my big sister’s china closet.

I’m pretty sure that since the very first day my mom and dad brought me home from the hospital, my big sister Debbie has been trying to boss me around.  As the typical ‘oldest child’, she likes to be in charge.  As a result, she seems a bit annoyed every time I suggest that she is my ‘apprentice’ in the furniture workshop!  Nonetheless, I am proud of her work on the hutch that she completed under my tutelage (LOL, she’s not going to like that!  It’s true though.)

Debbie needed a small china cupboard for her new apartment.  She left her old one behind in New Jersey because it had seen better days and it didn’t fit in the truck.  I assured her that we could find something cheap on craigslist and make it fabulous.  So one Saturday morning about a month ago, we sat down at the computer and found a sweet little Duncan Phyfe style piece for a mere $80!

china cupboard before

It wasn’t in bad shape, just a little dated in appearance.  The curved glass on the middle section is quite lovely.  Debbie likes the simple lines of this piece.  I tried to sell her on something with a little more detail on the top, but she liked this better.

So we unloaded it into my workshop and she got started.  She removed all of the hardware and sanded lightly.  I cautioned her against over-sanding because this looked like it could be a bleeder.  And sure enough it was.  When you have a piece that has orange or red stain that bleeds, you want to maintain the original varnish as much as possible to keep the stain sealed in.  Your next option is to re-seal it with shellac or the Tough Coat Sealer.  In the end, Debbie was able to get by with just a couple spots of sealer needed on the outside, which she painted in Annie Sloan’s French Linen.  The inside was a different story.  That required two coats of sealer to keep the stain from bleeding through the Fusion Lamp White that she used there.  We also ended up removing the back to make it easier to paint the inside.  It also made it easier for Ken to repair one of the glass stops that wasn’t holding the glass in place properly.

china cupboard after

So much better, right?  By the way, Debbie calls it a ‘china closet’.  I suspect this might be an east coast thing.  I’ve always called these china cupboards, or hutches.  What do you call them?

And FYI, I thought I’d leave all of the reflections in the glass rather than erasing them with some editing software.  It makes for a fun detective project to figure out what you can see reflected there.  The turquoise t-shirt and white shorts?  That’s me.  You can also see Debbie texting, my old car (I just got a new one this week!), the carriage house … and more!

I hoped that Debbie would take my suggestion and add a stencil to her cabinet, and she did.  The “Family and Friends gather here” stencil seemed particularly perfect for a china cupboard.

china cupboard stencil

Debbie finished the piece using my custom blended dark wax.

She spent nearly as much on paint products as she did on the cupboard itself.  The Annie Sloan paint was $40, the Fusion paint was $20 and the Tough Coat Sealer was around $15.  But she has more than enough of each of them left to paint some chairs for her dining table … her next project.  And even at $155 this was a bargain.

Didn’t she do a great job?  She should let me boss her around more often, don’t you agree?!

29 thoughts on “my big sister’s china closet.

  1. It’s beautiful and a love the color and the stencil. I’ve never heard it called a china closet. I’ve always called them china cabinet or china hutch depending on the style. Whatever you call it it is a really pretty piece.


  2. It’s beautiful! How funny to learn there are so many different names for this piece of furniture. Like Becky, I say china cabinet or hutch–perhaps another reason I’m instantly spotted as not being from the East Coast by people I meet out here!


  3. Here in the Deep South we call them simply a china short for China cabinet. The china (dishes) is what you put your food on for special occasions. So we put our china in the china. So we say ” go look in the china for the buttah dish”. What you purchased for your dining room that is a hutch from this regions point of view. Never heard of China closet but dang that is an endearing term. Sis did a wonderful job under your tutelage. And you know Duncan Phyfe pieces are a favorite of mine.
    So pretty bet she could sell it for a handsome price.


    1. LOL … I can just hear that in my head, said in a very southern accent! I did suggest to my sis that she could sell this one and then do another one for herself, but she wanted no part of that. After all of that work, she definitely wanted to keep it. I have a feeling she is not going to follow in my footsteps.


  4. Thanks everyone and I let my lil sis boss me around or at least take her advice when I know she knows what she is talking about. She’s the true professional in this skill. And I love how it turned out. All my china looks gorgeous in it. it is white with silver trim and little pink and blue flowers. The stencil was a great add on.


  5. Debbie, you did a knock-out job on this china (I’ve always perceived a hutch to be a more informal piece). You were fortunate to have such a skilled painted-furniture sherpa to guide you through this piece. Otherwise, like me and left to your own devices, you may have become frustrated on such a large piece and never finished. You definitely have a keeper! The tinted wax gives the color a lovely patina, and the stencil gives it a personality lift. What a wonderful new piece of furniture to build a room around. You must be very excited!


    1. I’m with you Kim, a hutch is usually more informal to me as well. And now I know that my new hutch can also be called a Welsh cupboard. I have to say that I often get a laugh out of the different ways people describe their furniture on craigslist ads. One of my all time favorites was an ad for a dressing table where they called it a “powdering table”.


  6. I am in Missouri and my mom always called it a china hutch if it had drawers and a china cabinet it if it was just glass doors. Whatever you call it, it turned out fab!


  7. Wow…good for you Deb…looks fantastic AND you did it yourself, even if you did get a little help from your sister. Never too old to learn new things and this really looks great. Perfect size for your place too. I have to say I would refer to it as china hutch too…


  8. I am an east coast transplant living here in MN, and I call mine a china closet. Although I may have picked up that term from my husband, who is a Minnesotan. We have been married so long that I don’t remember my life before.

    Anyway, it is fun to see her finished china closet since we were both working on ours at the same time. I love the French Linen color. I did mine in Paris Gray on the outside, and tried to use the Fusion Casement on the inside, but ended up mixing up some pale chalk paint just to make sure I got coverage before I ran out of paint. I didn’t bother to wax; I just burnished it really well and put my dishes back.

    Tell your sister that she did a great job. I will bet she is hooked on painting now.


    1. I’m pretty sure that ‘china closet’ is east coast. I didn’t find any locals here in MN that called it that. I think in the end my sister thinks it’s a lot of work to paint furniture. You probably know from working on your own piece how much work this was. She doesn’t seem to be jumping in to another painting project!


  9. what a beautiful piece!!! Love, Love the French Linen from Annie Sloan. I have a piece I need to do something to and want to use Annie Sloan chalk paint but not sure if it is varnished or stained. It looks glossy on the sides but the front looks stained. Any help from you or your lil sis would be grateful. How do I determine if it is varnished or stained? I do love the stencil really good touch. Like that!!! Good job


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