Monday, June 30, 2014

Transforming an old Buffet into a Media Center

I wanted  to replace my media center recently.

I needed something less bulky in that space but I also need storage, so what to do?

Go to Salvation Army and find a wonderful vintage buffet to re-purpose.  I wanted one with an intact finish, but not so pretty that I'd feel sacrilegious painting over "good wood".  It has to accommodate a HUNKING big receiver, my smallish cable device and the Roku box.   The piece I bought is wider than my previous TV center, but is flatter to the wall and will be fitted to use without any open doors. 

Just so you know, most media "box" devices are 17" wide or less, and less than 5" tall and 10" to 12" deep.... any furniture piece with at least that space and 15" depth will accommodate most of your electronic hardware AND its wires at the back.  My side cabinets are sized for a mini tower PC that I'd like to eventually use as a media controller on the cheap.  YYMV, so measure your own components to see exactly what you need with an eye to what you might add later.  And, Yes.... I keep these dimensions and many others in my cell phone notes along with a measuring tape in my purse when I go junking.  You never know what you're going to find!

I also keep color chips and photos of items I like handy, but that's another story.

Here is what I found.   Nice middle class bit of "good" furniture from probably the '40's or '50's.  It has simple lines and more importantly a bank of drawers down the front that has dust covers between each drawer and one will convert very easily to a shelf.
No worries, I have plans for the removed drawer. A nice dovetailed box will never go to waste in MY house!

This is actually an Internet photo of an almost exact copy of mine... I just forgot to photograph my buffet before I started tearing it up...My handles are different, see below.   But I actually am on the lookout for these oval brasses... I think they suit the piece better.

 My handles are inexplicably ornate

First, I stripped off the handles and sanded away with 80 grit sandpaper.  These old pieces are likely to have a shellac finish on them which sands very easily.   I had planned on just scuff sanding, as the surface was in pretty good shape, though very sun faded, but as I started sanding it came off so easily, it was a cinch to strip it down to the wood.  I noticed the sanding residue was very waxy feeling, so waxed shellac (almost unheard of these days) may be the culprit.  It might also have been old furniture polish.  Its hard to know exactly, but waxy is a hard thing to stick paint on, so off it went.

There is something inexplicably attractive about a well stripped bit of furniture... clean, smooth woody goodness. 

I was even able to remove most of the colored stain as well, so now the decision was, to stain? or to paint?

Well... it was a toss up.   I have several large heavy wooden pieces in my room already so something less 'woody' won out.    The finish was, however, clean enough to re-stain and refinish. 

 Wearing a mask at this stage, no need for old junk in the lungs!
 Visually, thinking out loud.  No... black outlines are a no go.

I toyed with the idea of ebonizing for just a second, but its again, too heavy, too dark for the space.   (Note the neato Milwaukee orbital sander.... it really pays to have a good sander on this kind of project. 

You will also note the second drawer was removed along with the guides that run down the center.   I sprayed the interior black to just make it "go away" with the electronic gadgets inside.  Any color would make the mess of wires and electronic boxes just stand out.   At this stage I also used a hole saw to perforate the back wall of the drawer box to provide an inlet for all the wiring as well as several holes along the top of the back wall to let the hot air out.  Your electronics need lots of air flow to survive in a cramped space.

Chalk Paint on the Cheap

Three coats of a mixture of gesso and lamp black sanded down beautifully and waxed is the plan.  I'm eventually going for a cooler, gray, cream look for the walls and larger pieces in my living room, especially the walls that have not been painted in over 10 years, but this is a start. The Gesso sands like buttah!   The color of the finish was modified just a tad by using a slightly different mix of black and gesso for each layer, and the final sanding was very, very fine.   Waxed, it has a luscious, silky feel.   I've done some water testing and it holds up beautifully.  I wouldn't scrub this finish with Comet, but for a nice living room media center, its perfect. 

Here it is finished, with and without that funky hardware.  I'll look for those nice oval brasses... I think they fit the curve of the front much better.  
Doors still off and interior shelf not touched up. 

Doors back on and waxed and ready for those odd handles
 The color is off in this photo, but you see a slightly exaggerated  view of the finishes effect.

Well, its the next step.  Those walls are creeping their way up the to do list!   I think a nice limestone look.... plaster with pale yellows and greys...... mostly cream....

dreaming away!  I'll catch up someday.