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painting a primitive cupboard


A week or two prior to Lucketts, I spotted an amazing primitive cupboard on Craig’s List.  I intended to buy it to sell at the event, but I was absolutely smitten with it and decided to keep it.  Believe it or not, I’m usually pretty disciplined about that sort of thing, but this piece was just so special and I could imagine it filled with ironstone and other pretty things.

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I actually bought the piece sight unseen.  I was busy painting and I sent Jeff & my dad to pick it up for me.  I gave Jeff “override authorization” if it wasn’t as amazing in person as it was in the pictures, but it was and he brought it home.  The lady he bought it from was delightful and a blogger/photographer and was very happy it was going to a good home.  I actually got to meet her at Lucketts a few days later.

From the pictures, I thought the paint was original, but once I saw it in person, I realized the blue was just the most recent coat of paint.  Roller marks kinda gave it away.  The paint had a flat finish with a lot of depth, patina, crackle and character, though, so I wanted to retain that as I worked on it.  I liked the blue better than the cream color it was, but it was a little bit bright.  It doesn’t look like it from the pictures, but it was pretty in-your-face blue.

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So, I painted it in a more subdued blue – a custom mix of MMSMP Trophy, French Enamel and Shutter Gray.  Don’t even ask me the ratios.  It was just add a bit of this and a bit of that until it looked good.

The top portion in the picture below is painted and the base isn’t, yet.  See how I carefully worked around the established patina?

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…and it’s going to look even better once I’ve distressed and antiqued it.

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I created some of the texture by working with what was already there…basically dry-brushing lightly over and around cracked, chipped and worn areas…and then manufactured it in other places by using my newest toy, a heat gun.

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I looked like such a girl using this thing.  I was holding it at a full arm’s length, wincing as if the cabinet was going to burst into flames.  I started getting used to it, though, and learned the best settings for what I was trying to accomplish.

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I’m really happy that I didn’t lose the character of the piece in repainting it.

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I can’t wait to see it finished and in place.

(As an aside, I opened the bottom cabinet door as I was painting it and just about fell off my stool.  There was a huge black spider inside and I am more of a girl about spiders than I am about heat guns.  Once I settled down, I realized it was the plastic variety!)


There are a few other things I have in my workshop, waiting to be finished…

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I bought this wooden horse when I was shopping in Virginia.  The design of it is so clever, but it was just painted a bland gray.  I painted it in Grain Sack, defining the curve of the front legs and added a saddle blanket in Shutter Gray.  I also painted the wheels in Shutter Gray, but, as I did with the cupboard, I tried to retain the chippiness and character of the existing finish.  I still need to do the hand painting, detail work and finishing, but it’s coming along nicely.  I’m stuck on the details, though, and waiting for inspiration to strike.

The other project I’m really excited about is the antique phonograph.  It was basically a freebie with some furniture I bought, but I’ve wanted one for years.

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The case needs to be striped and refinished and some veneer needs to be replaced.  I’m just working on it bit by bit, but I’ve really enjoyed listening to it.  There’s something amazing about music coming out of a machine that’s about 100 years old and works when it’s cranked by hand.

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As I mentioned a few days ago, our entire family (even our 5 & 7 year old boys) are using real dishes.  No more plastic cups and plates for the kiddos.  I took it a step further tonight and added an ironstone pitcher with hydrangea blooms clipped from the yard, a mangle cloth runner…

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…and I even pulled out the blue & white paper straws.

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I have several boxes of these and I’ve just been hanging onto them for photo shoots.  As I dropped the straws into the glasses, I realized how sad that was.  I would buy a flowers and paper straws and runners, use them for photo shoots and then put them away.  It’s not that they were off-limits, but I didn’t think of them for everyday use.  Well, gone are the days that pretty things are for photo shoots only.

And we had a very yummy Chipotle style dinner…

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…and talked about our highs and lows of the day…

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…and the guys took on dish duty.

Not a bad way to end the day.

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  1. Susie says:

    Simply said…love!

  2. Peggy R says:

    Love it:

    P.S. Did you update your website? The header doesn’t seem to fit properly on my computer.

  3. Emily says:

    As William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I think combining the two (usefulness and beauty), as you describe you have started to do, is even better.

  4. What do you use the heat gun for? What does it do? I might have missed something. Thank you! Love it all!

  5. Love that you are using your “fancy” items on an everyday basis. I love that philosophy and I’m sure your boys are tickled!

  6. Michelle K says:

    Love that picture of your boys! That’s one of my favorite memories with my kids! Them standing on a stool rinsing & having a big talk. Cherish these little moments, they grow so fast!
    ~Michelle K~

  7. Jo @ Simple Pleasures Vintage says:

    Hi, Marian, I like the idea of the wooden horse painted like a carousel horse. It doesn’t have the like, but I was thinking of all the colors in the pretty bed and could see a colorful saddle and bridle added to this. Just a thought!

  8. I have always used cotton napkins and placemats along with nice dishes for every family meal. It’s an easy way to let the family know they are special. Your family will appreciate your extra effort.

  9. Paula Lusk says:

    Hi Marion – I had to giggle when I saw this cabinet. I have one like it from my great grandparents, only difference is it is chicken wire in the top doors. My piece is from the late 1800 or early 1900 I have had plans to paint it for , oh at least 30 some years, but, alas, it is in storage. I do have an old shelf (stand up with 4 levels + the top, that is from the same era, but I use it in the hall to hold DVD’s.I’ve never touched it with paint, it looks like an antiqued crackle finish. I like the blue on yours. You always do such wonderful things with your painting.

