Family Heirloom gets a makeover

About two years ago – just as we were finishing up our big renovation – I got a call from my father-in-law:

Him: “Moo (he calls me Moo) do you want that big thing that was in the dining room in the old house?”

Me:  (thinking – big thing big thing what’s the big thing) “what’s the big thing?”

Him: ” You know that thing where all the dishes and stuff were”

Me: “the breakfront?  um. (I don’t love it) why?”

Him:  “you have the space now and it’s been in storage for 10 years.   It is 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide. Isn’t that wall in the kitchen that size?  This is the thing that we had custom built back in 1968 up in Maine. “

Here’s the wall he’s talking about:


Me: (I hesitate big time. I just turned my home into my dream space – not sure I was a nine foot tall dark brown behemoth smack in the middle of it). “I’ll measure for it but I think it will be too big. My ceilings aren’t 9 feet high”

Him:  “OK double check and call me back.  I’ll send you a picture. I’ve been storing it for 10 years and I want it gone”

Here’s the picture I got of the top, sans base:


I felt no joy. 

(Measuring tape break:  the kitchen wall is 9 feet WIDE and 7 feet TALL.  Just the opposite of his quoted dimensions Ok, that does it – no can do. )  I call him back.

Me: “dang.  If it were just the opposite of what you said I would have loved to take it but the spot is only 7 feet tall  and 9 feet wide so it won’t fit. Sorry. Super bummed” 

Him:  “No that’s good. It is 7 feet tall, 9 wide. Isn’t that what I said?  So it will be perfect!  Now we just have to get it to you…”

OOOOkee dokee.  And just like that it was settled.  

I’ll spare you the ugly details of getting this monster from New Jersey to Massachusetts.  I just can’t relive that.

A month later it arrived in two pieces and it took three strong men to bring it inside.  It was sad and grimy and a little stinky from years of sitting in storage. Yay.

635 640

And it was brown.  Like 70s brown.  Not exactly what I had in mind for my bright white, newly-renovated house.  But there it was.


OK – so there is a big cool part of that I’m leaving out.  My in-laws designed it way back in the mid-60s to hold dishes, a hi-fi, turntable and speakers and a hidden bar.  And – cool of cools – tucked into one of the drawers was the paperwork they kept on it.  

Here’s the original sketch.  Tres cool:

hand drawn furniture plans

and the original receipts and invoice from the cabinetmaker:


With the family story taking shape I started to feel a little more love for the thing.  

But still it was brown and it was sitting in my kitchen like it was a little embarrassed to be there.

I lived with it for a while, hoping to get used to it, but we just didn’t hit it off.

I decided I needed to paint it but truth be told I was just too lazy to tackle it.  But then I remembered the lazy painter’s best friend:  chalk paint.  

So I started painting it using Annie Sloan’s Graphite paint.  Let me tell you – if you want to feel like you are getting something done, go paint something with chalk paint.  It is a miracle.

I did two coats just to be sure the brown was gone for good and then I did a dark wax finish.

Decided to go white inside the upper shelves but left the lower ones natural – I liked the stained orangish color.  


Gotta say I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.  It isn’t perfect, but I love it now.  


Ignore that piece of crumpled paper on the floor.  Look away.  You don’t see it.  Stop looking at it.

Did the hardware over using Rub-n-Buff.


Saved the original felt-lined drawer for knife storage:


One of the lower cabinets was made just to hold a KitchenAid Mixmaster:


The old bar cabinet got painted red inside and now holds the kitchen TV – I love that I can close the door and it disappears!



The dark paint really helps show off silver things (which I have a LOT of – I’m a silver vase hoarder)


So here’s the before and after – thanks Pop!  Now we have a beautiful centerpiece in our kitchen with a great backstory and historic documents to go with it.  A great conversation piece.



I think it is happier now.

(Stop looking at the paper)

Linking up to my old faves:

Make It Pretty Monday – The Dedicated House

  Nifty Thrifty Tuesday ā€“  Coastal Charm


  1. I am totally in love with this piece! What an amazing paint transformation! Love the way you styled it.

  2. It’s almost exactly what I’m looking for to go in my much-smaller-than-yours kitchen. A 7-footer would do for mine. Just love what you’ve done with it. šŸ™‚

  3. I just saw your piece featured at Kathryn’s Make it Pretty Monday party and had to comment. The family history that’s behind this piece is wonderful. What you did to the breakfront is terrific. I’m an ASCP enthusiast but I’ve never done a large piece in Graphite. The breakfront doesn’t look as heavy — as earthbound — with the chalk paint. Maybe it’s because the white interior of the upper cabinets balances the weight. I love the red (Emperor’s Silk?) in the small cabinet. Well done, indeed.

  4. WOW! What a transformation! Absolutely meant to be in that spot and love how you’ve modernized it for today’s living.
    Long ago reader,

  5. I love, love, LOVE this. Seriously, I love it. And I love all the little nooks and crannies. And it would be neat to frame your in-laws original drawing of the piece. Definitely a conversation starter of it’s journey. Love it:)

  6. I remember sitting by the turntable, which I think was in the bottom right cabinet and listening to records in the 70s – Roberta Flack and Burl Ives and Fiddler on the Roof. Weren’t there built-in speakers behind the top corner doors?


  1. […] transformation of a family heirloom and it is stunning!  Stop by Crunchy Diva to see more of this […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: