How to Paint an Antique Cupboard

Not unlike a treasure hunt, there is a thrill to finding
that perfect antique piece. Yet, when you find it, you may already be thinking about
the various ways to restore it to its original beauty and counteract the
ravages of countless years of neglect and decay.

One of the prized antique-quality pieces that people seek is
the stand-alone cupboard, which tends to evoke an era of core family values and
old-world charm. It is typically an impressive piece of craftsmanship, standing
tall and wide, with a bearing that signifies an understated pride in having
stored a family’s household belongings with dignity. Though its underlying
beauty remains, the overall distressed appearance, complete with faded paint
and chipped wood, brings forth compassion in the purchaser’s heart.

That is not to say that you would necessarily want to
restore the cupboard completely to its original glory, because the aging
process also adds charisma and contributes toward making the piece even more
distinguished. However, there is a point at which an antique cupboard becomes
depressingly weathered, at which point a fresh coat of paint, stain, glaze or
other treatment becomes necessary.

The key is to decide whether your goal is total restoration,
in the sense of making it look good as new,
or the pursuit of a more selective artistic renovation with a more nuanced
purpose of capturing the essence of its age by virtue of keeping and even accentuating
its imperfections. In fact, maybe the “imperfections” that have accrued over
time are really what give the piece its old-world charm. Is it really worth
restoring the cupboard to its original glory if all of those acquired
attributes are regarded as flaws to be edited out of existence? This type of
forethought and planning requires careful consideration, as it will influence
all of the decisions you make throughout the process.

The first step in the repainting process is to take a coarse
piece of sandpaper (40 or 50-grit for rougher looking projects and 60-120 for
less distressed pieces) in order to remove flaking paint and splintering wood.
Once the surface is relatively smooth, continue to prepare it by using finer
sandpaper (150-220) to get it ready to receive the first coat of paint. If you
are looking to simply polish the wood, then a grit designation of 320 and up is
preferable to make the wood more receptive for adhesion.

Now comes the time to select your paint color and finish. Do
you want to make it the original color or do you have something else in mind?
Do you want it to be a matte or glossy finish? Do you want to simulate a
distressed look or paint the entire cupboard in a uniform way? If you decide
you want a distressed look, then make sure you have done your research and/or
have an artistic gene, because it will require some talent to get it right. You
only have one chance to get the creative design you want, or you will end up
painting the entire cupboard anyway to cover up your mistakes.

The process of finding that perfect antique piece and
orchestrating its artistic renaissance, whether by completely restoring its
original appearance or accentuating its acquired traits over time, is a most
rewarding endeavor. Best of luck with your project and enjoy your creative,
one-of-a-kind treasure.