January 27, 2020

Refinishing & Modernizing Our 70's Built-In Pantry

I don't know what it was about the 70's but they built-in everything, down to a nook for a rotary phone! In our house the builder included this large built-in pantry in the dining space. I'm not sure how the people who lived here before us only had one side of cabinets because this pantry is the only space to store food. When we moved in I had to give it a massive scrub down because like every other surface in the house it was covered in smoke tar, but it was still remained that over-varnished orange color.

I had a vision on how this unsightly piece could be updated, but didn't take the plunge until last summer. I got almost half way done when we found out I was pregnant and I got super sick, putting this project on the back-burner until 3 weeks ago when I finally started feeling better. 

The pantry was the typical 70's shade of over-varnished orange pine and hammered black pulls. The upside was they did make them with beautiful panes of glass.

I took off all the doors and used liquid sandpaper and Citristrip, then my palm sander to take off the varnish. I lost count of how many pieces of sandpaper I went through but it was a lot.

Once it was sanded down, I put some wood conditioner on to bring out the pretty wood grain. The left door is the original and the right door is it sanded down and conditioned.

Once the doors were finished I started on the pantry itself. First, I took off all the stain and varnish with the Citristrip. All you do is paint it on and wait, then scrape the bubbled up stain off with a putty knife. I first used this to restore my old typewriting desk for the One Room Challenge.

It didn't take much time to take the varnish off. Once it was off it was time to take it down to it's pine roots with the palm sander. Since this is inside I put up a make shift sanding bubble to contain the dust. Yes, I used my safety glasses, wore a mask, and had the shop vac in the other hand to suck up the dust.  

After many days and weeks of sanding, it was finally finished. I took down the bubble and prepared everything to apply the whitewash stain. Then morning sickness hit me hard and I didn't even think about finishing this project for the next 3 months.

Around Christmas I started feeling better and this project came back on my radar, but until then we just lived without doors and used it as is. I knew I wanted to whitewash the pine and decided to try this Sunbleached color from Varathane. Just like every other stain I used a cloth but quickly wiped it off to keep the pine showing through.

I put on the hinges I got from Home Depot and matte black pulls from Ikea. I would have liked to get some more modern hinges, but since these doors are old they needed inset hinges and hardly anyone makes them anymore.

 I loved how it turned out! Perfectly modern while still letting the original wood grain shine.

Besides modernizing the look of the pantry, I also took this opportunity to re-organize everything in it. We love using the pop-top plastic organizers, it's easy to see whats inside and it keeps everything fresh. To keep it all organized, I grabbed my favorite hand label maker I use for almost everything. It's only $10!

One thing I learned from my grandmother (and also several interior designers) is to corral like things with baskets or bowls. I got all the vintage delft bowls and plates to help organize the pantry items.

It takes a lot less time than you think to take things out of the box and put them into a container or bowl. Once you do everything up front and take an extra 3 minutes after a grocery trip it makes every time you go to the pantry a little easier, quicker, and beautiful.

After Anastasia's kitchen reveal I bought some of these spice labels and 4 oz. glass jars. The plan is to make a custom spice rack somewhere in the kitchen, but for right now they'll live in the pantry.

Supplies Bought

Sandpaper discs $20
Stain  $4
Hinges — $36
Pulls  $21

Total: $81

Supplies Already Had

Liquid Sandpaper  $8
Citristrip  $32
Wood Conditioner  $4
Palm Sander  $28
Power Drill  $80

Even though this is the longest running project I've ever done, it was well worth it. It didn't require a high level of skill, just a lot of time. Now I don't cringe a little every time I go to get my daily capn'crunch. Have you ever tried to refinish an old piece like this?


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