Plain Cabinet Becomes Art Furniture with a Function

Cathy and I have been involved in the furniture upcycling business for many years. We are blessed to have developed a certain following and many consider us experts in this field.

Also, our background in art, color theory, design and composition gives us a unique perspective on creating art furniture. Additionally, we spend a lot of time studying historic styles, and have developed a clear idea of what makes art furniture and what can ruin a piece. One of the most common mistakes that people make is that they fail to create harmony throughout the entire furniture piece.

It doesn’t matter if the piece is a fully developed, complicated piece of French inspired furniture

or a simple chalkboard.


The goal is the same….to make the entire creation work together.

 Sometimes it is quite simple to harmonize a piece and other times it is a challenge. We started with this.

As we have said in many previous posts, it is very important to “read” the particular piece of furniture to decide on a treatment. This is one of my favorite parts of furniture upcycling. This particular piece is not an example of French curvy elegance so the florals that I love to paint might not be the best choice for this project. This cabinet had a bit of a farmhouse feel to it with simple lines and flush mounted cabinet doors. Because the cabinet doors were flush with the frame, we could have treated the entire piece as one “canvas” but ultimately we decided to treat the doors as separate panels and decided to do a chalkboard treatment on each of the doors.

 

We pictured this piece as a wonderful kitchen storage piece so we thought the combination of chalkboard and some simple painting and lettering would make a wonderful and unique cabinet. The problem is this, chalkboards are black and we wanted the frame to be much lighter. How could we create harmony between the dark doors and the rest of the piece?

I started by underpainting this cabinet with black. Since I knew that I would be painting over this color with a lighter color I didn’t have to be particularly careful with this step. I just wanted the black to be revealed as I “chipped” and sanded away the top color.

 

 Next I applied chapstick to random spots on the black paint.

 

Then I painted the entire body of the piece with two coats of a “coffee with crème” color drying well between coats. After the paint was totally dry, I used a sanding block and removed the top layer of paint pulling off the light paint where the chapstick was, creating a “chippy paint” look.

Then I lightly sanded, further distressing the piece and revealing some more black underpainting and also drybrushed a bit of black over the top of the light coffee color to further age and harmonize the piece. The black underpainting and drybrushing connects with the black color of the chalkboards thereby creating harmony between the two sections. No two colors exist in isolation.

Next I turned my attention to the doors of the piece and painted the design on the doors with the same color as the frame also creating harmony between the two sections. Also, notice that I used the same scroll design at the top of all four of the doors further adding harmony to all of the sections of the piece.

 As a result, the black doors relate to the black underpainting and drybrushing, the design color on the doors relate to the light color on the frame of the piece and the common design element at the top and bottom of the doors all help to pull the piece together creating artistic harmony so that everything works together.

And as you can see, this chalkboard doors of this cabinet are also functional for keeping grocery lists, leaving notes and tracking appointments.

At first glance this piece looks like a simple, upcycled farm cabinet but the thoughtful approach to harmonizing the parts in to a unified whole makes this a piece of art furniture in the Decayed Elegance style. We hope you enjoyed our efforts. Thanks for the visit.

 Until next time,

 Paul

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