The credenza is done!


I can’t even tell you guys how excited I was to finally unpack the last boxes stacked up in the corner of our dining room. It was pretty much a landmark moment in my life. And it holds everything I needed it to! And I only almost died getting it up the stairs!

Let me show you how I did it, and then lots of gratuitous pictures (including the inside, which is dreamy). Also ahead: gratuitous pictures of our hideous basement, fair warning. We started, if you’ll remember, with this:


I wish I had taken more pictures of this thing, because it was fug. I know someone is going to try to give me trouble for painting wood, but let me save you the effort: it’s not wood, at all. It’s particle board covered in bad, scratched-up, unconvincing laminate. Just big stickers. Absolutely nothing of value was painted over here. The drawers sat all crooked, there were spots worn into the top (as you can see), and its “legs” were chipped and scratched. Honestly, when we went to see it, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as gross as it was. Only my fear of disappointing people kept me from turning it down and walking away—something I really need to get over—but in this case, it was for the best.

The credenza was too tall, and the legs were awful anyway (the side panels were just longer than the rest, holding it about 10 inches off the floor—not cute), so we immediately sawed them off flush with the bottom of the piece. Our jigsaw worked just fine for this.

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I sanded its little stumps smooth, and then we added some scraps of plywood at the bottom back, because in its current state there was nowhere to attach the eventual bun feet I wanted to add. I don’t have pictures of that process, but we just cut wood to fit tightly into the bottom opening at the back, and screwed it in from the back and side. I later filled the screw holes with wood putty and they’re really not noticeable now.

Then I sanded the whole thing lightly to rough up the laminate, and primed it:


Obviously it looks terrible, but that’s OK. Primer isn’t supposed to be pretty, it’s supposed to give your paint sticking power. I just did one coat of Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3, my go-to stuff for this kind of project.

After priming, we flipped it on its back and added the bun feet!

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If you want to add bun feet to something, you’ll actually need to buy two parts: the foot itself, and a plate to attach it (that metal piece above). You can buy either straight plates or, for the mid-century look, angled plates. For this we chose straight. We went with the scalloped legs, even though they aren’t my usual style, because the idea was to tie the credenza in better with our buffet. This is a terrible old “before” photo, but take a look at the bottom of the piece:


See the scalloped detail? Since the credenza was all straight lines (it was a piece of computer furniture from the 90s, so not especially fancy), we needed to bring in a little curve somewhere. You just screw the plates on with 4 screws, then attach the legs to them. It’s very easy. Pro tip: these plates were a bit shallow, and we couldn’t tighten the legs in all the way without them hitting the bottom of the piece. To fix this, we drilled into the piece behind the plate, giving the leg screw some extra room. It worked fine.

Next I started painting. After weeks of agonizing over how to get a color to match the buffet, because that paint was long gone, I woke up one morning and just magically remembered the names of the black and white paint colors I’d bought 4 years ago. Benjamin Moore’s Wrought Iron for the black (actually a really, really deep charcoal) and Chantilly Lace for the white. (I then wondered what magical knowledge my brain could be storing if it wasn’t, apparently, occupied by paint color names from every project I’ve ever done.) I bought a gallon of Wrought Iron and a sample of Chantilly Lace, and it turns out I could definitely have done it with a quart and a sample. Oh well, lesson learned. On furniture, I usually use flat paint since it’s cheapest, dries fastest, and I’m going to seal it anyway. I like to use a foam roller for this kind of thing; it goes really fast and is more efficient/thin with the paint. You really don’t want thick gloppy paint gumming up your drawers and doors. The first coat is going to look like garbage, but don’t despair. It gets better with each coat after that. I did 3 thin coats over the door, drawer fronts, sides and top, and 2 coats on the inside and back. The areas that would get the most wear and scrutiny needed more.


See? Much better! After the paint dried, I taped off the pattern on the ends. I wanted to add just a tiny bit of white trim, something to tie it further to the buffet and lighten the piece up a little bit. I used Frog Tape, which I applied to the piece and then squared off with an X-Acto knife. As long as you don’t dig in too hard, this works great. Make sure you go over the edges reallllly well. I like to run either my thumbnail or a credit card along the edges.


Do you want to know the secret to getting really nice, crisp lines? This works on furniture, walls, or whatever else you’re painting. Here it is: paint the base color first. Your first coat is always, always going to bleed a little, no matter how careful you are. So if you paint over the tape with a good solid layer of your base color, it will “seal” the tape against the piece, the bleed won’t show, and your next coat should go on beautifully. I like to remove the tape while my final coat of trim color is still a little bit wet.


I accidentally deleted the photo of the white while I was getting rid of 23984 blurry photos of my dog, but you can see the general idea here. Easy peasy.

