looks can be deceiving…

Marian ParsonsAntiques, Before and Afters, Cleaning & care, Furniture Makeovers, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint26 Comments

Let me take you back to high school.

Remember that first day of a new class, looking around the room, scoping out your classmates?  Who might be your friend?  Who is going to be a troublemaker?  And where is the – oh, there he is…

The hot guy.

Perfect hair.  Great smile.  Gorgeous eyes.  At first glance, he is your dream guy.

And then you get to know him a bit and you realize that attractiveness stops as soon as he opens his mouth?

Yeah, that is this cabinet.

And what’s so funny and true about this analogy is that I was so busy making heart-eyes over this cabinet that I didn’t even notice!  My mom pointed it out to me, though, as mothers do.  (With boys and furniture.)

She was sitting in a chair next to it on Friday and said, “Eeeew, this cabinet really needs to be cleaned”

“Oh, I know.  Can you just run the vacuum inside?”

She got the vacuum out and started to work on it.  “Marian, the vacuum just isn’t going to cut it.  I think we need to wipe it down.  And what is all of this stuff nailed into the back?”

I had even styled the piece quickly to photograph it and had noticed it was a little dirty, but I hadn’t noticed that there were massive, thick cobwebs (containing what I’m sure were small animals) hanging off the bottom of each shelf.  I also hadn’t noticed that it was so caked with grease and dirt that you couldn’t even see the wood.

And I had only noticed “a few nails” in the back, not dozens of nails and other random bits, like a wooden spool-looking-thing with crusted rubber rings hanging around it.  I didn’t even want to touch that thing!

My love for this cabinet was still holding firm, but I realized that I was blinded by that love and didn’t notice how much work this “perfect cabinet” was going to be.  I also realized that this was way too much to dump on my mom, so I jumped in and we worked on it together.

I started by removing superfluous nails.  It’s pretty amazing that I could remove over 20 nails from a cabinet and it was still able to stand upright.

I will have to shore up a few places, but there were nails that were clearly intended to hold the back together or the top in place, but they weren’t driven into anything.  They just went through, their pointy ends sticking out, making me glad my tetanus shot is up to date.

Then, we scrubbed…

…and scrubbed, and wiped, and scrubbed again, and vacuumed, and wiped, and scrubbed.  (We used Dawn in the soapy water and sprayed 409 directly on the cabinet, both to cut the grease.)  We had to change out our bin of water at least eight times, because it would just turn black as soon as the scrub brush made contact.  At one point, I was certain we would have to hose it down.  It was one of the dirtiest pieces I’ve had to clean and that’s saying a lot given that I have cleaned out a chicken incubator, among other things.

But, we started making some progress.  You could see the beautiful patina of the wood revealed under the layers of grease and dirt and the top of each shelf was no longer netted with spider’s eggs and webs.

I did have to shutter and shimmy a few times as my forearm would knock into a shelf and stuff would fall down on me, but we got it all cleaned by the end of the day.  Well, relatively clean.  It’s not clean compared to a hospital operating room, but it’s clean compared to what it was.

The next thing I needed to “fix” were the spots of spray paint (purple and orange) that were on the insides of both doors.  I stirred up a custom mix of MMS Milk Paint in Shutter Gray and Trophy.  I don’t have an exact ratio, but I had to keep adding one or the other until I got the color right.  I didn’t want to lose the wear on the original paint, so I brushed it on very lightly, just enough to make the color uniform.  I sort of “feathered” the new paint into the old.  This process always looks ugly at first, but it blends a little bit better once distressed.

And I used full coverage over the spray paint, since I didn’t want those spots to be visible.

Once the paint was dry, I rubbed over the surface with 60 grit paper to pull off some of the new paint, blending it in with the old.

And then, we applied Tough Coat to the entire thing.  Inside and out!  It really needed to be sealed, so it could actually be used.

And, I have a new helper for a few days, Emily, and she was a Tough-Coat-ing champ today.

And now it looks sooooo much better.  I mean, it was a looker before, but now it’s beautiful at first glance and upon closer inspection.

 Now you can actually see and appreciate the gorgeous patina on that old wood, too.

And you don’t get the heebie-jeebies when you peek inside.

I’m also pleased with how well the interior of the cabinet doors match the exterior paint color.  I really don’t think people will know unless they read this blog post.

Since I do have an extra set of hands in the studio, we’re making a big push to get a lot of things painted and finished this week.

