Credenza: Practical meets Pretty

November 2, 2010

Last year I remodeled my home office, and it’s been a genuine pleasure working in this pretty and personalized space.  For the longest time, I was loving the sofa that sat on one wall, but over time, paperwork started piling up, and I reasoned I needed a more practical solution if I really was going to run a business from home.  So I made some changes!

I started with a credenza I found at (where else?) a thrift store.  A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this piece for $40 dollars ~ it was the perfect size measuring six feet long and mostly solid wood, but the finish was all wrong wrong wrong.  First, the top is laminate, and all scratched up.  Ick.  Second, the base was a different shade of honey tone wood that clashed in my eyes.  Usually, I like mid century modern style furniture in a medium stain, but this two-tone finish just wasn’t working for me, so I gave it a makeover to suit my space.


credenza before paint



cg credenza final after


Slate blue/gray paint + sleek contemporary pulls + geometric pattern on top = perfect!

cg credenza pattern


Some of you are probably wondering how the heck did I get such straight painted lines on this piece?  Well, it was tricky, but I’ll tell ya how!

First, let’s start at the beginning.  Scratched laminate top?  No.Thank.You.  Slick surfaces never deter me, no sirreee!  My favey fave oil based primer to the rescue to cling baby cling!

Here you can see I’m painting the laminate shelf on the inside.  Remember oh yes, oh yes oh yes you can paint laminate!  All it takes is the right kind of primer.  This is it!  (You can also use the Zinsser oil based shellac in the red can too.)  I roll mine on with a foam roller for speedy coverage, then follow it up with a brush to keep it all even.

zinsser oil based primer


Note the can says "No sanding" but people ask me all the time if that is for real.  Peeps, it is fo real.  BUT, that said, I always ‘scuff up’ my piece with a coarse sanding pad beforehand.  Call me crazy but something inside my little brain tells me that scuffed up surface will hold the primer better, but I could just be living in a bubble.  Anyway, I do scuff up my piece then I wipe it down.  I don’t degloss or sand away the varnish, I simply scuff it up.  Got it ?  Repeat after me.  Scuff scuff scuff.  OK, that’s enough.


deep tint water based primerMoving on.  Knowing I was going to paint it dark, I gave the surface a quick coat of deep tint (water based) primer over the white oil based Zinsser.  Why the dark primer?  Because it ensures your dark paint will stay true to its color.

It’s not absolutely necessary when painting a piece dark, but I find you risk having to add an extra coat or two or three of paint, so I use a coat of dark primer cause it’s a guarantee I can get one coat coverage with my dark paint.  And I can’t find a dark tint oil based primer that’s as good as Zinsser, I’m still searching.


Next, I thought I was sooooo smart to paint the rough pattern in white, lay painter’s tape on top, then add the gray paint over the top of that.  No.  Bad idea.  I ended up with horribly uneven lines and had to do the pattern all over again.  And I know better!  I had such an easy time painting stripes on this dresser so I should have followed that technique.  Sadly, I didn’t and the lines were just awful.

First attempt:

gray paint on top

This I have learned.  The best way to get a straight stripe line on a flat surface is to peel up the painter’s tape while the latex paint is still somewhat wet!  Don’t wait until it’s completely dry.  Peel it off slowly  when it’s wet.  Reason being, once latex paint dries, it peels, and it takes little pieces of the stripe with it.

Therefore, I declare, wet paint is good for making stripes!

wet paint good


Aaaaaaand this is how I should have done the geometric pattern in the first place, but hey, this gal’s still learning.   This is also a great time to mention that the final paint color on this piece is a slate blue/gray color by True Value called ‘Avoidance’.  It ended up being a little bluer and less charcoal than I really wanted, but oh well.  It still works!

**Please note, I have no experience painting stripes on textured walls.  For those of you who have, please feel free to chime in and share your secrets for perfect stripes on textured walls.  We’re listening!

