In this post: If you like the look of a vintage sewing machine table but can’t find one in good shape, you’ll love this transformation of an antique sewing cabinet.⇒
Have you got childhood memories of a beat-up old piece of furniture sitting in the basement for countless years?
If you do, you just knowingly shook your head and maybe even laughed… 😉
Perhaps it was shoved in a corner, piled high with various just-as-old bits on top of it? Or maybe it sat in a place of prominence, ready to be tripped over every time you were looking for something else?
Because you were never looking for IT.
No one was ever looking for IT. It just sat there dutifully and you got so used to it, you never even asked why your parents were keeping it. Surely they weren’t planning to use it!
Ours was an ancient sewing machine.
You know the kind. It pretended it was a regular piece of furniture but in truth it held an antique sewing machine.
For years it sat at the foot of the basement stairs, piled high with towels or out of season clothes. I couldn’t imagine why we owned it because my mother didn’t sew. Not even a little. She couldn’t even thread it if her life depended on it.
But my dad could…
…because it was his.
Well, really his mother’s. But he learned how to use it. And he made amazing things with it. Slipcovers and draperies and anything else my mom asked for.
That’s the kind of guy my dad was. If a piece of equipment could be useful, he was going to master it. He never worried about traditional gender roles.
So of course years later, when my parents were gone and we were cleaning out their home, the one piece of furniture I didn’t have to think twice about keeping was my dad’s vintage sewing machine table.
Even though it was hideous.
It had been painted white for as long as I can remember, but my dad had used latex paint, applied generously. Judging by the thickness I’m guessing it was refreshed many times and he had long since given up trying to paint around the hardware. That was white latex, too!
When I rescued the piece I wouldn’t consider getting rid of it. It had way too much meaning to me.
But I wouldn’t consider keeping it that way either.
No, it would have to be refinished. And I finally found the time.
Because of the heavy layers of paint, my approach would be a little different than the pieces I’ve tackled in the past. Even though I’d be using chalk paint, which doesn’t require much prep, I decided to do some sanding to eliminate the globs of built-up paint. When I detached the hardware I even had huge strips of paint peel right off, exposing the under layer of the cabinet door.
I expected to replace the hardware with something new and decorative, but it turns out removing the paint revealed a lovely brass pull.
Dislodging the paint, in fact, became a bit of an obsession, as I chipped away at it to see what was underneath. It was quite a surprise to see how many layers it held, spanning a broad enough spectrum of colors that I wasn’t sure when I had gotten to the bottom. I sat on the couch with the TV on, working on this all night.
I was delighted to find it was a warm gold.
With the prep out of the way it was time to think about what colors I would use for the new finish.
I certainly wanted to keep it light in color but opted for a more refined look with layered tones for an antiqued effect. The sheen of the latex had to go, preferring the velvety flat look of my favorite chalk paint.
For the base layer I used two coats of Soft Taupe Classico from the chalk paint line from Pure & Original. It’s a luxe quality paint that creates a gorgeous rich finish.
Next up was the layer the creates the most texture, the lighter layer that goes on top of the base color. I used Bone Classico from the same paint line and applied the highlights in a technique I often refer to as a dance. I use a mix of dry brush to dab the paint on and wet wash to blend it in, with the brush in one hand and a damp sponge in the other.
I like to build my layers, starting very thin with the wash and gradually adding more paint on top with the dryer brush, teasing out the highs and lows which underscore the form of the piece.
If you scroll back to the flat base layer image, you can see a marked difference with the addition of the shading.
The next two layers required a lot less paint, beginning with a warmer shade called Antique White, used for the purpose of “throwing” the color a bit off (by using an undertone that’s a touch more yellow), and finishing up with a true white for the topmost layer to bring out the highlight accents. I used Sea Salt for this and it’s used quite sparingly.
Once all was dry I brushed on a liberal coat of clear Classico Italian Wax, then let it dry overnight. Finally, I buffed the piece with a soft cloth. This protects the finish and adds a delicate but lovely patina.
In this case, I couldn’t wait to add back the hardware, because the difference from where it started, thickly covered with paint, was really extraordinary. How charming to catch a gleam from the brass tassel pulls!
This project was definitely a labor of love, as the sewing machine always reminds me of my dad, but also because the beneficiary is actually my daughter. She’s the only person in the family now, who knows how to sew.
But until she’s ready for it, I can display it proudly and prominently, rather than at the bottom of a basement staircase, piled high with out-of-season clothes.
Sewing Machine Table Shopping Guide
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