Monday, April 13, 2015

A New Life for an Old Cedar Chest

Working on this Cedar Chest makeover was a little bit of an emotional journey for me.  You see, this was my high school graduation gift from my late mother, 36 years ago.  {Wow, did I just write that number down?  My kids are right, I am old...}  At first, it stored items that I made or purchased for my "future marriage".  By the time Hubs and I married 3-1/2 years later, it was stuffed to the top.  Since then, it's stored blankets, baby clothes and lots of wonderful memories!

My "Hope Chest", has been through a lot over the years! A lot of moves, {at least 17 moves, if my count is correct} and it showed a lot of damage, too. The oak veneer finish was water damaged from the shipping crate being dropped into the ocean (yep, true story!);  the original base that it stood on had to be removed because it had swelled out of proportion and was beyond repair; parts of the trim along the bottom were loose and wobbly.  The 4 handles on the fake drawers had long ago broken and were tossed.
However, it was still a cherished piece to sentimental me.  Some things you just have to keep!

The first thing I wanted to do was get the old girl on her feet again:
I bought the Heavy Duty Top Plates (brackets) and the feet at Home Depot.  Hubs showed me how to drill pilot holes and then attach the plates to the bottom of the chest with screws. Attaching the legs was as simple as twisting them into the pre-threaded plates.
With that done, Hubs and I carried her out to the garage for her glamorous makeover!  I carefully sanded the oak veneered top with 100 grit, then 120 grit sandpaper to remove the old, water-damaged finish. Then, after a thorough wiping down, I applied 2 coats of Minwax Wood Finish in Provincial. I brushed it on with a cheap bristle brush; after letting it soak in for about 15 minutes, I rubbed it in circles, and then wiped off the excess with the grain of the wood, with a wiping cloth.  2 coats gave me the exact dark shade that I was going for.  When it was completely dry, she was given 2 coats of wax, to protect that pretty top.

After re-gluing some trim pieces around the bottom with Gorilla Glue for wood, I mixed up a batch of my favorite chalk paint, and gave all the feet, trim and edges three even coats using a cheap sponge brush. Let me tell you, chalk paint hides years of wear and tear, without having to prep, strip and sand the wood!  I love this stuff!

Here's the reason I didn't paint the entire chest:  embossed, paintable wallpaper, just like I used on the TV Media Console.
The embossed wallpaper not only hides all the dents, chips and flaws,
it can be painted, too!  It was easy to measure, and cut with sharp scissors.

Instead of being tucked out of the way in a spare room, I have my cherished cedar Hope Chest displayed in a prominent place, so I can admire it every day.  Good memories are stored inside!

I'm thinking about adding a "French Flair" to this piece by lightly dry-brushing on some light blue paint to highlight the embossing.  I have a blue "French" chair in the master bedroom that would match that theme perfectly.  (But, first I'm going to practice on a scrap piece of wallpaper!)

Do you have a cherished piece that you can't part with, and needs a new lease on life?  Try this chalk paint and embossed wallpaper technique, and you'll probably fall in love with it all over again, just like I have with my sweet cedar chest!  
Let me know if you try it, or if you want to ask a question about any of my projects; I love getting comments from my readers!  Oh, and don't forget to come back in a few days and check out the third project that I finished simultaneously with the TV Media Console and this Cedar Chest.  It might look a little familiar.... 


  1. My old cedar hope chest is now with my daughter who will pass it on to her daughter. I am so glad that it will be passed on down the family line. Yours turned out beautiful!! I have some of the embossed wall paper I have been lugging around for eons, guess I will start looking for a second had cedar chest & follow your example because yours is just to dang cute!

  2. Thanks for the lovely words, Suzann! I first saw embossed wallpaper like this in Germany, back in about 1995, but at that time I never thought I'd ever use it on furniture! I love how well it hides all the flaws/ damage that this poor chest suffered through the years!

    Did you see how I used it on the Dresser-to-TV Console project? Here's the link:
    Thanks for stopping by!