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How to Redo a Vintage Buffet

Updated on January 22, 2017

DIY? Absolutely, yes YOU can! :)

If you are fortunate enough to discover an old buffet piece in a thrift shop or garage sale perhaps and the price is affordable to your budget, don't hesitate to pick it up. These vintage treasures can be an invaluable combination of style and storage. I came across this early 1960s era dining buffet listed on Craigslist for $40.

Though the original blonde wood veneer finish was peeling away in several places on the sides, one inner drawer was completely missing and despite the unfortunate double coating in a ghastly chartreuse antique finish, I could still see the possibilities and the benefits of redoing this vintage buffet. So of course I bought it. After a lot of careful space planning in my husband's Nissan Versa Hatchback we managed to bring it home.

This article isn't about restoring a piece of furniture to its original condition, but instead I want to show you how it can look when you choose to refurbish. In pictures and text, I'll share my experience with you in transforming this furniture piece. If at the end of this page I've inspired you to tackle a redo of your own, I will have succeeded. YAY for DIY and doing it yourself. Isn't it wonderful? :)

Time required: Depends

Difficulty: medium

Cost: $15 - $25 in Materials

Materials:

  • Citristrip (paint stripper)
  • plastic putty knives
  • auto body filler (optional)
  • wood filler
  • fine grit wet sandpaper for hardware finish
  • assorted grit sandpaper
  • painters canvas drop cloth
  • Kilz2 water-based primer and stainblocker
  • Floetrol paint additive
  • latex paint
  • foam roller
  • 2x4 wood length for new "buffet feet"
  • rags for cleaning

Tools:

  • orbital palm sander (optional)
  • cordless drill
  • Kreg jig

Instructions:

1. NOTE: Steps 1 through 9 were completed outdoors on our covered lanai to keep the mess to a minimum.

The first step was to remove the two side doors as well as the funky original door handles. These were reused to keep costs down.

Next, I used a paint stripper, Citristrip, and a plastic putty knife to safely remove as much of the chartreuse antique finish as possible. (You can see the color shown in the interior of the buffet.)

2. After about 30 minutes of air drying time, I used an orbital sander and began sanding the finish. The first go over I used 150 grit sandpaper. Once I had gone over the entire buffet, I changed to a 200 grit and then subsequently a 220 grit sandpaper until the finish felt smooth when I ran my bare hand across it.

3. After removing the hardware in step 1, I soaked it first in a tub of plain water. I used a very fine grit "wet or dry" sandpaper to remove the gunk and paint that had accumulated over the years. Here's a how-to I've written explaining wet sanding in more detail. It's VERY easy to do.

4. The bottom veneer sides were in pretty bad condition. We turned the buffet on its top side in order to access the area where wood repair was needed. I used wood filler and a putty knife to fill in the smaller spaces. (Be sure to follow the directions on the filler packaging.)

5. An auto body filler was used to fill deeper gouges in the wood. I was careful again to follow the products directions. Remember, on this project I wasn't intending a true restoration though I do want the finished product to look nice in my home as well as functional.

6. We chose to make recessed footing out of 2x4s to elevate the buffet. My husband first used scrap pieces of 2x4 as cross braces on the bottom. (This extra support was essential in installing the footing in Step 7 & 8.)

He then cut a piece of Luan (thin plywood) and with wood glue and wood screws secured it to the bottom of the buffet. This serves to keep the interior dust free.

7. Using our new Kreg jig system and a length of 2x4, my husband built recessed "feet" for the bottom of the buffet.

8. Here's a closeup of the holes made by the Kreg jig. It allows for a VERY secure bond, where even wood glue is optional. This single 2x4 footing will support the solid wood buffet piece easily.

9. In this inverted position, it's easy to see the recessed footing. I primed the undersides of the buffet and painted the footing in this position, making the finishing job much easier.

10. Inside our cottage, I brushed on a satin finish water base polycrylic to coat the interior and exterior sides of the drawers.

11. After the polycrylic had dried, I lined all the drawers with decorative contact paper.

12. Inside our home, I used Kilz 2 Primer to paint the exterior of the buffett using a painters drop cloth to protect our wood flooring. A wet rag was kept handy at all times to wipe up any accidental spills or paint droplets. (This is another reason why I love latex paints and water base primers; they are so much easier to clean, dry very quickly and don't have that awful smell.)

13. The paint I chose to mix myself. I started with a half gallon of Oooops paint at my local hardware store. To this latex paint I also poured in some Floetrol, a paint additive which virtually eliminates paint brush or roller markings. I won't ever paint without this stuff anymore!

14. Once the paint was dry, I replaced the piano hinge hardware, rehung the side doors and replaced the drawers. I have stored all sorts of things in this functional piece of furniture.

Our cottage is small with the kitchen and living room sharing one space. It's simple to retrieve special kitchen appliances and baking supplies where they are now stored away out of sight.

15. TIP: Before filling the refurbished buffet, we placed some handy furniture sliders under each corner of the new footing. This way if the buffet should need to be moved, it can easily be accomplished by just one person.

The tools and supplies listed below should help you get started on your own refinishing project. Hopefully you may already have many of the items listed and can complete your redo at little cost. Soon enough you'll be sitting back and saying, "Look what I did!" :)

Must Have Tool for Working With Wood!

Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System
Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System

We used this tool to complete Steps 7 and 8 above. My husband and I do a lot of woodworking and building projects singularly and working together. Since we got this Kreg jig it's opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities. Can't say enough good stuff about it!

 

Have you refinished a piece of furniture? Please share your tips and/or thoughts here.

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    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 3 years ago

      My husband loves doing this sort of thing. I really like the color you chose!

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 3 years ago

      Sounds a great way of giving an old piece of furniture a new life - real upcycling!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      I refurbished and refinished furniture for years but rarely repurpose in this way. And I do like that color! Great job, fabulous and functional!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 3 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Excellent how to!

    • profile image

      sirteacup 3 years ago

      Awesome! I must admit I don't really have any DIY confidence but you make it look really easy, thanks for the guide and wish me luck!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Another awesome makeover. You do beautiful work. I have refinished a drop leaf dining room table. Well worth the effort.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Wow, I'm amazed at how beautiful it turned out. Love the color!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      My hubby likes to do projects, so I let him have all the fun. He's very thorough. I'm pretty slap-dash.

    • Pam Irie profile image
      Author

      Pam Irie 3 years ago from Land of Aloha

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks Peggy! LOL on the color. :)

    • Pam Irie profile image
      Author

      Pam Irie 3 years ago from Land of Aloha

      @Nancy Hardin: Nancy, we are two peas in a pod! :) Thank you!

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 3 years ago

      Very nice, it looks like new.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from London UK

      This is really beautiful work. I love the colour you chose -very elegant.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 3 years ago

      Very cool, Pam! I love it. Very very well done.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 3 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Great job! It looks great. I do have to say that the color reminds me of our classrooms in junior high so personally I would opt for a different shade but love your step by step instructions for making this a functional piece of furniture with great character!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I used to do that before my lungs got bad. I have three of the pieces I refinished in my home, and I'm proud of them. Only one of them cost me any money, and that was $19.95. The other two were given to me, because they were "unfixable" according to the owner, who now wishes she hadn't given them away. LOL Your lens is excellent in the steps you show, any one could follow them and do a good job on refinishing a piece of furniture. Thanks for sharing your expertise.