transformation: pier 1 nightstands

I was supposed to travel to Vancouver to visit my sister and some friends in April 2020. I was getting married a few months later, and we had planned a girls’ road trip to Portland to celebrate. When the pandemic first started ramping up, I talked to my dear friend Caroline on a near-daily basis about our trip as the news continued to evolve. First it was, “we won’t be able to go to the States, but at least you can come to Vancouver, and we can do fun things here,” which then became “we won’t really be able to do fun things in Vancouver, but we can hang out at my house,” until we finally realized that it was just too dangerous, cancelled our travel plans, and hunkered down to wait it out.

I finally got the chance to go to Vancouver this past August. We were 500 days into the pandemic at this point, but things seemed to calm down ever-so-slightly during the summer, so I booked my flights and crossed my fingers. After a few travel delays — the inbound plane hit a bird on the way to Toronto and they had to swap out planes before we could leave for Vancouver, and the baggage hold malfunctioned on arrival, so we waited over 90 minutes for my bag to show up on the carousel — I was finally in Caroline’s beautiful new space:

I absolutely love this living room.

We had big plans for my trip, including finding some time to repaint the nightstands in her guest bedroom. Caroline bought this pair of Pier 1 nightstands on Facebook Marketplace. They were nice, practically-new pieces, but the shiny black finish didn’t really go with the boho vibe going on in the rest of the house and she wanted to give them a new look.

This was an interesting flip for me. I brought my brushes on this trip because I knew I would be painting these nightstands, but I didn’t have access to my usual arsenal of supplies (sandpaper, wood filler, etc.) so the whole process felt very casual. I fought the urge to run to the hardware store to buy a bunch of supplies, choosing instead to focus on doing quality work with what I had on hand.

Because of the time difference, I woke up very early every day, so I worked on the nightstands a few mornings in a row. After carrying these pieces out of the guest room and setting up in the carport, I gave them a good cleaning with dish soap and hot water, then scuff-sanded with a few random bits of 220-grit sandpaper that were on hand.

It was so nice to work outside in the natural light!

For these nightstands, we used Mango Paint in the colour Jocelyn, which is a lovely gray-green shade, and Mango Beeswax Furniture Finish in natural. I did two coats of paint on the nightstands prior to sealing. This was my second time using Mango products and I really enjoy working with this paint. It’s a thick chalk paint that levels itself nicely and dries down matte. The wax is very easy to work with as well.

I love the paint colour Caroline chose! These nightstands look SO cute in her guest room. I can’t wait to visit again so I can see how they look in the space.

transformation: restoration hardware cabinet

Earlier this summer I went out for a walk on my usual loop around our neighbourhood. A neighbour a few streets over was moving and had put a few things out on the lawn: filing cabinets, picture frames, books. But the thing that caught my eye was a dusty, beat-up brown cabinet with a rolling drawer and a door with a magnet closure. I thought it would make a good project, so Adrian brought the car over and we took it home.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that this cabinet was a discontinued Restoration Hardware product called the Cartwright short bath cabinet:

It was in a sorry state. The previous owner had stuck a “free” sign on top with packing tape, and also used tape to secure the tempered glass shelf inside the cabinet, so it was covered in sticky residue. The veneer was badly worn in a few places. It was also very dirty from having been in their garage for a while.

After taking a closer look at the veneer and doing some experimental sanding, I knew that I would have to paint this cabinet. I started by removing all the hardware, taking out the drawer, and removing the glass door. Then I gave the whole thing a good scrub with Dawn dish soap and used Goo Gone spray to get rid of the tape residue.

I used wood filler to smooth out any big gouges and sanded the entire cabinet with 220 grit sandpaper, then began priming with Zinsser BIN shellac-based primer. This primer is very thin and it’s a pain to work with since it can’t be cleaned up with soap and water, but it’s worth the hassle because it creates a smooth, even surface for painting. I ended up doing three coats to cover up the brown colour. This primer is more cost-effective than furniture paint, so I’d rather do additional coats of primer as needed to help reduce the number of coats of paint later, especially when painting over with a light colour, since these generally tend to require more coats.

