the hutch that took forever.

I’ve mentioned once or twice before that Mr. Q and I like to go on Friday date nights.  Only our Friday date nights involve driving across town to pick up a piece of furniture.  We both really enjoy spending that time together.  But one evening last June I decided to invite my sister along for the ride.

We were driving all the way up to Cambridge, Minnesota to pick up a hutch that I had found on Craigslist.  Cambridge is about an hour north of me.  Normally I wouldn’t go that far for something, but it was a great deal on a lovely china cupboard.  Plus, it was a beautiful summer Saturday evening that was perfect for a drive.  The sellers told me they lived on Spectacle Lake and it was a beautiful area, so I immediately knew that my sister would enjoy coming along to see the scenery.

When we arrived at the appointed address we discovered that it was an old 40’s lakeside resort that is no longer functioning as a resort.  The sellers told us that they’ve been living in one of the old cabins as caretakers of the property, but now the property is being sold, the old cabins will be torn down and replaced with McMansion lake homes.  I’m always a bit bummed out by stories like these.  Those old cabins with their knotty pine walls and screen doors that make a slapping sound when they close have so much charm.

 I really wish I’d brought my camera so I could share some photos!  But I didn’t, so I’ll just borrow one from pinterest to set the atmosphere.

After taking a little tour of the vintage cabin, we loaded up the hutch and before we drove away we asked for a dinner recommendation.  The sellers recommended a local place that had fresh fish and a decent patio, so we stopped off and had a delicious dinner before heading home with this in the back of our truck.

That was way back in July.  So what happened between July and November?

Well, I started out planning to paint this piece grey.  I have a customer who had mentioned that she wishes she’d bought the French hutch that I had at my sale last year, and said if I ever found another like it she’d love to have it.  So my plan was to do a similar treatment on this one.

But that plan required being able to remove the fretwork behind the glass.  And well … you know what they say about the best laid plans.

First of all, I didn’t notice until I took a closer look at this piece that the two narrow sides don’t open.  Not the top glass ‘doors’, nor the bottom ‘doors’.  I guess you wouldn’t really call them ‘doors’ at all, they are just stationary panels.  So I couldn’t get to that fretwork from the front.  OK, so next I removed the back of the cupboard.  I figured I could then remove the shelves and easily get to the fretwork from the back.  Um, nope.  The shelves are firmly glued in place.

Then I asked Ken to come over to consult.  He strongly recommended that I find a way to live with leaving the fretwork in place.

I still didn’t want to let my initial vision for the piece go, so I went ahead and painted one coat of grey.  Then two months went by.  I kept procrastinating and feeling guilty for not finishing the hutch, but I couldn’t bring myself to work on it.  Finally I realized what the underlying cause of my procrastination was.  The grey just wasn’t working with the brown wood of the fretwork, and that was keeping me from finishing the job.

So I pulled out my Annie Sloan chalk paint in Coco, a much better color choice with the wood fretwork.  I added a coat of Coco over the gray and realized it was just what I needed.  Once the paint was dry I started to sand the piece to distress the edges and quickly realized that the undercoat of grey was showing wherever I sanded in a way I also didn’t like.

Ugh.  I’d have to add another coat of Coco.  Frustration kicked in yet again and another couple of weeks went by.

With winter weather looming, and a trip to Disney World coming up, I knew I needed to get my act together and get this piece finished.  It’s really too big to work on in the house.  Plus I wanted to use up some Annie Sloan wax that I had on hand and I won’t use that product indoors.

So a few weeks ago when the forecast called for sunny and a high of 75 I took a day off at the day job to just get this hutch finished!

I have to tell you guys, the entire time I was waxing this piece I was cursing my decision to use the chalk paint.  It would have been so much easier to just use Fusion’s Algonquin.  It’s very similar to the Coco and I wouldn’t have had to wax it.

What was I thinking?  I’ll tell you what I was thinking, I wanted to just use up the Annie Sloan products that I had on hand rather than go buy some Algonquin.  Such a foolish choice.  It would have been worth every penny to just buy a pint of Algonquin.