I gave this credenza two coats of Polycrylic in Gloss for added sheen.  Me likey shiny.  Pur-tay!  I also added some contemporary hardware I found at True Value. 

cg credenza surface


This piece would have been just okay refinished in gray, but the addition of the sleek nickel pulls and the white geometric pattern makes it something special and one-of-a kind. I love it!  It’s so nice to have all this storage for paperwork and now at last practical has met pretty.


cg credenza after


Practical, meet pretty.  Pretty, meet practical.   I think you’ll get along swell.


True Value Blog Squad legalese:  “I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience.  I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project.   However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”


I’ll show you the entire office soon!



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144 Responses to “Credenza: Practical meets Pretty”

  1. Aubrey says:

    Pitch perfect, as always…I’m just impressed at the vision for that piece because I certainly wouldn’t have seen it! I just hate when my paint color doesn’t turn out quite right…but it is still absolutely lovely…now I am just dying to put that top pattern on something…*anything*!

  2. Annette says:

    Beautiful job! It’s not my style, but I still appreciate how fabulous it looks!

  3. Jenn K. says:

    Love it. Thanks for all the good ideas.

  4. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! 40 bucks?!?!?!?!
    Not fair-but I’m happy for you :)

  5. Donna says:

    First off, after I ‘discovered’ your blog, I have spray painted everything in my house including, a buffet, 5 chairs, kitchen table and a door. All verym very lovely–in fact I think I have permanent colored nasal hairs now (I wear a mask but it always seeps in) and I love it!

    But here’s my stupid question:

    How in the world do you get all your thrift shop furniture home? My hubby works 9-5 so that’s out for his help, we have a truck but it’s yucky and stays home most of the time, weekends are a nightmare at thrift shops, and last even if I were to take the old truck ‘thrift shopping’I can never get ANYONE to help me at the thrift stores to move furniture to the car! Maybe I am just not aggressive enough.

    Give us the skinny on furniture thrifting!

  6. Janell Beals says:

    Wow, thanks for answering my question about if you had posted about the credenza, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this! AMAZING, girl. Love the gloss, the color, the pattern on top and the pulls…all of it! Great, just great! Janell

  7. That piece is day-and-night better! I love the pattern on top and the color choice. Perfection, as always, my friend.

  8. Corinna says:

    ok, found it! so great! i must have missed it in my facebook feed, but i did read all your thoughts on painting stripes! my mother-in-law’s hand-me-down chest is so getting striped… after her visit this weekend :) thanks!!

  9. Thank you for linking it for me, and if I had just done a little digging I could have found it just two days prior – LOL I found a similar credenza at a thrift store, but they had taken two smaller cabinets, combined and put a top on that was TOO long (like a foot too long) and it was laminate, I wasn’t going to attempt to cut it :) I am going to keep looking, this post has inspired me!

  10. As always, stunning and inspiring!

  11. MrsLimestone says:

    Very late here but I absolutely love this! I already had a crush on your office but this is fab.

    Unrelated question – do you find you use your inspiration board a lot? I have a big one over the credenza in my office but so rarely put anything up there. Im wondering if its because its behind me when Im sitting down in there or maybe Im just not an inspiration board person?

  12. LacyHolly says:

    I love this! That looks amazing!!! Great job : ) Thank you for sharing!

  13. once it warms here in chicago {when I can paint in the garage without losing fingers to frostbite}…I am using this as inspiration for my husbands’ highboy from his childhood.

    esp. heart the detail on top.
    and the color.


  14. Amanda says:

    Hello! I loved your credenza top design so much that I lovingly copied it for my end table before and after. Gave you a shout out in my post. Hope you like it. You are such a great inspiration. Thanks!

