hutch makeover in tuscany

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Antiques, Before and Afters, Furniture Makeovers, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint34 Comments

I must admit, when we got on a plane headed to Florence, Italy, I wasn’t ready to leave Paris, yet.  I loved our time there and it was tough to pack up our belongings and leave that apartment.  I was excited about Italy, but Paris would be hard to top.

Well, Tuscany was not going to be upstaged or underestimated.  It charmed me throughly with mountains, walled cities, narrow cobblestone streets that opened into piazzas, olive groves, and sun-kissed paint colors.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  As I did with Paris, I’ll tell you about the trip in stories instead of in one long narrative.

Today, I am going to tell you the story of a hutch hidden in an attic in Tuscany that needed a little TLC.

Do you see the red building on the left side of this tiny street in Barga?

This ancient home, Casa Cordati, was the meeting place for our creative retreat – Inspired in Tuscany.

I’ll show you more pictures of Casa Cordati and tell you some of its story in another post, but I do need to take a minute to paint the picture of how this hutch came into our hands.

Dana, the one who put together our entire trip, had the idea of painting a piece of furniture with MMS Milk Paint as a part of our retreat.  She had the confidence that somewhere in this old town, she could find a piece of furniture that needed a makeover.

The furniture painting session was scheduled for the next day and she still wasn’t sure which piece would come through, but an old hutch found in the attic of Casa Cordati was the front-runner.  The owner of the piece (and the house) was Giordano and he was skeptical about handing a piece of furniture over to a group of American women.

But, Dana is a laid-back smooth talker who assured him the piece would be in good hands.  Besides, it’s been languishing in an attic for decades and we could at least clean the inch-thick layer of dust off of it and fix the broken trim.

I don’t know if he was really sold on the idea or just couldn’t say no to Dana’s charms, but we ended up pulling the piece out of his attic and brought it down to our workshop space.

We had talked about painting this piece, because that is what we were here to do, but not one of us had the heart to paint over that perfectly-worn blue/green paint.  The interior, however, was a dingy cream and needed a refresh.  The old paint also needed a good cleaning and a rub down with Hemp Oil would enrich the color and bring out the luster of the exposed wood.

The women in our group, comprised mostly of MMS Milk Paint retailers, went straight to work like a well oiled machine.  For the sake of stability and dividing and conquering, we separated the top from the bottom.  One team worked on cleaning and Hemp Oiling and another worked on painting the shelves and interior. Women buzzed around the piece with brushes and cloths and Giordano hovered in the doorway, biting his lip, watching us at work.

At one point, we realized the “rags” Giordano gave us to clean and oil the piece were actually an antique monogrammed tea towels!  Ah!!

We saw a similar thing in a thrift store we visited – stuff that would be sold for good money in an antique store in the US was just “old stuff” here in Italy.

Anyway, once cleaned (with antique monogrammed tea towels, sigh), the old wood and paint received a nice massage with some Hemp Oil.

Meanwhile, the interior and shelves were getting a couple coats of MMS Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow.  I can’t tell you how thrilling it was for me to see how far this milk paint line has come over the years.  I never would’ve guessed I’d be in an ancient walled city in Tuscany, working on a piece that was hundreds of years old with a group of talented women who sell my products.

Anyway, we chose Mustard Seed Yellow for the interior, because it would compliment the exterior paint color and it would work with the contact paper on the glass doors.  Now, trust me when I say that we really wanted to peel that paper off, but it was basically baked on.  Several of us took turns picking at it to see if it was possible, but it would take days to get that glass cleaned and we just didn’t have that kind of time.  We had to work with it.

It was about this time that Giordano popped back into the room and smiled approvingly at the work we were doing.  From someone who rarely smiles, this was a huge victory!  He told Dana the color we picked was historically accurate and perfect for the piece.

And here is how the hutch looks all spruced up…

A couple of girls even worked on repairing the broken trim pieces.  The hammer Giordano gave us to work with must’ve been over 100 years old!  It was certainly an experience.

The yellow interior really pops now and the old paint and wood have a new glow.

My favorite part about this makeover is that this piece doesn’t look like it was freshly painted.  We didn’t smother this old hutch with with a thick layer of shiny paint to hide its age and flaws.  We allowed it to be old and just made it look its best.

We even cleaned up the inside of the base cabinet and painted the shelf to freshen it up.

Giordano was so excited about it, he asked if we would move it to a new place in the stairwell.  This hutch was too good for the attic now.

We were all thrilled with how it turned out and, most important of all, Giordano loves it.

There is something special about doing an activity you love, like painting a piece of furniture, in a foreign place.  You have the opportunity to fill the space you temporarily occupy with a part of who you are and something you’ve done hundreds of times before, becomes new and exciting.  A task that most of these women do regularly for their businesses, was anything but mundane.  It was enriching and satisfying and gave life to our creative souls.

Among all of the dressers and hutches and tables that are bought, painted, and sold, this is one of those pieces that will not easily be forgotten.

hutch makeover in tuscany

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34 Comments on “hutch makeover in tuscany”

  1. Wow! It is a beautiful piece. I’m sure it seems surreal to know your brand is all over the world! I know people love your product but also love you and the way you present it. Bravo!

