Vintage Buffet Makeover: Painted White & Distressed

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See how we took a vintage buffet severely damaged and gave it a beautiful new makeover with only paint!

Before I started blogging full time, my primary source of income was custom furniture makeovers.  I had grown a very nice clientele and loved bringing their old pieces back to life.  One of the most fulfilling custom jobs for me is working on old pieces of furniture that have been handed down for generations.  Sometimes, they are in bad shape from being in storage for quite some time.  Like this vintage buffet. Read on to see the vintage buffet makeover.

This was the client’s grandmother’s piece.  She also had the table and chair set, which I will do in a separate post (you can see the before at the end of this post).  I was honored that she asked me to help save her grandmother’s piece.

As you can see from the photo, the buffet was pretty banged up.  One of the doors had the veneer completely peeling off.

The top was severely scratched and dinged.

On the bright side, it had such a beautiful detail.  The beautiful carvings and appliques were gorgeous and really made a statement.

I knew this buffet was going to be beautiful again.  I was determined to bring Grandma’s piece back to the charming piece it once was.

Please Note:  I mentioned above that I was not blogging at the time of this vintage buffet makeover.  There are some steps that I do not have pictures of, but I will thoroughly explain the process.

Step 1 – Cleaning the Vintage Buffet

First and foremost, the buffet needed a THOROUGH cleaning.  It had been in storage for a very long time.  Spider webs, dirt, grime, you name it.  I knew I had to tackle this piece with a degreaser.  I mixed water, vinegar, and a little Dawn dish detergent.  It would be perfect for the job, and it does not have the awful smell that a regular degreaser would have.  Yes, I would be sanding later, but I wanted to remove any stains, crud, and grime before.  I did not want to take the chance that the dirt or stains on the surface would soak into the wood when I sanded it.

I scrubbed the entire piece inside and out using a soft bristle brush.  The inside and the bottom were also cleaned. After the doors and the drawers were removed, the inside was cleaned as well. I then wiped it with a clean cloth dampened with water to remove the degreaser.  It’s vital not to leave any of your cleaning agents behind because the paint will not adhere to it.  To see a tutorial on how I clean old furniture, click HERE

Step 2 – Repairs

Now, onto the repairs.  The Hubs removed the doors and the hardware for me.  The hardware had a few dings and minor scratches.  We decided to paint it black.  I usually do not paint original hardware if I do not have to. However, in this instance, there were just too many scratches and dings, even after cleaning them. 

I used two coats of Rust-Oleum Universal Matte Farmhouse Black Spray Paint and Primer In One.   I allowed several hours of drying time in between paint coats.  After the final coat had completely dried, the Hubs sprayed them with Polycrylic Spray to seal them.

The first order of business was removing the veneer from the damaged door.  It was already peeling off, so I was praying that it would just lift right off.  And thank goodness, it did.  I just used my paint scraper to get under the veneer and lift it up. There were a few small spots, but those could be sanded away.  If you have any veneer that does NOT peel off, you can see two processes for removing veneer HERE.  The second door was not as damaged, but both needed to look the same. Luckily, it’s veneer removed easily.

Repairing the veneer

There were several small areas of veneer that needed repairing.  Apply wood filler, smooth, allow to dry, and then sand.

After the damaged veneer was repaired, and the peeling veneer on the door was removed, it was time to sand.  This piece was heavily scratched and had a few areas that needed smoothing.  I grabbed my orbital sander with a 120-grit and went over the entire buffet except for the legs.  For the legs, I hand sanded. I followed up with 220-grit sandpaper for a nice, smooth surface.

Step 3 – Painting the vintage buffet

Preventing Bleed-Through

The buffet had been in storage and was very old. Therefore, I knew I had to prep to prevent bleed through.  With older pieces, especially if they have been stored away for some time, bleed-through will occur, especially if using white paint.  The client had chosen white; therefore, I knew this step was essential and would save me a lot of time and headache later!

I went over the buffet with a piece of tack cloth to remove any sanding dust.  I then cleaned the buffet again with a damp cloth.  This is to make sure there are no dusting particles left behind. 

The secret to preventing bleed-through is Bull’s Eye Spray Shellac.  It’s made by Zinsser.    I had thought about a primer, but I have found that stains sometimes bleed right through the primer. You simply spray a light coat over the entire buffet.  Always make sure to keep your spray can moving to avoid drips.  Allow the first coat to dry for a few hours and apply another light coat. I used the same process for the doors and drawers.

