Costume design, vintage sewing machines, painting
A word of caution: If you are a purist about preserving vintage furniture and think it’s a mortal sin to paint over a perfectly fine sewing desk, READ NO FURTHER! I usually prefer to maintain vintage items in their original state as well, but in this case the desk was rather sad and uninspiring. I did this to make ME happy, so if you don’t like it; keep your breath to cool your porridge. Please, no “it’s such a shame…” comments. The desk is a Stradivaro brand, and started off dark brown with plently of wear and damage, the brass pulls were filthy and corroded. Here’s the “before”:
From the start, I knew I wanted to leave the work surface alone, keeping it the stained dark brown. That surface is only seen when I’m working, and it had a decent finish on it already. I also have dark brown accents in the room, so it works. I also knew that I wanted to use a spicy red, gold and ivory as my main colors. I wanted to play off the goemetry of the table & pulls, but was not interested in stripes or strict horizontal/verticals. I settled on one of my favorite patterns: argyle checks! I was nervous from the start, this could go “folk art” pretty fast, which is not my style.
I started with the small stuff. I took out the machine and removed all hardware, hinges, pulls, etc… I sanded and polished the pulls to their original brass, but still didn’t like them. I found a Testers spray paint in “Root Beer”, which is a dark brown metallic with a touch of red, perfect!
Next, I lightly sanded every surface to prepare it for the base coat, wiped away the dust, and applied the first coat of Killz primer. I let it dry overnight and did another coat of Killz the next day. The hardest part for me on this project was WAITING for each layer to dry thoroughly before moving onto the next. I am not a very patient person, but I have definitely learned my lesson with rushing a paint job: the whole thing can peel right off.
Now things started getting scary; the first coat of red. It was a lot lighter than I expected, and wound up taking three coats (three days) before the color deepened to the right hue. On a side note: painters tape sucks. Every time I use it, it bleeds AND pulls paint. Once I scrapped the painters tape and just used a 1″ angle brush and sloooooowwwwwwed down, my lines were just perfect. After the red, I painted 2 coats of the ivory on the remaining surfaces (2 days).
For plotting out the pattern, I started with the trickiest parts: the drawers. I wanted to be sure that the diagonal lines would intersect with the pulls at the corners. I also wanted the gold diamonds to break across the drawers. From there, everything was easy, just drawing pencil lines from corner-to-corner and center-to-center. I also decided to “go big” and continue the pattern on the sides of the desk and across the top. I will admit, I used painters tape for these lines so that I could use a small roller to apply the gold paint. It did not bleed at all with this type of application and went so much faster! I also decided to add some shadow to the outer edges of the diamonds with a slightly darker shade of golden brown. I watered it down and used a 3/8″ angle brush to glide it on.
To add the fine lines in dark brown that would tie it all together, I lightly penciled the lines with a ruler and used a 1″ long fine-liner brush to freehand them. The lines aren’t *perfectly* straight, which is fine for this type of project. If I really wanted them to be perfect, I would have used a paint pen and a ruler, wiping the ruler off after each line. I let the whole deal dry completely for several long, painful, agonizing days of waiting and pacing.
Not done yet! This table is going to get a lot of use, so in order to keep it looking nice, I wanted to get at least 3 coats of polyeurethane over the whole thing. I used a water-based satin poly from Ace Hardware. Being nervous about the red bleeding, I did this in stages as well, tackling the red parts first. Once that coat was dry, I felt comfortable doing the rest all at once and had no problems with bleeding. Again, I let it all dry for 24 hours between coats. In the end, I love the desk, and am so glad I decided to go over-the-top with the pattern. Boring furniture is just so… ZZZzzzzZZzZzZzzzz