More to come…

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

looks can be deceiving…

Related Posts

blue toile daybed makeover

parsons chair linen slipcover reveal

parsons chair slipcover tutorial | part 2 | making ties & adding a skirt

milk paint backdrops, blueberry ink, & creative community

26 Comments on “looks can be deceiving…”

  1. The miracle of soap and water and some elbow grease. If anyone can do it, you can. It’s a beautiful piece.

  2. Thank heavens that mom always knows best! (With guys and furniture) Haha! I thought he looked a little grungy. Like maybe he was a grease monkey used in a shop. I had a similar chest that I drug out of our farm shop and actually did scrub and hose it down outside and it turned out great. Your “hot guy” has become great marriage material. Haha!! He’s gorgeous on the inside as well as the outside.

  3. Ha ha ha, I love the comment about “heart eyes.”

    This was a very relatable post. Who hasn’t had a similar experience of an amazing find turning into a boondoggle?

    It looks like you and your mom were up to the challenge, because the cabinet is gorgeous. See? You instinctively recognized its potential from the start!

  4. Marian! I love this old cabinet! You have done a wonderful job of making it beautiful!


  5. It turned out so well, what a great find! We have scrubbed so many greasy dirty pieces too and grease cutting kitchen soap is always our first choice. And sometimes a putty knife when it is really bad…
    Looking forward to seeing more Luckett’s pieces

  6. It is beautiful!! I absolutely hate finding surprises when I am cleaning old furniture. I think it’s the worst part of the job, lol!

  7. I dragged home a maple hutch with those funky spindle plate guards and did some primitive painting on it to make it country. Removed the spindles. It was so dirty and smelled sooooo bad of cigaretts et. all. I scrubbed it down and someone suggested washing it with vodka. Yeah the stuff you drink. It really really helped. Sorry I passed it on in a couple of years
    for a piece that I had goggle eyes attitude. . Didn’t work out and am sorry I got rid of that vodka miracle.

  8. After reading along and getting into just how dirty the inside was ~ as I scrolled down to the finished display, I thought I could swear the pillows with ticking were mottled with stains. Nawwwww! It’s gotta be the resolution on my iPad and maybe some kind of optical illusion. Anyway, this piece turned out great!

  9. Kathy I agree! Those pillows do look spotted! Hopefully it’s just our eyes playing tricks! 🤣

  10. *Sighhhhh!* If only it were so easy to clean up and transform the hot guys into respectable gentlemen in real life! LOL!

  11. Well, I guess I’d have to see–and smell– it in person to know if it was a piece I would want in my house. After all the scrubbing you two did it still looks like a coat of paint would make it more appealing. Especially on the inside. I can’t imagine putting clean linens in it as it is. I do appreciate patina, but somehow I can’t get past the oil and dirt stains on this cabinet. Am I nuts? This is all you’re going to do to it, right? Well, I guess the proof will be in the time it takes to sell it.

  12. And whose bed is that dandy looking piece next to? I can’t believe you cleaned it in a bedroom.

    You are more ambitious than I. No way this ol’ gal would have dragged that one home. Hope it works out for you. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ha! That’s in my studio, not a bedroom. The bed was a piece I photographed a couple of weeks ago. 🙂

  13. A looker comes clean! That’s so something I would have done. Taken a piece home that actually is a lot more work than I intended it to be. 🙂

  14. I have taken REALLY dirty pieces to the car wash! Engine cleaner works wonders!! Hot soapy wash is great!! Rinse and done!!

  15. Thank you for the journey from dirty to loving patina.
    You inspire me to be creative and take a chance on an old piece.
    I have chosen a table with good bones but veneer that is chipping…we shall see as I am not removing the veneer. Doing a three step paint process.

  16. Looks great, Marian. I definitely would *not* know you touched this up if I didn’t know from this post.

  17. I really loved the ‘chat’ of this post. Sometimes you just have to go with it. I just said to my husband—this would have been something I would have picked up for displays isn my now long closed shop. Love all the distresses—you just know a long line of people–owners—stored this that and everything else in here. (maybe Jimmy Hoffa, lol.) Fun post, Sandi

  18. I couldn’t buy it after just thinking what was living on the bottom shelve and the filth. Where did you get this one from?

  19. It’s so fun to see how you transformed this piece! I wish I wasn’t so squeamish, because I think I definitely would have ran away from this once I found the nasty cobwebs!! But the finished product is gorgeous and makes me wonder what stories it could tell.

  20. Automotive degreaser spray works amazing on these just-came-out-of-the-garage pieces. And a hose! You two are more patient than I would have been to scrub it all with a bucket and sponges! But glad you didn’t paint over all that beautiful patina! Sealing was definitely the way to go. Great piece! And yes, I’ve taken metal lockers to the self-serve car wash during Minnesota winters in January! You do what you gotta do for the treasures!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *