Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

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How-To Redo :: I Hate HGTV

Admittedly, I am no great organizer.  My MIL and SIL seem to be experts in home organization, but I inherited my own mother’s knack for piling papers, making the house seem orderly and praying that no one opens the cabinets.  One place that I couldn’t hide the clutter was my younger son’s room.  He’s 15 months old and his room exploded after his first birthday.

I ignored the cheap options at the national retailers, considered the trek to IKEA for a nice, no-personality shelf, and then somehow got ensnared in the HGTV mirage of home decorating.

You know what I mean: You turn on a show where a married couple whine about their lack of home personality, and some HGTV decorator gurus totally make over 1-2 rooms in 2 days, all while wearing smiles, designer clothes and no dust or paint marks on their hands.  Pa-Leeze!

But when I needed some toddler toy storage, I thought a good furniture makeover would be just the thing for my life.  Because, you know, parenting 2 kids, working from home and getting a tonsillectomy aren’t enough.  We don’t have any extra furniture lying around and I didn’t dare ask my grandma for anything because then she’ll make me take 6 giant pieces of furniture out of her den, and I’m still trying to make her hear “No thanks” to the offer of her 1500-lb. organ.  Anyway…

I head a few miles up the street to Room Service.  It’s a local furniture consignment store and one of my favorite places in town.  Why buy new when you can buy nice stuff for less, or old stuff for cheap?  On my first go, I found the perfect credenza.  It had 4 doors that closed with magnets, so my little guy could open them himself.  The top is low enough to store toys on top and in reach, and is also low enough that he won’t perish when he eventually climbs on top and falls off.  It’s perfect, but I’m not ready to bite at the price.

Three weeks later I go back and the credenza is still there!  It is now reduced in price a bit.  I pay $85 for it and ask Jake to pick it up on his way home.  I could hear the excitement in his voice.  Well maybe not excitement so much as apathetic resignation toward my idea.

Here’s the old cabinet in all its glory.  I like the handles and it’s solidly built.

Once the cabinet is home, I realize something that wasn’t evident in the store:  The inside smells like cat pee.  There is almost nothing worse than this smell.  Luckily, I’ve already agreed with Jake’s suggestion to sand and prime it, and the primer will seal away any smells.  I wash it down with disinfectant just to be sure.

Besides cleaning, step 1 is to take off all the hardware.

And then sand.  I used 150-grit sandpaper with an electric sander, and did the curved base piece and indented trim by hand.

I primed the whole thing with Kilz, which is good for locking smells (stupid cats) and for covering the dark wood stain so my paint color will be pure.  Kilz is kind of a pain to work with–I find it to be drippy and it tends to leave deep brush strokes.  Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but anyway it’s still worth it.  After priming the cabinet, I knocked down the brush strokes with 220-grit sandpaper.  Note: You can only sand oil-based primer. Wear a dust mask for this step.  Fine, sticky white dust in your lungs = ew.

Bob the Builder was a great help.

Be sure to dust everything off very well before painting.  I used an air compressor stream and then a damp, lint-free cloth.

Now it’s time for paint.

The color?  Guacamole by Olympic in high gloss finish.  When I opened the lid of this bad boy I had the urge for a margarita, and I mean that in a good way.  I love color!

I used a trim brush to paint the curved base of the credenza as well as raised pieces of trim on the cabinet and frames.  A small foam roller provided a smoother finish on all the flat surfaces.

See how stylish I am?  Eat your heart out, HGTV girl with designer jeans and blown-out hair.  Bandanas are making a come-back.

Notice that the door frames are empty in this painting picture.  That’s because the original black panels are removable.  After considering treatments for the inserts, I decided to cover the panels with fabric, and then Modge Podge over the fabric for a more durable finish.