  15. Holly says:

    Gorgeous…and gives me much inspiration for transforming thrifty finds into “new” modern pieces. Just wanted to share a tip for painting straight lines that I just used. Works like a charm!!! Never had lines so straight and crisp. Paint your base color, let dry, and then tape your edge or your design. Then paint the edge of the tape with your base color, lightly (this creates a seal so that bleed through can’t occur). Let dry. Then paint with the edge color that you want (or design color) with a thick coat, then immediately pull off the tape. Line should be crisp with no bleed through at all if you’ve done it right. Should work pretty well on textured walls too :)

    And just a shout out to your old post on grasscloth paper. We had a wall in our ranch that was covered in dull white grasscloth. We painted it a butter yellow (acutual color is Biltmore Bluff by Sherwin Williams) and it is GORGEOUS!!!! Loving the texture so much that we bought grasscloth for the opposite wall and will be hanging it and painting to match!

    Thanks for all the transformations that inspire!

  16. Belinda says:

    Love love love this! I’d never thought to paint over yukky looking laminate before. Thank you for the inspiration and the confidence to fix something like this up if I see it in a second hand store.

  17. Heidy says:

    Wow! You are a genius and an inspiration!! I actually found an abandoned desk by the dumpster ..and i brought it to my office…its a wood piece in good condition and I was wondering what to do with it..but I think i know what I should do with it! =) Your table is sooOOOOoo BEAUTIFUL!!!

  18. Tiffany says:

    I have fallen in love w/ your blog! <3 <3 <3

  19. Bradley says:

    I just loved this. You are so smart for how you spruced up the piece. I love your sense of style too because that is totally something I would put in my office. It has a shabby chic feel to it but honestly is much more chic. Love the color and geometric lines.

  20. Ansley says:

    I looove this makeover! It is amazing just like everything else on your blog!!! I think I am going to recreate it on something!

    You asked about painting stripes on textured walls, I have a tutorial on my blog. Here it is:

  21. What a great transformation! The pulls totally make the whole unit. Great job!

  22. Angie says:

    Wow… I love how you got the line detail on the top. You are good!

  23. Gerean says:

    In an attempt to lower the level of fumes, I’ve been using Zinsser Water based primer. Do you think it would work on a laminate project, or must it be an oil based primer?

  24. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Gerean, I’m with you on the fumes issue, but I haven’t found a low VOC primer that sticks as well to laminates as the oil based Zinsser. I’d use the low VOC or water based for walls or other projects, but not for laminate. Although it does say (I believe) that it works on laminate but I still hesitate knowing the Cover Stain is a sure thing.

  25. Julie Chapman says:

    @Gerean, Ihave used the Zinsser water based cover stain primer on laminate and works great. Plus, it is 4 or 5 dollars cheaper at Lowe’s

  26. Julie Chapman says:

    I also did not sand down the laminate and painted within a couple of days. No issues.

  27. Julie Chapman says:

    Sorry, not the cover stain it is Zinsser Bull’s Eye 123 Primer. (sorry for all the comments too. I should really think of what I am saying and post in one) =)

  28. Megan says:

    I just inherited a credenza and am planning on painting it. It too, has laminate. I am going to use mine as a T.V. console. Do you feel it has held up well?

  29. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes very well Megan! I use the top everyday, no scratches or peeling paint, looks great! The key is that bonding primer!


  30. Mandy says:

    I found some night stands on Craigslist a few weeks ago for $25 and wanted them desperately. Luckily, a couple of weeks later the price was slashed to $15 each. Needless to say, I went and got a pair and while I was there got a lovely mirror and headboard (I’m doing a complete DIY makeover since we are moving and I want some new interesting things in my bedroom). I followed your steps to a tee. The only thing I would advise if you haven’t already that I’ve seen is to get a couple of foam rollers and wear gloves at all times with the oil based paint. I had a terrible time getting it off my hands and if it wasn’t for my step dad I still would have the white paint on my hands. I still haven’t got all of it out of the laundry room sink. Other than that minor issue I have a marvelous looking set of nightstands and a mirror. I plan on using the same technique with my chest of drawers to have a matching set. :) Thank you!