Once the primer was dry, I sanded it lightly with 320 grit sandpaper to get rid of any texture leftover from my roller. I filled any gaps between panels with caulk to make everything seamless, then I brushed on my paint. I used Fusion Mineral Paint in the colour Casement, which is a warm white shade. Painting white paint over white primer really makes it feel like you’re not making any progress, but I could really tell the difference after two coats. 

I applied two coats of Varathane Diamond matte wood finish with a Zibra fan brush. I wanted to try out the matte finish to give my project a modern farmhouse aesthetic and I really liked how it turned out.

After the topcoat was dry, I added black bar handles, which meant drilling two level and very precise screw holes. Adrian helped me with this and we got it on the first try, but the process of measuring (and remeasuring) before drilling was very stressful and I’ll definitely be investing in a drilling jig for future projects! I sprayed the door hinges black to match my hardware and rehung the door after everything was dry and ready to go.

The last step was to add some peel-and-stick to cover the bottom of the drawer and the tempered glass shelf, then reinstall these components and take some beautiful pictures of my project. I love the final result and I’m so pleased that I was able to give this dusty cabinet a new life!

transformation: green telephone table

Did you know you can follow vendor profiles on Facebook Marketplace? I follow a woman who sells out of a storage unit right by my house. She usually has a lot of random IKEA furniture, but every now and then I’ll spot a gem at a good price. This is how the green telephone table came into my life.

“Solid wood,” the listing read. “Heavy and very sturdy.” I scrutinized the photos to see whether this was true — sometimes when people describe something as being made of heavy, solid wood, what they really mean is heavy particle board and veneer. It looked like wood to me. The listing had been up for a while, so I negotiated down the price a bit and off I went to pick it up.

It was wood alright — badly painted over with bright green latex house paint (please do not use this on furniture). 

My workshop space doesn’t have great ventilation, so I opted to sand off the paint rather than using paint stripper. Maybe that wasn’t the right way to go, maybe it shortened the life of my sander, who knows — it made sense to me, so I attached an 80-grit pad and started sanding the top to see what I could find.

I eventually took the table apart to make it easier to sand as well as to paint the spindles and legs. Based on the construction and slight variances in the turned components, this table looks handmade to me. I’ve learned from watching YouTube videos that this style of table was sometimes made by high school shop class students, so maybe that’s where this particular table originated, who knows!

I sanded the table tops and end grain to 220 (I did the edges with a sanding block to keep the curve intact), then wet the whole thing down to raise the grain and did one last quick hand sanding to get everything really smooth.

I stained the table tops with two coats of Minwax Early American and painted the legs and spindles with a Fusion colour called Putty. I let everything dry for several days because I was planning to put a water-based topcoat over an oil-based stain. You can do this as long as you give the stain a few days to dry thoroughly.

I applied three coats of Varathane Diamond satin wood finish with a Zibra fan brush. I was scared of this step because I worried about ruining all my hard work, but the brush made this process extremely easy. A few things I learned about topcoating effectively:

  • Read and follow the instructions! If your product recommends sanding between coats, do so. I sanded lightly between each coat with a 220 sanding sponge and the finish turned out really soft and beautiful.
  • Don’t shake the can as it will introduce bubbles into the product that will end up in your finish. Just stir it gently with a stir stick.
  • Don’t keep going over the topcoat repeatedly once it’s applied. Apply your product, go over it in one long stroke to remove any start/stop marks, and move on to the next part.
  • Check your edges for drips or globs once you’re finished — they’re easier to smooth over when they’re still wet.

Once everything was dry, I reassembled the table and took it home. I originally planned to sell this table, but once it was complete, I couldn’t bear to part with it, so now I’m using it as a nightstand.

I love the end result. It felt good to restore this table to its former glory, and it was a great practice project and learning experience. Not bad for $15!