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Do-Over — Retro Wall Unit

March 30, 2012

I love books. We’ve established this. My collection started to out-grow my first book shelf, so I started looking around for a second one. My first one was purchased new in raw form and then painted to match my other furniture. It was fun and it looks great, but it wasn’t a cheap process. I have done a bit of furniture restoration in the past, so I started looking in second hand shops to see if I could find something with potential. In the Sallies shop I found what I was looking for: a beaten up old wall unit that seemed pretty solid.

I have a theory about wall-units. They were cool in the 80s (in NZ, anyway), when everyone had those little boxy houses and the kitchens consisted of one whopper pantry and about three under-sink cupboards, so there was a need for extra storage, and the wall unit fit the bill, with the bonus booze cupboard and miscellaneous slidey cupboardiness. The one I found still had bits of its former glory attached and only cost $35 including delivery.


Now for the bit about tools and things for this project. Here (below) we have a toolbox (I got mine when I got tired of assembling things with a table knife and a rock. It was cheap but it does the job), my grandad’s hammer (much better to use than the tiny girly one in the toolbox), the chisel I made out of a car spring once (which is included for showing-off purposes, and also because it is sharp and a bloody good chisel), large and small brush with angled edge, small roller (with sponge roller- not pictured) and tray, filler, filler knife thingie, sandpaper ( a coarse one and a fine one), staple gun, masking tape, paint  (top and undercoat. The tanin-sealing undercoat is important if you are painting over wood with knots in it at all. If you tint the undercoat the same colour as the top coat you can do less layers) and Jo Sonja All Purpose Sealer and assorted Jo Sonja paints. I used the Jo Sonja paints because I have lots of them and also because they go nicely on wooden things. The sealer is mixed in 50/50 with the chosen colour. So easy. I also got enough fabric to cover the back of the unit entirely.

When the unit turned up, I saw it was rather more beaten-up than I had observed in the shop, mostly because it had no feet and thinly-veneered particle board can’t put up with too much abuse on the bottom edges. I went and got some feet for it and a tub of filler, then got to work.

First I unscrewed or removed in any way that occured to me (any excuse to use my gorgeous chisel) all the bits I didn’t want. I had to re-attach one bit that, as it turned out, was structurally important. Oops. I left the panel on the back because it was also structurally important– it holds the unit square. Then I wiped it down a bit and slapped the filler all over it, so it looked like this:

Then I sanded it down and re-applied the filler where necessary and re-sanded. I decided to only lightly sand the veneer and not go too smooth, to help the paint stick, and make it that I didn’t need to bother with undercoat.

I had been trying to decide on a colour scheme while wandering around the craft shop, as I had a vague idea about covering the back of the unit with fabric. I spotted some gorgeous stuff, which lent itself to a colour-scheme of dark blue and cream.

To begin I layed the unit down flat so I could paint everywhere easily. I used the angled brushes for the edges (and tried to use masking tape), using the roller for the large flat areas, starting with the blue (which I mixed up with my Jo Sonja paints) and finishing with the cream (which was Dulux and was leftover from my other book shelf). When I had finished with the painting and everything was dry, I layed it face-down and stapled the fabric in place, folding the edges in twice, to prevent fraying.

When I get into a project I forget to stop and take pictures, so here’s the next picture I remembered to take:


Then I just needed to load it up. After letting it sit for two weeks so the paint could cure, of course.

It ended up being a highly functional blend of bookshelf, kitchen stuff, and potion stuff, in the end. I like how the fabric peeks through in places.  It proves you just need a bit of imagination and a staple gun to turn a monstrosity into a bit of gorgeousness.

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