The Sideboard

After we’d bought our house but still living in our condo, I’d gone out for a walk one summer evening. I’d ended up at a thrift store about 15 minutes before closing time and impulse bought a sideboard. Of course, I had to call Jeremy to pick up me and my purchase while I kept my fingers crossed that it would even fit into the back of our old Mazda Protege.

It did, and it sat in our garage until we moved it into our new dining room.

It’s a solid piece, and from a distance it looked like it was in really good shape. It actually had quite a bit of damage, but nothing that couldn’t be disguised with a strategically placed plant or knick-knack. I did intended to have it repaired and refinished someday, but it was never a high priority.


In March, when I began my redecorating spree, I decided I would restore it myself, so when Jeremy and my Dad were moving furniture to paint, I had them take the sideboard out to the garage.

While I’ve slapped a coat of paint on the odd dresser over the years, my furniture finishing experience was limited and I’d never worked with stain. I felt I was in over my head as soon as I removed the hardware. After I sanded it, no matter how many coats of primer, then paint, the original finish kept seeping though.

The doors were a whole other issue. I removed the original finish with that super scary furniture stripper that has about a thousand warning labels on it. Daunting for someone who is accident prone. If anyone was going to dump a can of something toxic and corrosive all over the garage, it will me me. I am relieved to report, the stripping went forward without incident.

Then, I sanded and prepared them for staining. This part of the project had been going pretty well until I started with the stain. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get the right shade of dark cherry to match the other dining room furniture. My original attempt was too light and brown, so I ended up stripping them all over again and starting over. My second try was closer – not exactly what I wanted, but at that point I decided it was close enough. I figured it I kept trying for a perfect match, the doors would be paper thin from stripping and sanding by the time I was through. Finally, I attempted to give the doors a smooth shiny finish. Attempted, is the operative word in this sentence.

The whole experience was frustrating, although that frustration was actually a good thing for me at the time, as I really needed something tangible to focus the anger that came in waves between sadness during those early days after the baby. This project gave me that.

I was initially disappointed with the final outcome of this project, but now that it’s in the dimly lit side of the dining room I’m less annoyed but the flaws that were much more pronounced under the florescent lights of the garage.

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  1. It looks nice from a distance. When it was on sawhorses at eye level under the florescent light in the garage it looks like a bit of a mess. It was a learning experience though. If I did it again, I would do many things differently.

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