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As you know, the dining room in our new house came with lots and lots of rich wood panelling. Since I'd decided to try living with it unpainted, I was determined to lighten the effect with painted furniture and casual, breezy drapes. If I'd gone with a wooden table, chairs, sideboard and hutch, plus all the wood panelling, the room would feel too heavy and lodge-like to me.

I started with dining furniture, found for a song on Craigslist. This hutch came as part of a whole suite including a table (with leaf), six dining chairs and an additional sideboard all for $750.

I chose this hutch not only for its great price, but because I liked the shape — especially the curvy pediment and finial at the top. The glass doors with decorative fretwork weren't bad either! Here you see it before its makeover. The CD player on the floor was well equipped with tunes to keep Sara and I going. We painted a lot!

Here's how the hutch looked post-makeover. I used white semi-gloss paint that was sort of an antique or greyed white. I didn't want it to match the walls or feel too stark and new. For fun, I used some icey-blue paint on the inside of the cabinet. Then I reattached the original hardware and loaded her up with dishes and glassware in casual stacks. I added Blue Willow plates to the wall, partly as an homage to Aerin Lauder and her East Hampton house, and partly to compensate for the fact that the hutch seemed a little short for the nine-foot ceilings. Sara and I are really happy with the result, and the way the painted furniture breaks up the wood panelling to keep things light and cheerful.

If you want to paint vintage furniture like I did, here are a few of my personal tips:

1. Lightly sand the piece (not down to the bare wood — lightly!) to improve adhesion of the paint.

2. Use a good high-adhesion primer, again to improve adhesion of the paint and to cover up the dark wood. If you're painting the piece a dark colour, you can have the primer tinted to cut down on the number of paint coats you'll need.

3. Paint furniture with interior latex semi-gloss paint (semi-gloss makes for a harder, more durable finish) using a foam roller and a soft paintbrush.

4. It's hard to avoid nicks and scuffs over time, so often I'll add a light distressing with steel wool to the edges and feet of my painted pieces. This way they have a slight amount of age and wear built in and I don't worry so much.

Good luck with all of your painting projects!

For all my DIY projects, plus a video tour of this dining room, see my Online TV segments.

Photo credits:
Michael Penney

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