffet except for the legs. For the legs, I hand sanded. I followed up with 220-grit for a nice, smooth surface.

The buffet had been in storage and was very old. Therefore, I knew I had to prep to prevent bleed through. With older pieces, especially if they have been stored away for some time, bleed-through will occur, especially if using white paint. The client had chosen white; therefore, I knew this step was essential and would save me a lot of time and headache later!

I went over the buffet with a piece of tack cloth to remove any sanding dust. I then cleaned the buffet again with a damp cloth. This is to make sure there are no dusting particles left behind.  

The secret to preventing bleed-through is Bull's Eye Spray Shellac. It's made by Zinsser. I had thought about a primer, but I have found that stains sometimes bleed right through the primer. You simply spray a light coat over the entire buffet. Always make sure to keep your spray can moving to avoid drips. Allow the first coat to dry for a few hours and apply another light coat. I used the same process for the doors and drawers.

I chose to use Dixie Belle’s Chalk Mineral Paint. It’s very durable and self-levels quite well. 

Since this piece was older, I decided that in between paint coats, I would allow the paint to dry overnight before applying the second and third coats. This would enable each layer of paint to set entirely and adhere. I applied one coat of the white and allowed it to dry overnight.

The next day, I was excited to continue this project. It kept me up, looking at the clock every hour on the hour wondering when daylight would arrive (I know crazy I am!)

After my coffee and a bit of breakfast (by that, I mean a piece of toast), it was time to get busy. I applied a second coat of paint. While anxious to finish this piece, I almost decided just to give it an hour or two to dry. Then my gut said nope let it dry overnight. So, I did just that.

The next day, I applied the third and final coat.  

The client wanted the piece to be distressed. I took my 220-grit sandpaper and distressed along the edges and the beautiful carvings so that the wood would peek through. I also distressed the doors and drawers. The Hubs attached the doors to the buffet once I was finished distressing and added the hardware.

After cleaning away the dust with my tack cloth, I applied one coat of Dixie Belle’s Best Dang Wax, working in small sections. Just follow the directions. It goes on like butter!

The inside of the silverware drawer was pretty yucky. 

I cleaned it and added fabric. The fabric was attached using self-adhesive spray.

I can't tell you how excited and happy I was to see the finished product. From old, shabby, and damaged, to a beautiful, timeless piece that can now be passed down yet again. Grandma's memory will forever be alive and well!

Here are a few other projects you may like:

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Jody Price
    on Jan 6, 2020

    Why didn't you paint the inside of the drawers and buffet? Wouldn't it have been cleaner and nicer?

    • Cindy Pryor
      on Feb 9, 2020

      When using baking soda and vinegar, use a citrus essential oil also to help cut the smell. You can use any essential oil of your choosing, I just prefer the citrus as I think it works best.

  • Pam Harmon
    on Jan 14, 2020

    How much water,vinegar and dawn to you use to make the cleaner

  • Susan Linkins
    on Feb 7, 2020

    How much water

    and vinegar with the teaspoon of Dawn?

    • Christina Faye Repurposed
      on Feb 7, 2020

      Hi Susan. I use half water and half vinegar, I would say 2 cups water and 2 cups vinegar. I just eyeball it lol. You do not want too much suds!

Join the conversation

4 of 71 comments
  • Jan
    on Feb 23, 2020

    I had that exact buffet and it was in pristine condition. Sorry I sold it and had done something like you did. It came out so nice. good job.

  • Pat Poole
    on Mar 13, 2020

    Your Buffet is a vision.

    Beautifully done.

    It gives me the courage to do my chest ..only in a nice Blue.

    Thank you!🎀

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