Next, you want to seal the piece. I like Minwax Polycrylic, because it’s water-based, doesn’t smell horrible, and dries quick and shiny (or satiny, in this case). I highly recommend doing this part with a brush. I know everybody uses a foam roller and I’m sure they can’t all be wrong, but I have never, ever gotten a truly smooth and bubble-free finish with a foam roller and poly. I’d prefer intentional-looking brush marks over mistake-looking bubbles, you know? It actually smooths out so well, the brush marks don’t show that badly anyway. I did one coat on the back, two on the front and sides, and three on the top, drawer fronts, and doors—areas that, again, will get the most wear. After the poly dried overnight, things were looking good, and it was time to add the hardware. I measured out the center of the drawers, then found the distance between the holes on the handles and made small Sharpie marks where they should go. Jimmy helped me drill them, since the drawers weren’t super stable and needed two sets of hands:


On the doors, it was the same process, but with just one hole per door (since they had knobs rather than handles).

The final, final step was the one I was most excited about. Last week, I ordered two rolls (actually three sheets per roll, bundled together) of gift wrap from Rifle Paper Co., which I adore. It was their Emerald Peony pattern, which looks like this in sheet form:


I wanted the inside of the piece to have a little pizzazz, to make me smile when I opened it to get a tray or bowl or cheese dome. I did some math (twice, because it’s not my strong suit) and figured out I had enough paper to wrap the center shelves, the inside bottom of each drawer, and the outside of each drawer (since the outsides would be more visible when opening it up). My old friend Mod Podge came in handy for this. I used about half a jar each of Matte and Satin (no reason you need both, I just happened to have partial jars of both, so I used the matte to glue the paper down and the satin to seal it). I used a bristle brush to lay down a thin but even coat of matte on each shelf:


Then I laid down the paper (cut to size), starting from one edge and working toward the other. After spending a few minutes running my hands over it to smooth out bubbles and wrinkles as best I could, I flipped it over, applied Mod Podge to the edge and back, and wrapped the paper to the other side, pulling as tightly as I could without tearing it.


Here’s the thing with Mod Podge. In my experience, if you are using it on a large sheet of paper, you’re going to get some wrinkles. It just happens. My filing cabinet had them, the buffet had them, this has them. It’s OK. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a fair warning, if you’re super obsessive-compulsive and the wrinkles will drive you insane. I think you’re less likely to get them with fabric, but I never really mind them.


The drawers took a little maneuvering. If you’re doing this, see if you can remove the drawer slides; your life will be infinitely easier if you just take them off and apply the sides in one solid piece. I couldn’t, so I had to work around them. I cut pieces of paper the same size as the sides, then cut them in half lengthwise and attached one piece at a time. Once I had it glued on, I trimmed away the part that would have overlapped with the slide. It took some careful X-Actoing, but it wasn’t really difficult, just tedious.

I let the Mod Podge dry while I ate some pizza, then came back down and applied a coat of satin over everything to seal it. For that, I used a foam brush. Unlike poly, Mod Podge doesn’t tend to trap air bubbles in the sealant coat, so the foam works well here. One coat of sealer and we were all done!

The thing weighed about as much as Jimmy’s car, and I wasn’t at all sure I could help him move it up the two flights of stairs into our dining room, but I put on some work gloves and did my best. There was a lot of extremely attractive grunting and several rests, but we eventually made it up, and as soon as we got it in place I flopped on the floor while a concerned Luna puttered around my head with toys. Once I recovered myself a bit, I loaded it with dishes and styled the top with some goodies I had around the house, and we were left with…this!


Isn’t she beautiful? Considering what was there before was a stack of about 6 big boxes, I can’t stop ogling her.

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Just look at those sexy drawers.


The sliding shelves are so, so helpful for getting to all my trays and platters.


The top is home to a collection of things I had kicking around. The antique wood box holds our “good silver,” which is not silver at all but stainless steel. Still, it’s pretty, and I feel fancy opening this velvety box to get it. On top and to the left are some of my favorite cookbooks, including one my sister and I put together for our mom for Christmas, of her mother’s cookie recipes. The “bookend” is a brass tree, given to my aunt as a wedding gift and later passed on to me. I feel confident the Tree of Happiness could hold up every book I own and not break a sweat. It weighs an unbelievable amount for being so small, but I’ve always kinda loved it. The ceramic cat was a thrift store find from years ago that used to live on my mantel. I had originally intended to paint her a solid glossy color, but she grew on me as-is and I decided to leave her.


On the left side is a vintage tin coffee pot from 1925 (also a hand-me-down from my aunt), a candle holder from my wedding and my favorite plant, Tradescantia pallida. (I know these are traditionally called “wandering Jews,” but I’ve been wondering whether that name is considered offensive. Any Jewish friends want to weigh in? I’ve been trying to be more sensitive ever since learning the sad, racist etymology of the Kaffir lime, or makrut lime.)


Whatever you call it, it’s the most beautiful, lush, colorful plant. The photos really don’t do it justice. It’s the most shocking shade of purple and magenta I’ve ever seen in nature.

So that’s it! What do you think, are you just dying to tackle a furniture renovation of your own? How do you like my pretty new friend? Can I just go ahead and decoupage my entire house in Rifle Paper? They do make (beautiful, expensive) wallpaper…