Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Orient Express

I had an old Pier 1 cabinet and my husband needed a new night stand. Here was the perfect opportunity to paint, refurbish and reuse.

The cabinet had an Asian look and a nice design but the color was boring and some of the paint was chipped. My idea for it was ambitious. Not only would I paint it, I would add a custom design.



The color it called for was Emperor’s Silk, a beautiful deep red. Even the name sounded Asian. I made it darker, mixing two parts Emperor’s Silk and one part Graphite.



After two coats, it was time to add the decoration. Because I’m not exactly a fine artist, I sat down with my computer and found just the right stock art to buy and copy.


It was more complicated than I wanted but I knew I could break it down. I may be middle-aged but I’m no stranger to computers. I’ve been working with them since we used card punches for computer programming. If you’re not familiar with these, click the link and have a laugh.

I broke down the image (an Adobe Illustrator file) to the piece I wanted to use and resized the design. I copied and flipped so that I would have two mirror images, one for the right side and one for the left. Because they were taller than the standard 11” paper size, I had to print each of them out on two pages and tape them together.

bamboo-decoration-copy             bamboo-decoration-copy-right

Time to dig out my trusty graphite paper. I used painters tape to attach both the graphite paper and the image. I left a flap so that I could lift both and check my progress. I traced the image on the paper with a sharp pencil. In the image below, you can just about see the transferred outline on the left side.

Check your progress. If the graphite paper is upside down you’ll waste time transferring the image onto the back of the paper. Check once in awhile to make sure you didn’t miss a spot.


Once I had the outline transferred, I used paint pens to color in the lines. I was like Kindergarten, only a little more nerve wracking. Paint pens are good for smooth lines and color but, being oil-based, they are not as forgiving as crayons.

I wasn’t too worried about the details. A rough rendering of the flowers, for instance, would be pretty enough.



When I was finished, the front seemed like it had too much blank space. I added, using the same print and trace method, the Chinese symbol for love, borrowed from Google images and checked by Google translate. Those of us who have dropped a pile of carefully ordered pile of 1980’s card punches never take Google for granted.

With a sigh of happiness, I applied a coat of clear wax. The result was good but not great.


It needed a coat of dark BLACK wax and I applied it hesitantly, hoping it wouldn’t take the pop out of the design. No worries. Not only did the dark wax create more depth, but it settled in the grooves of the faux bamboo edges and showed it off very nicely.

Pier 1 table dark wax 3

I didn’t have to do a thing to the knobs from the original piece (except not lose them). They were perfect.

bamboo-after-front  bamboo-1

Mission accomplished!

What I learned:

  • If you can’t draw, trace
  • Go easy with the paint pens. Mistakes are hard to correct. Use a gentle touch with the side of the nib.
  • Waxing over paint pens is not a problem.

The Tale of the Ugly Green Dresser

This project was one of my first and favorites. I owned a small dresser that I could use, but it was the wrong color.


Fortunately an Annie Sloan stockist, Suite Pieces in Huntington, NY, wasn’t far away. Before perusing the paint samples, a display of knobs caught my eye. One set called out to me and I knew they were “it.” Only a select few understand the strange and mysterious summons of furniture hardware.


The blue and white knobs made picking the paint color easy. Annie Sloan Napoleonic Blue.

At this point, I had little experience with chalk paint and wax and I didn’t want to get too fancy. I removed the old knobs, kept them together in a baggie and added them to my box of knobs. This was a good sign that I could possibly stay organized.

I found a dresser in this color and a doable technique on Pinterest and felt no shame as I tried to copy it… in my own style of course.

I covered the boring green with two coats of Napoleonic Blue. This is a color named for a man who wanted to conquer the world and failed. I wanted to conquer a dresser. Sometimes you have to ignore an omen.

I applied clear wax and gave it a day to dry. Then one coat of dark wax and a good buffing. The inside of the drawers aren’t painted but I plan on Old Ochre for some contrast.


Beautiful! But my dresser didn’t come to life until I added those knobs.

It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that bling!


Let’s call it a literary project because I put books on top. Credit to my creative husband for the photo of our house over the dresser.

What I learned:

  •  The perfect hardware is sometimes a good place to start
  •  Imitation is the sincerest form of inspiration.

P.S. I spotted the same green dresser on an episode of Ray Donovan. You know you’re hooked when you’re watching a high-tension action flick and looking at the furniture.

Next week: “The Orient Express”