buffet upcycle before and after

How to Upcycle a Vintage Buffet – Graphite & Gold

This How to Guide was written by Julia Clare of Julia Clare Interiors www.juliaclareinteriors.com

I was delighted when I found this beautiful mahogany and walnut veneer vintage buffet. Buffets are not as easy to come by as sideboards, the main difference being the lovely height of the buffet, or leg length. I was surprised by the weight and size of this solid wood piece. It was certainly going to be worthwhile upcycling and painting into a unique statement piece.

vintage buffet before

What I loved about this vintage buffet was its elegant shape; serpentine body and tall saber legs; I knew I had to emphasise it’s inherent beauty in a fairly minimal way. 

Once I got it home (my husband and I feeling a bit like Laurel and Hardy carrying it up our flight of steps!), it stood in my hall taking up most of the space for a couple of weeks. My children are used to new pieces of furniture arriving, sometimes changing in appearance and leaving again soon after. They take an interest in the process I started a few years ago; upcycling furniture on a customsied made-to-order basis. 

Materials Needed:

Step 1: Wash & Scrub

 I started by giving it a good wash and scrub with a sugar soap solution. I watched years of grime wash off this antique piece.

The next day, after admiring it some more, I decided on my colour scheme; this is a Regency style piece and I felt a glamorous touch would work well but I also wanted it to work in a modern setting. 

Each piece I work on is different;  in style, era, wood type and function. When upcycling I think it’s important to appreciate the charms and inherent features of the piece and try to compliment or enhance this.

On other pieces, for example, I have hand-painted floral motifs and details. But to my mind there was nothing rustic or cottage-style about this grand piece of furniture. 

Step 2: Chalk Paint

vintage mahogany Buffet upcycle

In this case the walnut veneer was in such good condition that I wanted to retain some of it. Others may have preferred to have painted over the whole thing for a uniform look, but I thought the warm contrast would look striking against the cooler Graphite paint work, if i could darken it slightly somehow.

I chose Rustoleum’s Graphite chalk paint for the main body but decided to paint the entire interior inside the two cupboards and drawer in gold; a gorgeous surprise for its future owner each time a door is opened to get the glasses out! 

With chalk paint use it sparingly as it dries fast and gets thick and textured on the brush. Don’t be afraid to water it down very slightly. Another option is to rinse the brush out every half hour or so to keep the texture fluid as you paint. This part is fun but laborious on a piece this size. Very rewarding each time and best enjoyed with a soundtrack of choice; this one was Nina Simone I think! 

gold paint inside drawers

I did three layers of the graphite paint. I finished most of it over a few nights using masking tape against the edges of the veneer I wanted to retain.

It’s worthwhile preparing edges with masking tape for a professional looking finish.

When painting drawers be careful not to paint the inner sides or they won’t close. Use masking tape. 

Step 3: Furniture Wax

I darkened the walnut with Rustoleum dark furniture wax. The walnut didn’t need refinished or stripped as it was in excellent condition so I was able to apply the dark wax straight on.

I would avoid choosing a piece which requires stripping; I’ve been there and it’s not fun. Hours of sanding ahead is all I’ll say on that. Some enjoy that but personally I prefer getting to the artistic part as soon as possible. 

brass hardware on a vintage buffet

I applied wax with a brush and removed the excess with a paper towel before buffing it to a sheen the next day. I took my time to create a high sheen polished look. I also applied two coats of dark wax to the paintwork for protection.

The hardware on this piece had a lovely patina which I preserved but this could easily have been cleaned with Brasso. 

I was delighted with the finished result. This was a collaboration with art boutique The Shop of Interest in Glasgow’s trendy Finnieston area where it awaits discovery by its new owners who will no doubt appreciate its history, uniqueness and the time and care spent on reviving and artistically reimagining it. 

This how to guide was written by Julia Clare of Julia Clare Interiors for Upcycle My Stuff.


Instagram: @juliaclareint

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Want to explore more upcycling how to guides? Try this one about upcycling a mid-century modern chest of drawers.

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What would you like to Upcycle Today?

Thinking of Starting Your Own Upcycling Business?

Download our free Top Tips for Brand New Upcycling Businesses