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BEFORE and AFTER: A Vintage Buffet Makeover

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I like the look of this vintage buffet makeover with a stripped top and a painted body.

This buffet threw me for a loop, though.

What seemed like an obvious decision to paint the entire buffet quickly became an idea to strip the whole thing and re-stain it.

It was in good condition but needed some help.

BEFORE – Vintage Buffet

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog

Because of what I had found in the buffet, I thought preserving the wood would be the best option to honor the buffet.

It was an old arithmetic test from 1951! How cool is that, right??


In fact, I was so convinced that I was going to strip and re-stain this vintage buffet that I took all day off work and got down and dirty and stripped the whole thing. I’m talking hours of scraping gunky stuff into a nasty little “junk box.” ICK!

But then I started to question how stylish the piece would be with just stain…….

I originally planned to sell this piece and wanted to make sure that it was relevant and eye-catching instead of just a classic piece sitting there waiting for a person with classic taste to come and scoop it up.  I was worried it wouldn’t sell.

Finally, I decided that indeed a paint job with a re-stained top would be more time-efficient and hip.  And this is what resulted:


AFTER – Vintage Buffet

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog

Addicted to Duck Egg

For this vintage buffet I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Duck Blue (I also painted a “dumpster desk” this same shade. Love it!).

It’s such a soft, soothing color. I wanted the drawers to stand out, so I mixed in a little Pure White to create a lighter shade. I used Old White on the arches.

Related: What’s the Best Paint for Furniture?

I Hated It….

I love how it turned out, but I have to admit, I didn’t always feel so affectionate for this vintage buffet.

In fact, I hated it.

When I first painted it, I regretted painting it. It had no “umphf” to it.

I tried to re-use the old knobs after wiping them with some gold Rub n’ Buff, which can easily change the color of old knobs and pulls (especially if they’re tarnished), but these old knobs ended up looking like a nipple. HA!

And the color of the knobs was all wrong.


Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog

The Right Hardware

It’s true what they say that hardware makes all the difference! I had found these vintage knobs at a barn sale. I never knew what piece of furniture I would use them on, but somehow the stars aligned and this vintage buffet was PERFECT!


Vintage Knobs Thrift Diving Blog


Vintage Knobs Thrift Diving Blog

It as if these knobs were made for this buffet, down to the circles!


Vintage Knobs Thrift Diving Blog

After trying to strip the gunk off of these detailed legs, I declared this was a project I was no longer interested in committing hours to stripping. 🙂 Instead, I decided I would clean them off and paint the body instead.

Related: How to Strip Furniture and Stain Wood: A Complete Guide to Getting Started


Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


It’s a shame I ended up wasting so much time stripping the whole thing and then ending up painting it. However, it was some good experience, right?

Stripping Is a Messy Job

I can tell you that each stripping job I start, I always end up feeling desperate about half-way through.

“WHY the heck am I doing this again, instead of not painting???”

Especially when you start removing the old finish in a gunk box like this……..with splatters that look like a collection of discarded blood clots or something.

Gag me.

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog

But stained tops with painted bodies are soooooo gorgeous. They’re really worth the effort.

And this buffet really needed improvement, too. You can see here the finish on top started to crack and chip.

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog

And there was some chipping on the front. Those were easily fixed with stainable wood filler.

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


WARNING: For this project, done in 2014, I used a chemical stripper called Klean Strip, but as of November 2018, it has been discovered that Klean Strip and other chemical strippers that contain methylene chloride has killed two young men in the fall of 2017! PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS CHEMICAL STRIPPER. I am only keeping this picture in the blog post so that you can recognize this product and know what NOT to buy.

Instead, I recommend using a chemical stripper called Blue Bear stripping gel because it’s soy based and does NOT contain methylene chloride, so it’s safe for you to use. Blue Bear is the main paint stripper that I’ve been using for the past couple of years because it is safe and has a very low odor. 

Click here to read more about how home improvement stores are planning to remove these dangerous chemical strippers containing methylene chloride from their shelves beginning in January 2019.


Klean Strip is not recommended to use because it contains methylene chloride. DO NOT USE.


You have to scrap through layers and layers.


Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


Even when all the finish is off, you’ve only just gotten started.

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


After getting as much of the finish off as possible, I used Odorless Mineral Spirits to help remove the leftover stripper.


Odorless Mineral Spirits Thrift Diving Blog


Then I sanded it out.


Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog



Ryobi Cat Corner Thrift Diving Blog

I used Miniwax Espresso stain for the top and did some very light distressing of the wood with super fine sandpaper around the edges to give it a little character and to match the “vintage-y” feel of the knobs. Plus, the dark stain was sooooo dark, the sanding actually helped to lighten it up a little.


Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


You can really see the wood grain on this top, which I love! It’s now as smooth as a baby’s butt :).


Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


As an artist, I can’t walk away from a piece without painting the back. I know many people do leave the back unfinished and consider it a waste of paint, but seriously, without painting it, it would make a piece look very unfinished.

Do yourself a favor. Paint the back 🙂 It just makes them look finished, you know?

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


A Final Look

Checking out these pics as I complete this post, I’m so glad I painted this vintage buffet. It feels more fresh, prettier, and it’s been given another opportunity at life. Not that stain wouldn’t have given new life. But I just love this look so much better! 🙂

Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog


Vintage Buffet Thrift Diving Blog

So the next piece of furniture you’re planning on making over, including a vintage buffet, remember that they look super cool with stripped and stained tops with painted bodies!


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  1. Can I paint the body before staining the top? Or should I stain the top first?

  2. You’re one of the features today at the Sew It Cook It Craft It link party! 🙂

  3. Jane Shorrock says:

    I have many mahogany pieces (some are turn of the century). All are family hand me downs. Beautiful, but wondering if we should chalk paint them. Don’t know if that would remove antique value. Your suggestion would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hey there, Jane! I think painting would definitely destroy the value of them. But if you’re not really concerned about that then it’s your decision. You might want to check out this post to see if it passes the “test” about whether you should paint it or not: https://thriftdiving.com/when-should-you-not-paint-wood-furniture/

      Good luck in making your decision!

      Personally, I wouldn’t paint them if they’re family hand-me-downs that are invaluable to your family.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Well, I love it! My husband and I have done several pieces in a similar manner. Love them all! We now have a buffet. You have inspired us to get started.

  5. I’m also not too fond of this re-do. It’s not that it’s painted or not painted, or the combination of both. I think the combination of painting and staining is fun and trendy. And how beautiful is that top you refinished? The part I don’t care for is all the different colors on the base. It feels too busy for me. I think it would be so pretty in one color, for me probably the darker blue, with the same light aging you did on top. All that being said, that’s what makes us individuals, and I’m certain that it would be perfect for many people. Also, I’ve never done a combination piece so you’ve inspired me to try it!

  6. I just don’t like it. The original finish should’ve been fixed and restained or something other than the odd contrast of the paint color with the top of the buffet
    It is a beautiful piece of furniture originally

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