Tutorial Thursday - "Chinoiserie" "Chest" of Drawers

and when I say drawers, I ain't talkin' 'bout no knickers, Willis.

Let me take you back to 2003. Why 2003, you ask? Because that's the date on the newspapers that I used to re-something my crappy fiberboard "chest" of drawers. Once upon a time, there was a shoe rack. It looked something like this:
The Ugly, It Burns The Eyes
And so because it was awful in it's stark whiteness, it needed to be "decorated" to match the Asian-themed decor in the front hall. Or so I was told. Well, years passed (almost 9 but who's counting?) and the shoe rack was donated to the local charity shoppe because it had outlived it's usefulness. But the myriad papers that were purchased to make it nicer? They remained.

In the winter of 2011 (or what passes for that season in Florida), I was purging. I believe I might have mentioned something about that earlier in the year, no? And the papers were destined for the charity shoppe. However, they got mislaid when the rest of the charity-shop-bound items left the house. And feeling somewhat guilty that they were never used and the person who had purchased these can sometimes be a travel agent for guilt trips (any guesses who that might be?), I decided they needed to be USED. That way I could honestly say "Look Ma, I used those papers you bought me all those many years ago!" and the papers would actually be USED. Not laying around collecting that "protective coating" that my antique dealer told me of so many years ago.

They are even uglier in person!

A while back, my son was using some drawers that look like the image to the right. They had belonged to his sisters, and were "well loved" or as we parents of small children call it "totally used and abused". Since the drawer faces were falling off and had been wood glued and screwed together to the point that they resembled Frankendrawers, I opted to buy him a NEW set of 2 drawers because what kid needs more than 2 drawers for their outside clothes? and use the battered ones for my fabric bits/projects in progress.

So off to the "office" - what was supposed to be my better half's "man cave" and which now more closely resembled a fabric shop that had stomach flu - went the drawers. Where they happily resided until about a week ago. On MLK, Jr Day, I got a wild hair that those drawers needed doing RIGHT NOW despite inclement weather and so I took my three adorable children with me and off we went. Never mind that I had to go out to get 650 dum dum lollipops for all the children of my kids' school. Luck would have it that the Target by the Costco that DIDN'T have a case of dum dums was right next to a Home Depot. For $25 including tax, I got: 2 8' strips of narrow molding, 1 pack of finish brads, 1 can spray adhesive, 1 can spray lacquer (which I am NOT crazy about), a pack of mending plates and I think that's it. Oh yeah, I spent $14 on drawer pulls at Target, too. They are COOL.

We got home, I plugged in a movie for the kids, popped them some popcorn and gave them some candy and called it "movie night" while I went to work on the drawers.

Step One: Sand the finish LIGHTLY with a sanding block. The surface is paper, so going at it with a belt sander will be a no good, very bad thing.

Step Two: Use two mending plates to bolt the sets of drawers together. This is SUPER important since we're going to be making this into "real furniture".

Step Three: Remove drawers and set aside.

Step Four: Measure molding and mitre cut being sure to match the mitres. Using a cutting box is so overrated. I started with my better half's crummy battery powered Dremel tool and moved on to the hack saw that was hanging out in the "office" for the better part of 6 years for who knows why. Lucky me! Now I know why!

Step Five: Get a garbage bag and place it on the dining room table. Get the can of paint you've been using for other "furniture" and bring it in. Stir with a leftover piece of molding and dig around back porch for a slightly dirty but still usable paint brush. Lay out molding strips and paint them. Yes, paint FIRST. I'm not crazy, there's really a method to my madnes..

Step Six: Open the dining room windows so you get plenty of ventilation. Normally, this step would happen outdoors, but with it being dark outside and wet, that wasn't happening. But the project? It WAS happening.

Step Seven: Take the newspapers that you're using and peruse them for images/sections you want to feature. Since my papers were from 2003 and Chinatown, SARS was prominently featured. I did NOT want a "SARS chest" so I had to cherrypick them.

Step Eight: Spray the sides and top of the chest one at a time with your general purpose spray adhesive and apply the papers in a pleasing manner. Lightly smooth them down so there are no wrinkles/bubbles. Those will come later. Be careful not to overspray. My dining room floor will never be the same, I don't think.

Step Nine: Go to town with the lacquer. Newspaper will get wrinkly and distressed looking with spray lacquer. Since that's the exact look I was going for it's a win/win for me. I will say that the spray lacquer doesn't really impress me much. But it's easier than dealing with the can-based variety.

Step Ten: Put your supplies away for the night THEN realize that you forgot to make the middle molding strips and paint them. Say "screw it" and you'll come back to it later while the kids do their homework tomorrow.

Step Eleven: Set the kids up with a snack and homework and get back to work. Empty those drawers out and take them outside. Repeat Steps Eight & Nine AFTER removing the drawer pulls that are stupid and cheap plastic. WAIT FOR THEM TO DRY. About 1 hour or so.

Step Twelve: Measure and square cut the middle sections of molding. Paint them with the same paint you left on the dining room table and let them dry. Make dinner while you wait.

Step Thirteen:While dinner is in the oven, steamer or being delivered, bring two drawers in and measure twice, drill once. Or more accurately measure thrice, drill twice since each drawer pull has two screws. Mark the position with pencil! It won't show on newspaper like a sharpie pen would. Drill holes, insert screws, tighten new handles on.

Step Fourteen: Using the finish brads, hammer the painted moldings in place. Don't stress if the mitres aren't perfect. There's always Photoshop for that! Or if you don't want to use Photoshop to fix the pictures of the item, when everything is really dry, just use a teeny bit of wall spackle in a tube, squeeze out a bitty little ball, roll it around in your fingers and shape it a bit and then fit it into the spaces and the with a damp finger, smooth it out. When it's dry, you can touch up the paint. You're going to need to touch up the paint anyhow to cover the nails so this is no biggie.Also, while you're here, use the finish brads to secure the fronts of the unit together. Nail down from the top opening into the bottom and then from the bottom up into the top so that the piece stays secure. You'll thank me!

Step Fifteen: Realize you don't have enough time to finish drawers three and four right now but take pictures anyways because you're really excited about the progress you've made.

Step Sixteen: Finish the project quickly because you really need your dining room back! About 20 more coats of lacquer should do the job...

Distressed paper & awesome handles!

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