A vintage buffet you may have inherited from your grandparent is a valuable piece no less than art – in fact, it’s a family treasure that tells a story.
And like any good family story, it may need a little bit of modernizing from time to time.
But before you put any time or effort into redecorating your antique buffet piece, you should consider the style of the piece and whether it will fit in with your home’s aesthetic.
A classic buffet is likely quite different from a modern one, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before beginning any work.
This blog post will show you a few ways to modernize a vintage buffet, keeping the piece’s integrity while adding its unique charm and style.
Also, I will discuss a few issues you may generally find on these types of antique pieces and the fixes that should be done to make them look new again.
So, let’s start without any delay…
Checking the Buffet for the Damage
When refinishing an old antique buffet (or just any antique furniture piece, for that matter), it’s difficult to make choices, given the number of available options.
If a piece has sentimental value to you, making careful alterations like stripping or painting might make more sense than keeping it as-is.
But if you do it incorrectly, changing anything about the furniture could lower its value – at least in terms of money when you are trying to sell.
So, before you proceed, check the amount of damage to the piece, the time it will require to fix it, and the efforts you will be willing to put in.
The scratches on the buffet could come from using it regularly or moving it from one room to other. Occasionally, sanding the wood down or filling in the scratch marks with a wood filler will fix them.
Gouges and divots can also be fixed in a way that’s similar to repairing scratches.
Depending on the depth, you might need wood putty or filler. Once it’s filled, sand it down and refinish the buffet (more on how to do it correctly in a minute).
b) Broken or missing hardware
While some hardware can be repaired, others cannot be; you may have to consider replacing the hardware if you cannot find replicas of the original.
If that’s the case, check antique shops or secondhand stores-you might get lucky and find what you’re looking for.
Getting similar hardware pieces will help keep up the design and the sentimental value of the furniture.
c) Drawers that need cleaning and repairs
Over time, the drawers and doors on vintage pieces generally become beaten up.
Depending on your level of skill and expertise, you might be able to clean, repair, and make them functional again easily.
If you’re not confident in your ability to make significant repairs, find a woodworker or a carpenter who can help repair the doors or dovetailed drawers of your buffet.
They can also help replace the damaged pieces if they find them irreparable.
d) Water damage and worn-off colors
Water damage is one of the most common issues on an old buffet in your kitchen or dining room.
But before taking any steps to fix the wood and get a new color, you should ensure that the damage isn’t too extensive.
If the water damage is superficial and you think you can do the fix DIY, you can sand it down to repaint or re-stain the wood further.
However, if it is damaged beyond your scope of repair, you might want to visit a professional and get their opinion on the best way to proceed.
Refinishing and Modernizing an Antique Buffet
Refinishing your old dining room buffet into a trendier one can be a fun and rewarding experience that will help add character to your home while keeping the piece’s original charm.
To do it right, here’s a step by step instructions you can follow when getting started…
Step 1- Remove the drawers, doors, and hardware
While removing the hardware, doors, and drawers, be careful not to strip the screws – you will need them again.
Gather all the pieces, including any screws that may have come loose, and set them aside in a safe place after cleaning with a gentle soap-and-water mixture.
Step 2- Clean the buffet nicely from inside and out
People often mistake just cleaning the visible surface area, but it’s important to remember that the entire piece of furniture needs to be cleaned.
This includes wiping the buffet’s top, sides, back, and underside (including where the drawers fit) to remove any dirt, grime, or musty smell from the entire piece.
Don’t forget to clean every nook and cranny inside and out, especially if your buffet has some carved, bent, rounded, or decorative edges.
Step 3- Remove any existing finish like paint or varnish
The next step is removing any varnish, paint, and stain on the buffet.
Depending on your buffet’s style, you may start with a small brush in areas to spread the chemical-based finish remover around, including all the smaller or more detailed spaces like spindle decorations.
Once you apply a chemical remover, gunk will develop on the buffet surface – use a plastic scraper to remove it.
Depending on the paint-stripping products and the years-old thick finish, the process might take some time, along with elbow and grease. So, be patient while performing this step.
Step 4- Inspect closely, lightly sand if required
Once the old finish is removed from your buffet, let the wood dry off entirely.
After a couple of hours, look closely for any gouges or raised areas that require sanding.
If it does, use low-grit sandpaper to even out the buffet surface while wiping away any dust that develops during the process with a tack cloth.
Step 5- Apply the finish and attach the hardware
It’s time to add new paint, stain, or varnish to the buffet.
In my opinion, the wood stain is the best option to retain the original wood color of an antique credenza. But if you wanted to give it a new distressed look with paints such as chalk or milk paint, now’s your chance.
Choose a versatile, understated color for your buffet to fit into the room style you choose – you can always repaint it later if you decide on a different location.
After your paint or stain, putting a clear varnish or sealer on top is reasonable to protect it. You can find them at any hardware store in the form of easy-to-spray aerosol bottles.
Once the new finish is dry, reattach the hardware (use screws if you stripped them earlier), and reinsert the drawers and doors back into the buffet.
You’re finished with the job. You can now style your buffet with any decor and accessories you choose.
Painted Buffets Ideas to Inspire Your Next DIY Project
The contradictory styles of yesterday are among the most popular schemes sought-after presently – believe me, classic style never actually leaves fashion.
Solid stain colors will always match any other colors in your room, with painting being the second-best option for those who don’t believe the two styles can merge correctly.
For some inspiration and motivation to get started on your DIY project, here are some painted buffet ideas I have found on Pinterest to share with you:
1. A two-tone buffet can bring a classic and modern feel to your dining room.
It’s definitely a great way to revamp an old buffet you have had for years. Don’t believe my words, check here how it looks…
2. A classic white buffet (painted with chalk paint) can brighten up any room and make it feel more open and airy.
See how the beautiful old-style buffet with rounded legs and bronze-colored hardware matches perfectly well with off-white chalk paint.
3. A colorful solid green buffet can add a fun pop of color to any space.
The victorian style below is a great way to show your personality in your home.
4. A rustic blue buffet with greenery and wicker baskets give your dining room a warm and inviting feeling.
This piece by salvaged inspirations is a great way to use an old piece of furniture just the right way.
5. Try pure black if you are looking for a great way to make a statement in your home – black never goes out of style.
A modern buffet (with black finish and gold hardware) like the one shown here can give your room a sleek and stylish look without investing much time, effort, and dollars.
The Bottom Line
Over time, wear and tear will fade the colors on your vintage buffet. But refinishing it is not as simple as just adding a new coat of stain or paint.
Before you start, you need to consider your surroundings and what kind of style would fit in best. Is it better to just clean and refinish the wood or get new paint for a color change?
Also, consider whether you plan on using your antique credenza for your home or reselling it.
Lastly, decide if it will stay as a buffet or become something else, like a vanity in a bathroom.
Once you have decided on all these factors and more – have a look at my inspiring ideas above once more – before you start working on your buffet makeover project.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.