ART DECO small side board–C.1930’s


Hi Everyone,

It’s been ages and for that I apologise. What have I been doing? Well I had a hospital stint and recovery has been BLAH – just sitting around reading books and sleeping mainly. However, I am all recharged and ready to attack more projects so watch out!!

This was the perfect project to get me back into the renovating practice following my hospital visit and the boring recovery schedule.


This is my most recent acquisition (above pic is after-makeover). It is a 1930’s cabinet in typical geometric style, I think it is best suited to be a bed side cabinet, although it is a little tall (91cmH – 60cmW) . It’s characteristics are two drawers up top, and a shoe cupboard below. It is solid OAK with NO BORER – that’s right I managed to find the holy grail, a borer-less, insect free – never been munched solid wood piece of furniture. The beading is Rimu (a NZ native wood). The Oak is cut with the grain and on the cross grain to give the piece unusual and striking effects…. Oh and check out the cute deco feet!!

The Cabinet appeared to have travelled around the country via various auctions and furniture movers – all stamping their marks on the back of the cabinet…. I have kept the back exactly as it was because provenance is everything.


The original condition was amazing considering it’s age (above). The varnish (highly possible it was a Shellac based finish) was thin and flaky in patches and the handles needed attention. I suspect whoever had this looked after it really well, it’s condition is reminiscent of being kept in the dark and in dry storage for possibly YEARS.

This is by far the most satisfying piece of furniture I have picked up at an op shop to date. I paid the full price of $80 and got the shop to hold it until the next day so I could organise Hubby to pick it up…… When we got there the shop attendant *sighed* and mentioned the trouble she had endured in trying to hold it. It seemed every-man-and-his-dog wanted it, she had received several calls wanting to know if the sale was likely to fall through………


This piece took Hubby and I a few hours to restore…. Here’s what we did.

  • Quick sand back with the belt sander and by hand in the tricky bits
  • Quick restore of the handles, removing the broken Bakelite and replacing it with pressed leather
  • Quick bog-glue job on any little dents – there was only one small one found
  • Followed by 3 x coats of clear matt sealer for that silky finish….. each with 6 hours standing time between coats.

Here’s the photo’s

Sanding phase


Restoration of the Bakelite and steel handles


Below is a broken down view of the handle components.


As you can see from the below picture, the Bakelite needed replacing as two of the three pieces were broken. I went through my hoards and found remnants of pressed leather from an earlier project (I used this same leather in the 1950’s desk Reno job last year. In that project I painted it black). It was perfect and at no extra cost. I envisioned a light sealer with accents of a cream, ivory or white in the handles to lift the visual appearance of the piece.


If you read that post related to the 1950’s desk Reno job you will know that I got the leather hide extremely cheap from a fire damage sale,  therefore the next steps involved a gentle soap wash to remove any smoke staining or residue left on the remnants.


Once the section was cleaned, the replacement pieces were cut to size. I chose to use double sided tape to cut down on any glue mess, to be honest glue was not necessary with this setup anyway, as the steel pieces clamp and screw down into place keeping the leather from moving.


Hubby then took over and drilled the corresponding holes for the handle components to fit together.


Then time to reassemble, and a final wash to remove any grease and dust….. and the handles are done.



TIP: SAWDUST & GLUE – homemade bog.

This is a tip I previously gave in my post about the 1950’s desk Reno.

Don’t buy wood putty to fill in holes.

Use a small amount of PVA and sawdust from the job you are working on – mix it together to form a dry mix and fill in the holes with the mixture. Don’t worry about the colour of the mixture – it lightens as it dries and be generous when filling the marks/holes. Also don’t worry about the mess you can sand it off later and best part is the colour is a closer match than the generic putties ever are….

Also,  if you are intending to stain the piece (as we have done in the 1950’s desk Reno.) the sawdust in the homemade bog soaks up and holds the colour of the stain. Fabulous!!


Last phase – Sealing with a matt sealer

We were super lucky to have heaps of matt sealer left over from the Art Deco Armoire restoration project. One great tip to remember when restoring antique wood is choosing the right sealer finish is very important.


The more MATT the finish – the more sins the sealer will hide. Use HIGH GLOSS with caution as this type of finish will show up every little irregularity, scratch, blemish, or repair – so unless you want that look on purpose, or you have a perfectly prepared piece pick carefully.

I was so impressed with the Matt finish after the Art Deco Armoire restoration was complete that I could not wait to use it again. I was sceptical at first that the finish would be kin to bare wood and nothing special… But I was very, very wrong – the finish of matt sealant (when applied right) is surprisingly tactile and is silky smooth to touch. Visually the finish is akin to a moisturised ‘new’ sappy wood. It is well worth trying if you haven’t already.


All done, another lovely quality piece of furniture to add to our collection!



  1. Hi. Is that a barometer between the horns (of a dilemma?) there? Beautiful restoration job; we wouldn’t have the patience, but then there’s no joiner hubby here, either! Most of the real antiques we’ve bought we haven’t touched. Vintage pieces we’ve refinished in our own crude way. We’ll keep checking your blog now that we’re followers. D. & S.


    1. Hi, yes haha, good spotting it is a barometer and it is still pretty accurate, well more accurate than our ‘hedge your bets’ weather predictions in this little tropical pacific lying country (NZ). Thanks for the appreciation on the restoration job and for the follow. If you have any questions about any pieces we’ve done just let me know. 🙂


  2. Gorgeous piece, Pepper, and the addition of the leather-for-bakelite was genius!

    Sorry to hear of the hospital stay–did that myself last year for NINE days, and recovery took so very long. Glad to see you are up and at it again, because I’ve been wondering where you’ve been!


      1. Love the craftsmanship and design abilities you both possess, Pepper! May good health stay with you both, as your blog is so very inspiring–it makes me get up off my ‘you-know-what’ and get things done!!


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