Well, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.  But now the labor is behind me and this hutch really turned out lovely.

I made a lot of decisions while working on this one.  The first was to stencil the inside back with a French poem.  Since I had the back off anyway, I figured I might as well go for it.  It was a simple detail to add before putting the back on again.

I painted the panel with two coats of the Coco, then stenciled it with an acrylic craft paint.  Once dry, I waxed it with Annie Sloan wax and then put it back on.  I think it adds a great little subtle detail even though it will be mostly hidden behind the contents of the cabinet.

I also added some ‘grain sack’ liners behind the glass on either side of the hutch.  These are just some strips of fabric that I stenciled with “1918”.  They are just tacked into place, so the future owner of the hutch can opt to remove them if they prefer.

I swapped out all of the knobs on this one for vintage brass knobs that I thought suited it better.

So, a mere 4 months later, this piece is finally done!

 It’s such a pretty china cupboard, perfect for displaying a non-collection of ironstone or possibly your grandmother’s china.  Or for a little less traditional look, it could be filled up with books.

This hutch is available for sale locally while it lasts.  If interested, be sure to check my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details.


40 thoughts on “the hutch that took forever.

  1. It looks wonderful! I love the French writing in the background. Great attention to detail. I bet you are glad to have it done:)


  2. Loved your post, so sad that the cute cabins are being torn down. Hopefully some of the door, and wood can be saved. Oh by the way the hutch is stunning!!


    1. Thanks Pamela! I hope they do salvage something from the cabins! I am always a little bummed when places with some history behind them are bulldozed for new construction.


  3. One of your prettiest pieces to date! And that is really saying something. I especially love the poem. So beautiful. You have a gift for choosing color and details ! Great job.


  4. Oh I understand exactly what you mean 😱 When I am doing a project and it’s not going to plan I’m reluctant to continue but eventually do. I’m working on a little cabinet at the moment and I finished it with Annie Sloan dark wax, big big mistake I put too much on and it now looks awful!!!! I’ve tried to remove the wax but now I’m going to have to start all over again 😪😪 x


  5. It turned out beautiful! And I understand the need to get ‘er done and move it out of the garage for the car (oh, is that what garages are for??). Right now, I’m looking for a home for a beauty of a pump organ. Any takers out there? Yep, my car is wanting ‘in’ like yours, Linda!


    1. Yep, the snow is coming! And I have the added problem that my car windows freeze shut if they get wet and then we get freezing temps. This wouldn’t be such a big problem, except that with a convertible the windows need to lower a tad to clear the seal with the top and they can’t do that if they are frozen shut. That’s probably TMI, but yes, my car definitely needed to get inside for winter! A pump organ huh? I feel like there must be more to that story …


      1. I bought it locally at a garage sale. The owner had moved it from Texas and then discovered she didn’t have room for it in her new home. It’s actually quite compact, not very deep, but deserves to have enough space to show it off. It’s beautiful and actually works. I can see it as a dual bar, as there’s room for wine bottles and glasses, even as you play music! It doesn’t need refinishing and is gorgeous, as is. I’m just not ready to tear it apart to repurpose it and would rather someone enjoy it in their home as a statement piece (or to play and sip wine at). If I had room, I’d keep it! Do you have any leads for me? 🙂


      2. I wish I did have a lead for you, but unfortunately no. That’s definitely one of those pieces that are super unique and cool, but you have to find just the right buyer. Someone with the vision to understand how amazing it would be in their home. I love the idea of using it as a bar. And I’ve seen a few organs turned into desks that are pretty fab. But I totally understand your desire to not dismantle it just yet. Hopefully you’ll find someone who can appreciate it as is.


    1. If I was keeping this piece for myself I’d definitely say it was worth the extra effort, but since I’ll be trying to sell it I’m not so sure. I’ll never be able to sell it for enough money to justify the amount of time spent on it. But … what can you do? I’ll be smarter next time and check details like whether or not fretwork can be removed before I bring a piece home!


