A Vintage Buffet Makeover – Modernizing an Antique Credenza


A vintage buffet you may have inherited from your grandparent is a valuable piece no less than art.

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 a vintage buffet, 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…

Check 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.

Changing anything about the furniture could lower its value – at least in terms of money – if you do it incorrectly.

But if you’re trying to sell a piece that has sentimental value to you, making careful alterations like stripping or painting might make more sense than keeping it as-is.

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.

a) Scratches

The scratches on the buffet could come from using it regularly or moving it. 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 keep refinishing the buffet.

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.

c) Drawers that Need Cleaning and Repairs

Over time, the drawers on vintage pieces generally become beaten up.

Depending on your level of skill and expertise, you might be able to easily clean, repair, and make them functional again.

Even if you’re not confident in your ability to make significant repairs, some research and elbow grease may allow you to solve the issue yourself.

If needed, find a woodworker or a carpenter who can help repair the doors or dovetailed drawers of your buffet. They can also help make a new one if they find it 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.

Before taking any steps to refinish the wood and get a new color, you should ensure that the damage isn’t too extensive.

If it is, you might want to visit a professional and get their opinion on the best way to proceed.

If the water damage is superficial and you think you can do the fix in a DIY way, you can sand it down and repaint or re-stain the wood.

Refinishing and Modernizing an Antique Buffet

Refinishing your old dining room buffet into a more trendy one can be a fun and rewarding experience.

And it’s a great way to 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

The first step is to remove the hardware, doors, and drawers.

Be careful not to strip the screws when removing the hardware – you will need these again.

Gather all the pieces, including any screws that may have come loose, and set them aside in a safe place.

They will need to be cleaned with a gentle soap-and-water mixture later on.

Step 2- Clean the Buffet Nicely from Inside and Out

To ensure your buffet is appropriately clean, don’t forget to clean every nook and cranny 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).

Doing so will remove any dirt, grime, or musty smells from the entire piece.

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 finish remover around, including all the smaller or more detailed spaces like spindle decorations.

Once you use a remover, gunk will develop on the buffet surface. Use a plastic scraper to remove it.

Many other paint-stripping products can do this, but it will take some time, along with elbow and grease, especially if you have a thick finish that’s years old.

Step 4- Allow the Buffet to Dry and Clean the Hardware in the Meantime

You need to let the wood dry off entirely after removing the old paint or stain before continuing any work on the buffet.

While the wood is drying, take this chance to clean the hardware you removed earlier.

In most cases, your dish soap in the kitchen and some warm water should suffice to eliminate all dirt and grease buildup on the hardware.

Step 5- Inspect Closely, Lightly Sand if Required, and Apply the Finish

Once your buffet has dried, look closely for any gouges or raised areas that require sanding.

If it does, use low-grit sandpaper to even out the surface. Wipe away any dust that develops during this process with a tack cloth.

After that, it’s time to add new paint, stain, or varnish to the buffet. The wood stain is the best option to retain the original wood color.

But if you want to give the buffet a new look with paint such as chalk or milk paint, now’s your chance!

Choose a versatile, understated color for your buffet to fit into any room 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 these at any hardware store.

Step 6- Attach the Hardware and Reinsert the Drawers and Doors

Now that the new finish is dry, reattach the hardware (use screws if you stripped them earlier).

Then reinsert the drawers and doors back into the buffet.

You’re finished! You can now style your buffet with any decor you choose.

Painted Buffets Ideas to Inspire Your Next DIY Project

The contradictory styles of yesterday and today are among the most popular schemes sought-after presently. Classic style never actually leaves fashion.

A solid color 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.

2. A classic white buffet (painted with chalk paint) can brighten up any room and make it feel more open and airy.

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 can 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. If you are looking for a great way to make a statement in your home – try pure black.

A modern buffet like the one shown here can give your dining 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, 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 it 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 – have a look at my inspiring ideas above once more – before you start working on your buffet makeover project.

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