It would be nice to have pictures of this sequence, but I did most of the work at 2am when I couldn’t sleep.  Jake woke up the next morning to find 3 loads of freshly folded laundry and a guest room smelling heavily of craft glue.  It was like nocturnal elves infiltrated our house during the night.  Guess what I watched while gluing down all this fabric?  HGTV.  They re-did a master bedroom, and I began having visions of sisal wallpaper and ridiculous wall sconce candles (who lights candles on the wall?  and don’t they leave soot residue after lots of use?) so I switched the channel to MTV’s 16 and Pregnant.  I love that show.  The first season’s Amber is from my home town.  That girl’s got some anger issues, but so do most people who live on the north side of Anderson, IN.  I’m from the south side.  Holla!

(I have no idea who this dude is. Hopefully I’m not susceptible to a drive-by for using this image).

Oh, were we talking about crafting some door panels?  Here’s a finished picture.  The stripes are for the outside of the doors and the blue with white airplanes is for the door interiors.

It seems like everything is coming together and I don’t like to skip the details.  All of that old brass hardware needs painted, and I choose Leather Brown gloss Krylon spray paint.  Jake gives me the awesome idea of sticking the screws in a piece of insulation foam so I can quickly paint the screw heads.

Lots of pieces.

So, so close to being finished.  And then of course a stupid thing happens.  I can’t get the hinges back on the doors because paint goo filled in the space.  A razor blade does the trick.

Jake helps me screw all those little hardware pieces back in and makes sure the doors line up and don’t scrape.  He’s handy like that.

Then badda-boom, badda-bang we heft this heavy sucker up 2 flights of stairs to the little Cheetah Boy’s room.

He doesn’t waste much time investigating this new contraption.

All in all I’m happy with the results, but can’t help questioning the amount of time spent on this project on top of the money.  I probably could have bought a decent IKEA cabinet for the same money and a 2-hour round-trip drive, but then I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of a one-of-a-kind piece.  Or the ability to someday say to my angst-ridden teen, “Do you see that cabinet?  I must love you a lot to make that for you!”

Now all I have to do is paint coordinating stripes on one wall, sew a pillow out of the cabinet fabric and braid a rug out of my own hair.  No, not really out of my own hair.  HGTV hasn’t pushed me that far.  Yet.

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Comments (13)

  1. Erin 09/14/2015 at 7:45 am

    Well, it looks gorgeous! You did a great job!

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  3. Vanessa Helmick 02/02/2011 at 5:39 pm

    I am interior designer, cannot stand HGTV, and you did an awesome job!

    • Erica Fehrman 02/02/2011 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks so much! I’m contemplating a kitchen cabinet makeover so we’ll see how THAT turns out 😀

  4. Kim Y. 01/05/2011 at 1:25 pm

    Great job & I love your commentating! So funny 🙂 Today I unearthed a circle shaped end table from probably about the 1970’s ? I bought 2 at a yard sale for $5 each about 15 years ago. Between 5 moves and 3 kids it got pushed aside. After reading your post I have the urge to attack it!

    • Erica Fehrman 01/05/2011 at 2:24 pm

      Awesome! January is a great time to renew your energy for those old projects. Good luck!

  5. Jody 11/03/2010 at 2:46 pm

    I knew you were a secret closet crafter! Nice job Erica!

  6. Raejean 11/01/2010 at 11:53 pm

    Your cabinet is very cool … but the time part scared me off from trying a big project like that myself. I guess my kids will be stuck with making do with hand me down furniture!

    • Anonymous 11/03/2010 at 2:18 pm

      If you buckle down you could probably do it in a week. It mostly takes lots of little bits of work while you wait for paint coats to dry. Let me know if you try it! 🙂

  7. Sbreuner 11/01/2010 at 9:09 pm

    This is awesome, you are a total superstar! My craftiness is limited to stickers and glitter glue, but I don’t know, this was pretty inspiring.

  8. Jen 11/01/2010 at 2:24 pm

    Erica, I love it! I love the striped fabric you used!

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  10. Anonymous 11/01/2010 at 12:21 pm

    You are hysterical! “Braid a rug out of my own hair”…you have lovely hair, it would be awesome.

    I agree that an IKEA trip would have been easier, but you did a fantastic job and I know you’ll be happier in the long run.

    And now you’ve inspired me…thanks for nothing. 😉