Once the second coat is completely dry, its time to apply the paint!

Paint Process

I chose to use Dixie Belle’s Chalk Mineral Paint.  It’s very durable and self-levels quite well. 

Comme le meuble était très ancien, j’ai décidé d’appliquer trois couches de peinture et de laisser sécher plusieurs heures

Since this piece was older, I decided that in between paint coats, I would allow the paint to dry overnight before applying the second and third coats.  This would enable each layer of paint to set entirely and adhere.  I applied one coat of the white and allowed it to dry overnight.

The next day, I was excited to continue this project.  It kept me up, looking at the clock every hour on the hour wondering when daylight would arrive (I know crazy I am!)

After my coffee and a bit of breakfast (by that, I mean a piece of toast), it was time to get busy.  I applied a second coat of paint.  While anxious to finish this piece, I almost decided just to give it an hour or two to dry.  Then my gut said nope let it dry overnight.  So, I did just that.

The next day, I applied the third and final coat. 

Step 4 – Distressing and sealing

The client wanted the piece to be distressed.  I took my 220-grit sandpaper and distressed along the edges and the beautiful carvings so that the wood would peek through. I also distressed the doors and drawers. The Hubs attached the doors to the buffet once I was finished distressing and added the hardware.

After cleaning away the dust with my tack cloth, I applied one coat of Dixie Belle’s Best Dang Wax, working in small sections.  Just follow the directions.  It goes on like butter!

The inside of the silverware drawer was pretty yucky.

I cleaned it and added fabric (this will be the chair fabric for the table redo). The fabric was attached using self-adhesive spray.

Adding fabric inside the drawer
Ajout de tissu au fond du tiroir


I can’t tell you how excited and happy I was to see the finished product.  From old, shabby, and damaged, to a beautiful, timeless piece that can now be passed down yet again.  Grandma’s memory will forever be alive and well!

Vintage buffet after makeover
Painted drawer

Although old pieces take more time and more hard work, it can be the most rewarding.  It’s a great feeling knowing that the piece will be around for another 100 years!

Supply List for this vintage buffet makeover:

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it will be.”

Want to see other things we have saved?

Here is a coffee table from a second-hand store that we gave a brand new look HERE.

Or, this FREE Armoire Cabinet Makeover you can see HERE. It went from orange and ugly to chic and beautiful!

20 thoughts on “Vintage Buffet Makeover: Painted White & Distressed”

  1. OMW!!!!!!! How lovely she looks now. Wow Christina beautiful, beautiful save and your friend was so right in trusting you guys with her Grandma’s memory <3

  2. I normally hate to see old wood painted, but given the peeling veneer & that downright ugly color, that white is heaven sent. LOL, I’m using a walnut sideboard with peeling veneer on one section & a horrible top as a bedroom dresser. Just keep the top covered with a dresser scarf & am on the lookout for a cheap walnut antique with peeling veneer I can steel to repair mine. Maybe I’ll take a page from your book & go ahead & remove the damaged veneer & stain the wood underneath. I’m a novice at this, but determined & blogs like yours really help.

    1. Hi Marci! Thank you so much for your comment. I know removing veneer can be scary it sure was for me! But it’s worth it in the end. If you ever have any questions I am only a comment or an email away! ❤️❤️

  3. I’m sure this was once a very beautiful piece many years ago, too. I absolutely love the makeover you gave it! It’s so pretty! One question – how do you know where to distress?

    1. Thank you Michelle! It depends. Normally I distress around the edges of the piece and the drawers and/or doors. For a really worn chippy look I will distress everywhere not just the edges. Just depends on taste really 🙂

  4. Beautiful as always. I’ve been wanting a buffet like yours, but I have several large antique ones that I just can’t part with to make room for it. I’m going to have to find another use for one of my other pieces. Lol. Thanks for another great project!

  5. Your client must have been thrilled with the makeover, Christina! I had to chuckle at your sleepless night, so glad I’m not the only one who does that over a makeover. Pinned 🙂

  6. Did I miss something? What did you do about the veneer you pulled off? How was that repaired? The buffet came out beautiful!

  7. Pinina Pamela Zober

    Christina- THANK YOU for sending such beautiful blogs and sharing your professional experience with those of us all around who read your advice and beautiful re-makes. (hmmm was that a run on sentence? LOL Thank your ‘hub’ for serving the public too and wishing you and your family a stellar Thanksgiving this year in 2019.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Pinina you have made my day! I will tell the Hubs ❤️❤️You and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

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