Project 5: Refinishing Furniture with Minwax Polyshades

When we first moved into our home, the nursery looked like this: Before_House_Shot_0052 We then turned the room into a guest room, by basically adding a bed and some paint.  But let’s be honest–as any of our guests can attest to, the room was never really finished.  Sorry guests! So when we decided to turn this room into the nursery, we started with this:

And while I like the functionality of the built-ins and someday when the kids are older, it will be nice to have the desks and whatnot, I currently can’t stand the way they look.  The woods are all different shades!

And while we’re being honest, it’s not even really all wood. The countertop is actually a laminate, and the rest are all veneers. So, what was I to do? I could rip it out, but then we’d have a flooring issue since these are original to the house and so there are no wood floors underneath. I could paint it all, but that would take forever and remember: I was preggo at the time I tackled this project; I could sand and stain it all to try and match the laminate, but again: preggo and not interested in a ton of work. So what did I decide? To do a sort of mix: paint the shelves and trim, and then use a cheater method to stain the cabinets and drawers to match the countertop.  First up, priming and painting the shelves and trim (I used Kilz latex primer and Sherwin Williams Pro Classic color-matched to Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White).

  

Once the first coat of paint was on, then I caulked around all the edges. Then did the final coat of paint.  The next step was tackling the drawers and doors. I didn’t feel like sanding them down so that I could stain and seal them. Just too much work. So I decided to take yet another page out of the Young House Love handbook and try Minwax Polyshades.  Remember when YHL used this method to do their new kitchen’s lower cabinets?

My goal was to have the cabinets match the color of the laminate top. So I took some pics of the top with my phone and headed off to Lowe’s.

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There, I picked up some steel wool (per the directions on the Minwax can) and a can of Minwax Polyshades in Tudor, Satin finish (the same as YHL since it actually seemed that color would be a close match).   Once home, I then took all the hardware off the cabinets and drawers and used the steel wool all over everything. Then wiped it all down with a damp cloth.  I don’t have any pictures of these steps. Sorry. I then applied my first coat of the Polyshades. I bought a new paintbrush for this since it’s oil-based and I planned to just throw away the brush when I was done.  I found that this stuff goes on extremely sticky and it’s hard to get it to not show brush strokes. Even with a light hand. And even harder to get an even coat.  So be warned–it probably worked so well for YHL because they made their cabinets super dark. I’m not so sure this would look particularly good in a lighter color.  I started by doing the insides of the cabinet doors, just so I could get the hang of it before tackling parts that would actually be showing.  And I did get better at applying it. It took me only about 15 minutes to do the insides of the cabinets and all 12 drawer fronts (to allow for drying, my plan was to tackle the insides of the cabinets first and let those completely dry before moving on to the outside of the cabinets).  This stuff also royally stinks, so make sure you’ve got adequate ventilation.  Well, after one coat (and one day of drying time since dry and wet did look different), I found that the color was all wrong. The laminate top had way more red in it and the Tudor was definitely more of a chocolate brown.  Here’s a shot of one of the inside of the doors after one coat of Tudor:

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And here’s another phone shot of the laminate top (this time it looks totally different than before, right? Dang iPhone):

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See how it’s way more red? So I headed to Home Depot this time, where I discovered that HD carried an entirely different set of colors of Polyshades than Lowe’s. Not sure what that’s all about. But I ended up buying American Chestnut:  

My plan at that point (since I already had one coat done in the Tudor) was to just do my final coat in the American Chestnut. I figured that the blend of the two would be a close-enough match to the laminate top.  Following the instructions, I then rubbed my first coat down with more steel wool, and wiped it all down to remove any dust.  I then proceeded with applying the chestnut. I found the key was to get a decent amount in the brush, and apply it over the whole piece quickly. Then immediately go back and do long brush strokes with the grain from end to end. However, even with my technique perfected, I still found that the Polyshades went on smoother in some places than others. Here’s a pic of two drawers as an example:

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I finished the drawers first since they only had one side. I decided to keep the original hardware since the size was pretty unique and I couldn’t find a replacement I liked. Plus, being the lazy preggo woman that I was, I didn’t feel like going with a different size and then having to patch the old holes and drill new ones. Plus, brass is making a comeback these days, right?

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  From a distance, I think it looks pretty good and is a vast improvement over where it started.

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But close-up, well, let’s just say it’s not the best. It didn’t come out nearly as well as Mini B’s dresser.

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So if you want to use this on an heirloom or quality piece of furniture, then my advice? Don’t. Instead, take the time to actually sand it down and apply stain. Even if it is just veneer.  But, if it’s a piece you don’t really care about, and/or you’re looking for a quick fix, then this is the ticket. Although, while the application of the product goes quickly, with drying time it is still a multi-day affair.

And so this is where the nursery stood when Baby B made his debut:

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Now that he’s been around for two months, it’s probably about time that I get on finishing this room already.  Stay tuned . . .

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