  31. madeleine says:

    you said you wanted tips on painting stripes on textured walls.i have VERRRY textured walls and painted my sons nursery and i have gotten soooo many compliments. i think the key is GREAT quality tape! first i painted the walls one color. then got a laser level and taped. my husbands an engineer so he was able to give me an exact messurment that we were suppose to do for each stripe. so we did he laser and then taped. it took us a long time but if you skimp on this step and do it fast or dont do it at all, all your hard work will go down the drain! then we painted with a roller brush. push hard on the roller otherwise you will get pockets in the texture that didnt get any color in it. and then on the edge of the stripes, take a flat edge brush and run it along the edge of the tape. let everything dry for a DAY! then paint everything over again. we ended up having to do this step three times because like i said, our walls are SUPER textured. when you are done painting the last time, let it dry for about an hour and then take the tape off. we had very little touch ups to make but you will have some you have to do. i ended up using a cheapy paintbrush you can get for $.99 thats used for water colors. we then did the touch ups with that, that had bled through the tape. that only took me about 15 minutes because we had been careful the whole way through. this project could have taken me about 3 days but because i was pregnant, i did take a lot longer. i hope that helped!

  32. madeleine says:

    oh and take the tape of SLOW! otherwise you will peal some of the paint off because you did multi layers.

  33. Tessa says:

    Quick tip for painting stripes on textured walls (and I use the same technique regardless of the texture) – After taping everything off, roll one coat of the color you have under the tape, over the tape. Then continue with your other color like you normally would. What this does is ensures that if any paint seeps under the tape, it is the color that is already under there. Works wonders :)

  34. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Tessa that is a GREAT trick I always do that now, thanks for sharing!

  35. Marika says:

    Just a quick tip for dealing with oil-based paint: I discovered on accident that I had bought oil based paint for a project recently (oops – that’s what happens when you try to get in and out of True Value in under three minutes on your way to pick someone up at the airport). I discovered this when I went to wash my hands and brush, and realized I was covered in paint, it wouldn’t come off at all, and I had no mineral water or paint thinner, and everything I touched was just getting oil based white paint everywhere… So I turned to my personal miracle solution: Goo-Gone. It’s was amazing. Just a little squirt, and I got all of the paint of my hands with NO scrubbing, and a little squirt into my brush, and a little work with my fingers, and I just rinsed it right out! So, if you get stuck with paint and no mineral water, give it a shot :)

  36. CentsationalGirl says:

    Great tip Marika, will try it!

  37. Tina S. says:

    did you use a stencil or pattern for the detail on top, or did you just freehand (or free-tape) it? I want to do this on an ikea dresser i bought, but i’m nervous that it won’t be symmetrical and it’ll drive me insane.

  38. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Tina, I used painter’s tape!

  39. Ann says:

    Are the roses real? If not, where did you buy them? Thanks! Ann

  40. Georgie says:

    Have you ever painted wicker chairs? I tried using paint paint a few years ago, even tho the chair is always on the front porch (under a roof) it is chipping off, the paint I mean. Spray paint the problem? Or is it just painting wicker period? Any advice before I try it again?

  41. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Georgie, you know what, I haven’t painted wicker but I know there are paints designed for it, and I know RustOleum makes a few. Have you tried theirs? So sorry you’re having issues.

  42. Denise says:

    The geometric design looks fabulous….really makes the piece. What a transformation! Love your site and I’ll continue drop by often. =)

  43. Anne says:

    Hi Kate!
    I adore your blog, and I am writing hoping you can help with a question.
    I’ve used your tutorials very successfully for over a year now, specifically when it comes to painting furniture. By far the trickiest part for me has been getting an even finish with the Polycrylic. On almost every piece, I’ve used Satin finish but a current client wants a high gloss finish, and I am about to cry because I cannot get the Poly to play nicely!
    I’ve tried semi-gloss and gloss in the can, and both are streaky. I’m using good brushes. I’m painting inside my finished basement so the temperature is relatively moderated.
    Have you had any issues with the Poly, and can you offer any tips at all on what might be going wrong?
    Thanks in advance,

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