First find the right piece, then paint to taste

DESIGN LINE

September 17, 1995|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: Inspired by one of your columns on painted furniture, I decided to try my hand at painting a piece. First, I bought a couple of how-to books. But after several weeks of searching, I've still not been able to find the right kind of furniture. I'm looking for a tall chest of drawers that can be placed in the dining room for storing linens and silver.

Can you tell me where to find this sort of unpainted piece? Or might you suggest another type of furniture that could serve the same purpose?

A: I'm glad you bought the how-to books because I've actually never painted any furniture myself. I'm much more experienced in locating new pieces of unfinished furniture as well as used pieces that can be stripped and then painted.

I'm actually a bit surprised that you've not found a suitable chest in some furniture store or second-hand shop. Most cities have several outlets where such discoveries can be made. The problem might be that a chest of drawers simply isn't available in the height you're seeking. Have you considered buying a two-part piece, or maybe even a relatively short chest of drawers that could be placed on a base of some kind? As a last resort, you could retain the services of a cabinetmaker. If your budget doesn't permit that option, I urge you to look around again -- this time with a more flexible set of criteria.

With an imaginative outlook, you can devise creative solutions such as the one presented in the photo. Talk about ideas! New York designer Celeste Cooper worked wonders with this storage unit as part of her design for a client's dining room. She began with an unpainted and unfinished piece made of birch that was then placed on a stand and treated with natural finish and ebony accents.

New hardware and that delightful tassel were the touches that completed the transformation of a boring piece of furniture.

If you're feeling truly adventuresome and ambitious, you could go even further with your own creation. First, though, you'll at least have to get another how-to book, and you might ultimately need to consult a specialized painter.

But since you seem like a person who's not afraid to experiment, how about trying to produce some dramatic faux effect such as wood graining or marble veining? Once you become adept at this, you'll be able to make the top of the chest resemble ivory or a precious stone such as malachite.

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