A Media Cabinet’s Long Journey from Santa Fe to Cottage Chic

My furniture painting creative juices have been flowing and I FINALLY got around to painting a media cabinet that I found months ago on Craigslist for a steal!  Maybe I’m still intoxicated from the paint fumes from the bookcase I recently painted?!?!  (You can check out the bookcase here.)

This media cabinet literally collected cobwebs for more than 6 months before I knew how I wanted to refinish it.  The cabinet was in excellent condition, made of solid oak, and was the right scale for my family room, BUT it just wasn’t my style.  The Santa Fe vibe given off by the light color stain, slate accents, and rain glass, really clashed with the rest of my house.  However, like I do with most items I purchase, I trusted my instincts when I bought it.  If a piece speaks to me, I know it’s a keeper, and this piece had something to it that made me want to hang on to it.  One of my home décor rules is: If I’m going to spend money on something, I need to love it on some level.  If I don’t, it’s going back to the store I bought it from or it’s sold on Craigslist, even if was a bargain.  I only want to surround myself with things I love; maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I never settle.  After all, if you only fill your house with pieces that speak to you, your home will never go out of style – YOU can never go out of style, right?

But, back to the media cabinet.  As I mentioned earlier, this piece sat for over half a year before I knew how I wanted to transform it.  Sometimes I get lucky and I know what I want to do to with a piece as soon as I see it, other times my creative process is SLOW!  If I don’t have a clear vision for a project, I let it sit until I am overcome with an “Aha! moment.”  So, the media cabinet sat…and sat…and sat.

For this particular piece, I was stuck on a number of things.  First, the rainwater glass on the front reminded me of a shower glass pane, so I knew it had to go, but I struggled with what material to use – burlap, fabric, clear glass?  Whatever I was going to replace it with needed to be transparent since the TV remote rays would need to pass through it.  Second, I didn’t have a clear vision of what color I wanted it to be.  (OK, more like no vision.)  Third, I didn’t love the slate accents and had NO idea what to do with them.  I was betting a trifecta and the odds were not in my favor.

However, my patience paid off and my Aha! moment finally came to me in the middle of the night when a farm wire basket that I have in my kitchen flashed through my thoughts.  (Farm wire is probably better and more accurately known as chicken wire, but I think farm wire just sounds nicer so I’m going to call it that.)  I knew farm wire was the answer to my rain glass roadblock!  I could easily replace the glass with farm wire, it blends with the rest of my house, it’s inexpensive, and the TV remote rays would not be obstructed.  Problem solved!

Side note: When I’m in a creative rut I seem to find answers at 2:30 in the morning – I don’t know what it is about that time.  Maybe it’s being in-between an awake state and a sleep state?  I just have to be sure I remember my ideas when I’m fully awake the next day!  Luckily, I remembered this 2:30am idea and it was the spark I needed to ignite the fire under my butt!

Since I knew I wanted the wire to have an aged look, but didn’t have any old wire on hand, I started by I researching ways to accelerate the aging process.  Fortunately, I found a post on on how to do this quickly and easily using Sophisticated Finishes Rust Antiquing Solution.  Jackpot!  Thanks Susan!

Next, I scoured through pages of magazines and catalogs I had torn out to see if any furniture colors struck a chord (yes, I still tear out pages even in this Pinterest world) and found a picture of the Jacqueline Desk from Pottery Barn that I had earmarked – the grey blue color is gorgeous!  Since the slate accents were still throwing me for a loop, I surrendered and stopped trying to find a “solution”.  My plan was to paint the cabinet and worry about the slate accents later – maybe a fresh coat of paint would change the way I felt about the stone?  Using the desk color as inspiration, I busted out my Benjamin Moore Paint Color Fan Deck and held up swatches to the slate until I found a color I loved.  Chelsea Gray was the winner!  It doesn’t have nearly as much blue in it as my inspiration piece, but I still love it.

Tip: if you plan to do any significant amount of painting, I highly recommend investing in a color fan.

It has saved me many, many trips to the paint store to pick up paint swatches!

OK, let the fun begin!

Since I used the same painting process for the media cabinet as I did for the bookcase, I’m going to give you the condensed version.  However, if you need detailed steps, you can find them here.

First, I cleaned and deglossed the cabinet using TSP.  Then I sanded some trouble spots using my trusty Black & Decker Mouse Detail Sander.

(Black & Decker Mouse Detail Sander)

While sanding, I accidently nipped some of the slate accent.  I was nervous to see what kind of damage I had done, but what I found was that this light sanding exposed more grey and less red, which I found appealing.  What a great, unexpected solution to my slate dilemma!  Since I liked my “mistake,” I lightly ran the sander over all of the slate.

(Slate before)

(Slate after)

Next, I primed the cabinet with primer tinted a lighter shade of grey.  (Tip: Yes, you can tint primer!  If you are painting a light color, you really don’t need to tint your primer.  However, if you are painting a dark color, tinting your primer really helps!)  Then I applied two thin coats of paint.  Once the paint was dry I sanded down the edges to expose raw wood. 

After that, I added a layer of glaze, which I also did with the bookcase.  However, I applied the glaze a little bit differently this time since I didn’t want the distressed finish to be as heavy as the bookcase.  To accomplish this, I used a lighter color glaze, used very little pressure when applying it, and only did one coat.  Last, but not least, I protected the cabinet with some finishing wax.

As for the cabinet doors, I simply removed the rain glass and then used the panels as templates for the farm wire.

After I used heavy duty utility scissors to cut the wire the same size as the original glass panels, I poured some of the Sophisticated Finishes Rust Antiquing Solution in a shallow paint tray so I could “dip” the wire in it.  (Be sure to wear gloves – the wire is sharp!)  I used a rag to coat the areas of wire I was unable to fit in the pan.  This worked great!  Bye bye shiny metal!

After the aging process was complete, I simply stapled the farm wire to the cabinet doors using a staple gun, added a few baskets to the bottom shelf to corral DVDs, remotes, and other loose odds and ends, and then I sat back and admired the transformation. 

(Don’t mind the empty side shelves – they are eye level with my daughter and it’s easier to keep them bare than try to keep her from playing with whatever pretty objects I put there.)

While it took me some time to formulate a clear vision for this piece, I’m very happy with the end result and for the lessons it provided.  I ran into a few road blocks along the way, but those hurdles ultimately helped remind me that patience is a virtue and that I value being true to a piece.  When refinishing anything I strive to enhance what is already there, not make the “before” picture completely unrecognizable – it is not only easier this way, but it also just feels more natural to me.  I’m so glad I surrendered to the slate accents and stopped trying to force something else because after everything was said and done, the cabinet would just not be the same without the slate.  Like all things in life, if something is TOO hard, it might be the universe’s way of saying that you are forcing something that isn’t meant to be.  Too philosophical for blog a post on painting furniture?  Probably, but that’s what came out when I sat down to write, so that’s what you get! 🙂 Sometimes I learn lessons in places I least expect to learn them.

Tell me what you have learned through your creative process – I would love to hear about it!

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