  10. Robin says:

    I noticed in the picture with your son and husband that you have a different sink faucet! Did you take the old one out because it doesn’t “convey?” I don’t blame you for that at all. It was a stunner and I love bridge sinks.

    • marian says:

      LOL…you are observant! Yes, we did take out the faucet, so it doesn’t convey with the house. I also took down all of my antique chandeliers. :)

  11. I always enjoy reading your posts and trying some of your ideas.
    You will be glad you are making mealtimes special while your children are young. I did and those times together are some of my and my girls happiest memories.
    On another note, your dinner looks delicious please must share your recipes.

  12. Marian I love your updated header. Loved your last one but this is even better!

  13. love the cabinet marian~ and your highs & lows. we do peaks & pits every night w kiddos after their prayers. cute & engaging!

  14. Michelle says:

    I love the cabinet and love that you are using your good dishes for family meals. My boys are 20 and 15 and for years I used the old Ikea plastic plates that when they set the table they go to the cabinet with them in it. Dinner is my favorite time of the day. It is one of the few times that we get to sit as a family and enjoy each others company. Love the highs and lows.

  15. Tammy Gilleland says:

    Recently, I was working on two antique doors. While I was painting one, a big brown spider came climbing out of the key hole. I just about passed out and shrieked like a little sissy girl. LOL

  16. Sriya says:

    your posts can make me day-dream ! :)

  17. I just got a lump in my throat looking at your Boy with his mismatched pjs! ~ Wish mine were little again. <3 Loved seeing your cabinet, but it was the little blondie that made my day!

  18. Kudos to you for using the ‘good stuff’ for everyday! Life is too short to save them for special days when really- everyday we spend with our family/loved ones is a special day.

  19. From one cupboard lover to another- that piece is so so gorgeous! What a find!! It’s craigslist the best!

  20. It is gorgeous, Marian! I started laughing when I read that about the heat gun. x

  21. Patty says:

    That cabinet is beautiful! Regarding no plastic plates etc. We raised 3 sons and my husband was a stickler for table manners – they could not start eating until I was seated, they could not speak with their mouth full and they always had to ask may I be excused please. My friends wanted us to take their children. I would set the table with ALL the silverware and teach them how to eat. When my oldest got a job in NYC he went to a special Christmas dinner and he said all the other people looked around to see what silverware to use and he said he knew exactly what to do. Yeah for me, I did something right.

  22. Lynne says:

    Marian, I love the old cabinet and the colors you mixed together are perfect for it. Can you tell me how to dry brush paint on? Or refer me to a post that explains it. tks much!

  23. I am interested in how you used the heat gun? How did it work?

  24. Dear Marion if you put out a ms mustard seed energy drink or vitamin? I would buy it❤️ I have no idea where you get all of your energy, but I love it.

  25. MaryLisa Noyes says:

    The primitive cupboard is MORE than perfect. I need to start searching Craigslist. I’ve been hunting for one just like it for several years. Enjoy. I am going to try mixing your various colors. the combo looks beautiful on the paintbrush!

  26. I’m so excited! I just signed up for your class. I’ve been wanting to for weeks, but it wasn’t in the budget until now. I can’t wait to get in and get started!!!

    On another note, what is the heat gun used for?

  27. Patti says:


    You are a powerful, wonderful, amazing, funny and humble example of a girl….and the woman she’s grown into…. And that’s especially important for those young boys in your life… I humbly suggest that you consider a bit of rewording for future blogs…I’m thinking of a few places in this very interesting and diverse entry….

    For instance – ‘I looked like such a…. klutz, novice, neophyte, rookie using this thing. ‘ Or even better – ‘I looked like such a beginner… a learner with the heat gun… until I started getting used to it…’ And I might add, ‘I love to try new tools, so I’m totally willing to be clumsy at first!’ That’s the kind of person we need more of, and that’s the kind of person you are!

    And then perhaps – “I am more frightened/ terrified/ anxious/ troubled / petrified about spiders than I am about using a heat gun for the first time.” Everyone is afraid of things… and for each of us it’s different… everyone is uncomfortable with some of the new things they try… And you are a great example of a risk taker….

    Okay, I’ll get down off my lectern (or is that ‘high horse’) and go back to loving your blog…. Please know this is offered with much affection toward you and admiration for you work…

    You are my kind of girl, Marion…. my kind of person!!

  28. hallaren says:


    Most colourful post ever! Amazing how a bit of sweat and handwork can make a found treasure into a loved piece.

    Please be careful with the heat gun, always wear a commercial grade dust maks or respirator as much old paint may contain lead or other toxic elements. Wear heavy gloves ( I use leather workman’s gloves), a sturdy apron and protective eyeglasses. AND, you must have lots of sweet tea, loud dance music and jazz!

    I love my heat gun. I learned how to use it on an old piece of painted wood first, and experiemented with lots of metal scrapers. My best scraper is from a church rummage sale (my favourite places to shop) that is a metal on,with a blade only two inches wide with a very worn red painted handle. I am able to sharpen it with a wetstone. Never forget to look through the boxes of old tools.

    I used to covet fancy shoes, now I save my money for the best power tools.

  29. Cathy Johnston says:

    Many of us are asking about the heat gun. I’m about to make a 1980s hutch look like an 1880s hutch using your paint (Mustard Seed Yellow over Lucketts Green) and would love to get the scoop on this technique! Buying the paint, crackle finish, and bonding agent (for the Lucketts Green).

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