Short Armoire–Complete at long last…


From this…..


To This!!!!


After a lot of planning and careful thought we ended up with this beauty. A quick recap Hubby and I brought this little vintage NZ Oak armoire from a thrift store for $50.

This was my special project. I prepared the armoire, sanded, stained, painted and sealed – all by myself……… All hubby was allowed to do was clamp and glue the gaps back together, make and assemble a new drawer front and the little bits I was too lazy to do. 🙂 which wasn’t much cause I am obsessed when I am in a creative zone.

It turned out great, a nice addition to our cluttered nest. My hubby uses it for his wardrobe and I get the pleasure of looking at it every morning when I wake – my best and most ambitious project yet.

I wanted to do something a little adventurous and different from the normal ‘true’ restorations we usually do. I also wanted to inject charm and sophistication into the finished product.

I had real trouble with the handles as they were Art Deco Egyptian revival fitments (C.1920’s) and didn’t fit well the Art Deco geometric design of the wardrobe (C.1930-1940’s). I am real picky, I know…… Spoken like a true art snob.

I played around with painting and pin striping the handles to see how they would look (but in the end settled on the original condition. I preferred the juxtaposition of the old antique handles on a fresh glossy new finish). I ended up removing the paint job by spraying another coat of paint over the handles to re-wet the layers and then I put them in some brush washing solution and gave them a good clean with a Nylon degreaser brush.




To alleviate my frustration with the design mismatch – I decided the offending detail had to be the beading (something had to go!) and decided to omit it in the final design.

There was a big sand-back and 3 coats of Mahogany stain (I used the left over stain from the desk revamp we did last year).

TIP: One lesson I learnt was that hard woods don’t soak up stain which means the staining process needs to be precise and care needs to be taken as it will only soak into the very top layer – mostly just dries on the surface.  I found that out the hard way when later sanding between layers of varnish and ultimately cutting back in spots to bare wood by accident.

The next decision was to find something to balance the piece. It took me many hours, days, weeks of trawling through art deco Egyptian revival images for something suitable……… I didn’t find anything I liked, so faced a slight dilemma – the armoire was pretty bland and I couldn’t progress without an image…… or something…. eeek

and then I found a sweet little picture of an art deco ivory inlay work depicting a Romanesque Chariot rider with horses – I thought immediately the dimensions were perfect.


By this stage I had lost all interest and hope of finding any Egypt inspired images to compliment the handles and felt the Roman chariot goddess was closer to my goal than the stark contrasting line of the beading.

The process of the painting was simple I copied the image and drew a stencil to size. I then used white carbon paper and traced over the predetermined lines to transfer the image to the stained wood. The next steps that followed involved painting the image with a sz-000 brush in Gesso primer. I did this twice to build up a reflective primer layer. The final 3 layers of paint were done in a water based soft-cream enamel.

Then I gave the piece a soft wash down to remove any remaining white carbon lines and any dust etc in preparation for the final phase of varnishing.

The Varnishing phase was traumatic and not without trial-and-error as I mentioned above with the unfortunate sand back between layers………All in all 2 layers were applied.

Really important TIP– Varnish is a tricky beast – The glossier the varnish the harder it is to hide any sins – you have to be a master of camouflage and possess Houdini like skills to truly get away with using a high gloss varnish, or have a perfect piece to start with! For restoration – it’s all in the care of prep work… Lessons learnt and stored away for future reference.

It came out of the shed after 4 days of drying time (we are heading into Winter so the drying time had to be extended) and it exceeded my expectations. The mirror finish is glorious and so hard to photograph and my hubby thinks it’s fab too.

This pic is taken in the shed in a dry condition and natural light – SO SHINY!!

P1020973P1020977  P1020991 



  1. Oh, Pepper (and hubby!)…it is SUPERB!!! I’ve been wondering where you’ve been, and this explains it…it always takes time to ‘get things right’, and you’ve both done it so very RIGHT! KUDOS from Chicago!!!


  2. i am really, really impressed!! it turned out so well. that’s a ton of work and quite a bit of innovation and artistry. well done!


Let me know what you think?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.