What’s a chifferobe?
A chifferobe is a small armoire that was typically popular in the U.S. during the 1920s-30s.
The size of a chifferobe was just perfect for the little primitive french country guest bedroom I wanted to use it in. I picked up this chifferobe from a family that was moving. It needed a lot of help. The doors were crooked, the bottom was falling out, and the detailed trim around the top was barely hanging on. When I saw it, I had instant regret; what have I gotten myself into??? I loved the shape of it, though, and the simple design. I knew I had acquired many skills from my work on the farm to attempt to restore it to its original glory, so I began to think about how to do just that.
“The moral of the story: you can’t ruin something that you don’t like, especially if it doesn’t have much value to begin with.”― Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful
Step 1: Cleaning and Dismantling
Cobwebs. I think this piece was in the basement of this family’s home. There were cobwebs and spider egg sacs everywhere. Before you can tell what work needs to be done to your piece, you have to be able to see what you’re starting with. I was starting with spiders.
I began by removing the two doors and all of the hardware. The knobs and hinges benefited from a deep cleaning of vinegar and baking soda. One of the glass knobs was broken, so I super glued it and made sure that it would be the knob on the bottom drawer and wouldn’t see a whole lot of action. In the future, I may replace all of the knobs, but it works for now, and no one can tell it’s broken.
Step 2: Repair
Someday, I hope to be a grandmother.
It’s a big, fat dream, but my goal for this piece is to have it around long after my grandkids arrive. To that end, I decided to replace the thin piece of pressboard that was on the bottom with a ¾-inch, furniture-grade solid plank of wood.
Now, my somewhere-in-the-distant-future grandkids can play hide-and-seek inside without me worrying about them falling through the bottom . . . and disappearing forever into the adventurous world of C.S. Lewis.
At some point in its previous life the trim pieces around the top became loose. Of course, this wasn’t just a matter of tightening a screw or hammering in a nail or two. All of the trim had to be removed. Larger side trim pieces were added for better stability and the front decorative piece needed new, longer screws drilled through the top in order to keep it from wobbling back and forth. These adjustments made a huge difference in the stability of the trim.
Step 3: Sand & Prime
Whether you plan on painting an old wood piece or re-staining it, you will usually start with sanding. I knew going into this project that I was going to paint it. That helps me know how to proceed with the sanding and priming.
Before you start sanding, you’ll want to fill any nicks or holes with wood fill or epoxy, unless you are looking for that shabby, worn look. Once that dries, give the whole piece a good light sanding to roughen up the wood grain so that the paint will adhere to it. I use 100-150 grit paper; anything smaller than 100 will potentially leave deep ruts in the grain of your wood.
Prime your piece. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what brand of primer you use, but I like to use one that has low or no fumes. I don’t want to have to wear a Hazmat suit each time I choose to finish a piece that I love. They make low-fume primers — use them! You can also get primers in a similar color to your final color to reduce the chances of having to paint a second coat. If you are painting a piece with dark, visible knotholes be sure to use a good primer that will cover these. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing those knotholes appear weeks or even years after you’re already enjoying your finished piece. . . .(Continued below.)
More furniture inspiration by Short Girl Farm:
New Chifferobe Project — Sneak Peak!
- From Family Antique to Display Cabinet
- Building a “Jenny Lind” Bench
- End Tables Flip
- Dresser Flip
- Guest Room Twin Beds — A Great Idea!
If you choose not to prime your piece, prepare to apply extra layers of your chosen paint color. Primer goes a long way, so in the end you’ll save money by using a layer of primer rather than additional coats of color. If you have applied any repair product, such as wood fill or epoxy, you need to at least prime that portion of your project. If you don’t, it will be visible that a patch was made to your piece.
After the primer has dried, inspect your piece for bubbles, brush hairs, dried primer “crumbs,” and brush marks. If you have any of these, use a fine-grade sanding block to remove them. It’s a relatively quick process that will make a huge difference in the final product. Be sure to wipe down with a damp cloth or tack cloth to remove sanding dust.
Note: I use a good brush throughout the priming and painting process. Cheap brushes can leave bigger brush marks and brush hairs in your primer and paint. So annoying.
Wooster 1-inch Angled paintbrush
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Step 4: Paint
Now the fun begins! All your hard work is about to pay off!
Grab that high quality brush; I use Wooster brushes. I love them. A good brush is worth every penny if it’s taken care of. (My brother taught me that; thanks, Travis.) I should stop here and tell you that no one else uses my brushes. Not my kids. Not my husband. I wash them out with soapy water immediately, and I dry them upside down and store them where no one else can find them. Obsessive? Maybe, but I always know where they are and they’re always in pristine condition, ready for the next job.
Grab that high-quality brush or mini foam-roller and begin. I like to start with the brush even if I plan to use a roller as well. My brush of choice is an angled 1 in. brush by Wooster, but other high-quality brushes are great options. I also will opt for an angled 2 in. brush if the piece is larger or if I’m painting walls around trim. If you’re using a roller, plan on two coats: one coat to cover, one coat to finish. Apply that second coat by rolling all strokes in the same direction. You may or may not need a second coat on parts that have been brushed, depending on the color you’ve chosen, because brushes can hold a lot more paint than rollers.
Step 5: Reassemble
Put the doors and hardware back on. That’s it! Stand back and admire your piece. Where will you put it? If you’re anything like me, you’ll move it all around the house before finding its forever home.
Now go out and hunt down your next adventure!
Like this? Check out this bench I made from an antique Jenny Lind bed frame.
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