Ugly Oak from ’83

HAPPY NEW YEAR! – Bring on new projects.

The new house looked exactly as it did in 1983 when they built it. Everything is oak, everything. The family who lived here before us, lived here for 20 years and did not upgrade anything. One area that sorely needed upgrading is the bathrooms. I have already completely redone the powder room on the main level because, let’s face it, that is the one that everyone will see and use when they visit. We have two full bathrooms on the second floor however and they have identical vanities with builder grade oak cabinets, white(ish) sinks, and not quite matching counters. They also have oak 5 bulb light fixtures, and oak 3 mirror medicine cabinets. Those may be another post. (FYI – I hope not to offend anyone who likes oak, it’s just that none of mine looks very good and is quite worn and dated).

For this brief post, I just want to document painting the vanity cabinet in the master bathroom. It is a band-aid really as we hope to redesign the space someday. I just couldn’t take the oak anymore. This only took a few hours and then overnight to dry completely.  Here is how it looked before painting.

Before painting. Worn oak.

Before painting. Worn oak.

Here is a better picture of the ugly.

Here is a better picture of the ugly.

It is really simple to paint these cabinets. I chose a dark red color but any color will work. First remove the doors and sand down all the surfaces lightly with 180 grit sanding block or paper. Wipe everything down with a damp cloth after to get the sanding dust off. Then I used a 2″ bristle brush but any brush size will do. You don’t need a wide brush because you want to get into the corners pretty easily.

Contrast between old and new color.

Contrast between old and new color.

I applied two coats to all surfaces and I chose to paint both front and back of each door. I did not paint the inside of the cabinet. Once you have finished and let the paint dry 24 hours, you can attach the doors. Now is a great time to change out any hardware if you like. I chose not to but I did sand the hinges to brighten them without showing all the brass.

Hinges with old grime and tarnish.

Hinges with old grime and tarnish.

Vanity After.

Vanity After.

Hinges after being sanded with the same sanding block.

Hinges after being sanded with the same sanding block.

This is the paint I chose in satin finish. I barely used much of the quart.

This is the paint I chose in satin finish. I barely used much of the quart.

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Pallet Wall/Headboard

Upcylcing pallets and pallet wood is HUGE right now. If you Google “pallet wall”, you will find tons of beautiful pictures of walls covered in rustic looking pallet wood. This is where I began. I saw pictures on Pinterest of headboards made from pallet wood that I thought were so cool. Our master bedroom has a huge wall with nothing on it so I thought this would be a fantastic way to have a focal piece behind the bed. Of course, I think I can do anything I see online and the decision was made. This post will walk through MY experience. I know there are a lot of blog posts about doing this same thing, I read them, but I feel each experience is different and can offer helpful hints along the way. The only thing I had to purchase for this project were screws. I had all the other tools and the wood was free!

First, the materials; (for headboard 76″w x 50″ h)

  • pallet wood – I took apart about 6 pallets. I got them FREE from a local retailer. You should always ask before just taking them.
  • measuring tape
  • hammer
  • crow bar
  • reciprocating saw (saws all)
  • circular saw
  • drill
  • painters tape
  • screws – some folks have used a nail gun but I found that nails did not secure to the wall very well
  • palm sander and sanding pads
  • level

The first thing I did was to measure the space I wanted to cover and mark it with blue painters tape. That way I knew how much wood I would need.

Once you have a stack of pallets and your tools, don your safety gear. Safety goggles, gloves and closed shoes. Basically follow any safety rules you would give your kids…especially if they are watching. Remember also that pallets are giant piles of wood. Nasty things like to live in giant piles of wood…like spiders, the nastiest of all and you know they will strike but you don’t know when.  Am I off topic? WEAR GLOVES.

The hardest part of this project was actually taking the pallets apart. I wanted to keep some of the cool nail holes so I didn’t just want to saw through each plank. I worked very hard to pry the boards loose with the hammer and the crow bar. I admit that I did end up sawing through a lot of pieces because I got fed up trying to get them apart. I personally had a hard time with this step and it took me several weekends to get through enough wood to start. I hope you will not have as much trouble on your pallet adventure. As you remove the boards, separate them by size and width. Each row of boards will need to be the same size across but you can vary the width per row.

Pallets are a variety of colors. If they are left outside, they will have a weathered gray look. If they are used inside, they will be lighter in color. Some have paint on them and some even have cool markings from vendors. Choosing a variety will make your wall look more awesome. Here is a photo of my work space (my garage).

Work space and laying out the boards.

Work space and laying out the boards.

I used a palm sander on each board after cutting it to the length I needed. This smooths out any splinters and takes a layer of dirt off the surface. There will be a lot of saw dust from cutting and sanding. As you lay out the boards, remember that there will be imperfections, gaps, and a variety of depth overall. This adds character to your wall. I painted my bedroom beforehand so that any gaps would just reflect the wall color. If you own a planing machine, you could eliminate some of that by planing the boards straight. However, that is boring.

pallets and separated boards

pallets and separated boards

Laying out the headboard to size.

Laying out the headboard to size.

It is a bit of a puzzle to find the boards that go well together and then lay them out so that the seams don’t match up. I had to cut a few longer boards in order to vary up the seams. Once you have enough boards cut, sanded, and fit together then you are ready to start attaching them to the wall.

If you are starting at the ceiling, it will be your guide but if you are not, such as in my headboard, use a level when attaching your first row so you have the top line straight. (Even with a level, mine is not straight. Oh well.) I attached them to the wall myself, one board at a time. I drilled a hole at each end of each board for the screws. Some people have used a nail gun to attach the boards. Attach as many rows as you need to create the look you want. After seeing it in place, I added an extra row at the top.

I think if I were going to do it again, I would have created a frame for the boards to attach to instead of hanging them right on the wall. I cannot move the bed now and my husband laughed at me. However, he thinks the wall is really cool. There is a very small chance I will continue the wood up to the ceiling in the future. Thanks for reading!

Finished Headboard

Refinished Cabinet

My husband’s parents generously gave us some old furniture they no longer needed after their move to the beach. (I wish I could move to the beach.) One piece was an old cabinet. It has one drawer and two doors underneath. It was in need of refinishing and looked pretty worn. (see before photo) I asked first to make sure my Mother-In-Law had no objections. Better to know that ahead of time.

Before

Before

This project evolved many times. At first I planned to just sand it down and refinish it with a dark color. Then I was going to paint the whole thing red. After that I was going to paint the cabinet red but refinish the top to show the wood grain. Each step changed my mind. After sanding the whole cabinet, I could see that the grain was really nice and it would not show if I painted it. I chose a walnut stain color. It was at this point that I decided to put a design on the top. There was a stain that would not come out in the shape of a circle and I thought that would make a great flower center. And so it began.Durring Durring

I ended up using an ebony stain for the shading. With stain, the longer you leave it on, the darker the color will be so you have to judge how long to wait before wiping off the stain. This part takes the longest because you have to keep adding stain until you get the design where you want it. I used small paint brushes for the flowers so that I could control how much stain went in certain areas. Using a clean cloth, I just wiped off the stain in an outward direction from the inner parts of each petal. In order to keep the light original wood color, I had to coat the entire top with clear polyurethane after the design was complete. The whole project took 2 days, over the weekend.

After some new knobs and stain on the rest of the cabinet (after a good sanding), the finished cabinet looked amazing. Fortunately my Mother-In-Law thought so as well.

After Cabinet

After Cabinet

 

After Top

After Top

The poly really brought out the nice wood grain and now the piece is a beautiful addition to our family room.