  2. This is beautiful and to think it was done by expert hands (including yours). It looks perfect where it was placed!

  3. Oh how lovely! I would have asked for the” rags “and grabbed a T-shirt from my suitcase to work with instead! 😂

  4. You have left your touch on a piece which will lady another hundred years without taking away it patina. Very beautiful.

  5. Beautiful! I wish you had a picture of the gentleman biting his tongue.

    And, I just recently picked up an old wardrobe with a mirror in the middle. I’ve always wanted to get one for my son. So, the bad thing is that the former owner’s daughter hung her wet swim suits on the outside of the wardrobe on hooks. Ugh. So, there are white/beige streaks in the finish. The armoire is a dark finish. I’m assuming the wood is a pine. I will take down the hooks and fill with a filler, and then fit the wardrobe with shelves. Part of me wants to paint the wardrobe a dark masculine color for my son’s bedroom. Another part of me wants to keep it as is and make do. Both sides were used as drying racks so I will see the streaks in the proper light on both sides. Any suggestions?

  6. Love this! The only thing that would have made this story better is seeing Giordano with the piece! Loved the art on the wall behind where you were painting too!

  7. When I first started reading and saw a picture of the hutch before I read further I thought to myself, Why would they want to paint that cabinet? The perfect time worn patina shouldn’t be covered up! Should have known you’d all see it too and choose to keep it as it was, it turned out beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I am wondering if you took a hair dryer to the contact paper it might soften and peal off. You will just have to go back to Tuscany and try it. lol M.

    1. Very good point. A hair dryer, razor blades, Good Gone, and just another trip to Barga and we can get that taken care of! 🙂

  9. I literally gasped when I saw the finished hutch at the top of the stairs – wow! It is so beautiful!

  10. For another time and another post but could you PLEASE show us how to remove contact paper? I have an Art Deco vanity that has contact paper from the 1950s viciously adhered to the drawers. If anyone has a safe method to remove this cursed, contact paper, it would be you.

    1. I have removed contact paper before and it’s almost always a pain! The best thing I found was to score the contact paper and spray it down with soapy water and let it sit for a while. It’l usually then peel up with some coaxing from a putty knife. We’ll then clean off the residue with Goo Gone or something like that.

  11. I look forward to hearing more about the house featured in this post. It looks amazing and I am in LOVE with the paintings I see in some of your shots….more, please!! What fun!

  12. Marian, that hutch color is beautiful! Do you think it might inspire a new milk paint color for your line? It’s so cheerful!

  13. First, I love your new headshot. Very pretty.

    Second, what a high compliment for you and your retailers to have your skeptical host be so thrilled with the results of the makeover that he asked you to take the formerly hidden piece and put it in a place of honor.

    Think of how many visitors will see this “well aged” antique and marvel at how Italians have such a way with preserving their past😉

  14. Marian,
    Your Tuscany story is such a spiritual lift for me this week. I have been estate/garage sale-ing all summer and I just about vowed to never do it again. I have seen so many bad paint jobs over beautiful old veneer that just needed cleaning I could cry.
    And then, your article…..It was the boost I needed to go on.
    When you cleaned the Tuscany piece, or any other for that matter, what do you use? A damp rag, chemicles..etc.
    I love the way it turned out.

  15. It’s beautiful! Even the contact paper looks good now😁. Wish I could find something like that in my attic. I am so enjoying your trip as I sit here in Edina, MN. Living vicariously can be fun too! Such a blessing for you and your Mom.

  16. It is a beautiful piece and really exciting what you did for it. What about those drawings that were behind the cabinet where you painted it were they something done by him or his family?

  17. Wow! Just Wow!
    You certainly have come a very long way in a few years and I must say how wonderful this is! Look at how beautiful that project was in that stairwell!!! Like a DiVinnce”! You are truly an artist to the world! God is so good!
    I do believe this is one of my favorite stories!
    Cindy

  18. I wondered if you discussed removing the doors from that gorgeous hutch and storing them. Then the contact paper would be a non-issue, and the beautiful interior color would show. Just a thought….

  19. Hi Marian,
    How lovely that you brought your work half way across the world and left a piece of you there in the beautiful hutch. I’m wondering if one can use hemp oil to give wood a good drink of water so to speak (oil).. in my very dry Colorado? Can I put a runner on the table after oiling or how long would I have to wait? I’m slow to handle my incoming emails these day and I always “flag” the one’s I want to save and savor for a quiet moment.
    As well, I often wonder how one would know if you responded to a post. I comment often but wouldn’t know if you commented back. I know how very busy you are and just enjoy you and your work.
    Thank you for so generously sharing your trip with us.
    Cynthia
    🙂

    1. Can you see this comment? I believe it sends an e-mail notification to the person I’m responding to.

      Yes, you can definitely use Hemp Oil to hydrate dried out wood and I have heard from many people in dry climates, like Colorado, that they use it regularly. I would wait a few days before putting a table runner or fabric on because it will absorb excess oil.

      1. Thank you Marian for letting me know. I will get right on it as it’s high desert dry!

        I did not get notice that you had replied. I checked back as I want to purchase your Hemp Oil asap :). I wish there was a reply notice!

        Take care~ Happy Fall!

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