  6. Wonderful transformation. I’ve never been wild about the Annie Sloan’s Coco, but you just made me do an about face on that! Did you add dark wax or just the regular wax? The hutch has class and the color has a depth to it. I love that you did the poem to the back. And I wish the old campground could have remained. Reminds me of the movie Dirty Dancing, sort of. Well now you can move on to projects that make you hop out of bed and grab a paintbrush.


    1. When I first saw Coco in the can I thought to myself ‘who in their right mind would paint anything in a washed out brown?!’, but then I saw it on a piece of furniture and it was gorgeous. It especially pairs well with wood (like on this dresser and on this desk, both with a wood top and Coco body). I knew the Coco color would work well with the wood fretwork. I did just use the regular wax which added just enough richness to the color. And we must be kindred spirits, because you are exactly right about moving on to projects that make me want to hop out of bed and grab a paintbrush. Totally!


  7. Ok, after reading the story behind the project and seeing the before picture I was shocked to see the “reveal”. It may have taken 4 months to finish but it is beautiful. I kept thinking there is no way that stained fretwork is going to look good with a painted cabinet. Wrong! It turned out perfect. Wish I had a place for it. Great job.


    1. It was a struggle finding a way to make that fretwork work, it definitely did not look good with the pale grey! But I’d paired Coco with wood finishes before and I knew they made a great combination. The fact that I happened to already have an almost full can on hand helped too!


  8. You have inspired me to try Fusion paint! Sometimes at the end of a big project the last thing I feel like doing is waxing…This turned out beautiful!


    1. I hear that Bonna! I try to always use Fusion on the insides of cabinets now, to avoid having to wax those areas and also because it’s fully washable once cured, which is great for shelves. But after waxing both the inside and outside of this cabinet I have decided from now on all of my larger, more complicated pieces need to be painted with Fusion! When I say ‘more complicated’ I’m referring to all of the angles, details, nooks & crannies, etc on this piece that had to be waxed. It would have been so much easier with Fusion!


  9. I love the hutch! Wish I lived closer to buy it! I used Coco on a nightstand for my daughter and used Scandinavian Pink on the drawer. I was so happy with the way it turned out! I would also like to respond to ‘Joni’ who was commenting about her pump organ. I have a friend who lives in the Minneapolis area who may be interested. He is both an organist and a classy decorator. Is there some contact info I can give him?


    1. I bet that was a gorgeous color combo! I’ll email both you and Joni so you have each other’s contact info! How fun if your friend ended up with the organ!


  10. I hate those nightmare pieces! This hutch turned out absolutely lovely! I have to say, that it is a toss up over which piece I like better. You have such a great insight. I would have never thought to put fabric panels in place. I love them and the back panel is a wonderful addition with the french print! I love this piece!


  11. Absolutely beautiful. I love the added detail of the French poem. Ooh la la! Some lucky person will snatch that piece right up.


  12. The hutch turned out beautiful. You always surprise with your clever ideas. I have to say, I’m glad you couldn’t get the fretwork out because the contrast is stunning. I haven’t tried Fusion paints yet but I think it’s about time I do because I’m so over waxing pieces when I’m done painting.


    1. Yep, I’m kind of over the whole waxing thing too. Although I still love the look of a waxed finish, and I also love how easy it is to fix future flaws on a waxes piece (just sand them out a little and re-wax). But boy, it is a lot of work on a big piece like this one. I’ll still wax smaller pieces, or unfinished wood tops (I just love that look, and I have another of these coming up next week). But I prefer to use hemp oil or the Real Milk Paint Co’s finishing cream on painted surfaces lately.


  13. It’s gorgeous with all the details you added. Sad to hear about the demolition to make way for McMansions. We have the same thing happening at the lake I’ve gone to since my childhood up in northern MN.


  14. Your hard work paid off because that is one gorgeous cabinet. I’m trying really hard not to think of those charming cabins. To end on a happy note, hope you get a quick sale!


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