As luck would have it, I was driving to my parents’ house recently and one of their neighbors had a piece of furniture out by the curb with a sign that had one of my favorite four-letter words written on it: FREE. (Another of my favorite four-letter words is SALE, but FREE is better than SALE pretty much any day.) So I pulled over as quickly as I could and practically jumped out of my car. The neighbor happened to be standing outside and he said he had just set this hutch by the curb literally 1 minute earlier and I was the first person to even drive by. And it was screaming for a makeover. (At this point I was doing a happy dance inside my head because I knew it must be fate!) So that is how I became the proud new owner of this beautiful but neglected hutch sold by Walter E. Smithe (Chicago-area furniture store) which had sat unused in someone’s garage for several years. I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I like a challenge. 🙂
After I got it home and into the garage, a good look revealed that the hinges on one of the doors were broken, a small chunk of one corner was missing, and that it would take a LOT of sanding to get beneath the sad, chipping layers.
The first task I started was the sanding… during every nap time and night time for about 2 weeks. I used sand paper and sanding blocks until my arms were sooo sore! Then I decided to try a paint stripper for the first time… I went to Ace and the employee told me which stripper to buy.. paint brush, gloves, mask… then he told me I could just pour the stripper in a cup and then dip the brush into it. Well that ended in a disaster as the plastic cup I ended up using started to disintegrate while I was holding it! Lesson learned – and the stripper didn’t do a very good job (maybe I wasn’t using it 100% correctly but it had freaked me out after I saw what it did to that cup), so I decided to go back to old fashioned sanding. Then I stumbled upon an online article that mentioned an electric hand sander.. WHAT?!! Immediately I was overjoyed at this discovery and also a bit upset that neither my husband or my father had suggested such a thing to me. So I ran out and bought a Craftsman 5-inch random orbit sander and some protective eye glasses for only about $35. It took a little while to get used to but boy was it so much faster and better than sanding by hand! (A tip from personal experience: When using an orbit sander, always have proper ventilation in the room. Mine wasn’t quite good enough and I ended up with sawdust all over pretty much everything in the garage! Not so much fun to clean up…)
After another couple weeks of sanding (hey I wanted it smooth and I had some other things going on!), I finally began the next step. I used wood glue and wood putty to repair the missing/broken corner, which also took a few days since I had to wait for the glue and putty to dry between applications. I also filled in some little crevices with the putty. Then I decided to use some leftover paint from my bathroom for the first layer on the hutch- Boston Tea Party by Dutch Boy Dura Clean from Menards. It took a few coats because it kept absorbing into the wood.
I wanted the hutch to have an elegant, antiqued look to it. So for the top coat I chose a creamy Sunset Nude matte by Valspar Signature from Lowe’s. Using about a 1.5″ brush, I barely touched the lid of the paint can to get just a touch of paint on the brush and then blotted most of it away with a light tap on an old towel. Then I made very light brushstrokes all over the hutch to give it an aged, antique look. This was pretty time consuming also because I had to be careful not to get too much paint on the brush- I didn’t want it to look amateurish even though this was my first experience using the technique! And then for an even more aged look, I got out my sandpaper again and distressed several random areas. After this, when all the sanding was complete, I used tack cloths to wipe away any sawdust that was lingering. This is very important before applying the final finish in the next step.
Finally I finished the hutch with three coats of Rustoleum’s matte polyurethane in Soft Touch, waiting several hours between coats. (Even though when I bought the matte paint at Lowe’s, a “Valspar expert” there insisted that I didn’t need to use polyurethane since the paint itself should work well enough on its own. But I remembered the previous hardware store employee at Ace who wasn’t completely knowledgeable and decided to stick with my gut and protect all my hard work – and I’m glad I did.) This took a few more days to complete- and then according to directions I waited another 7 days for it to completely cure. I also fixed the hinges on the broken door and then reattached the doors and inserted the drawer and shelf back into place.
In total it took me about 6 weeks to complete this project- much longer than it probably should have but it took a LOT of work and I did take some time off here and there to do family stuff. I actually love how it came out and even though the original plan was to try to sell it due to lack of space, I may end up having to find room for it in my house. I can’t help looking at it and feeling a little bit proud!
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