As a hipster, I usually only talk about solutions to issues which I have no tangible ability or actual desire to implement.
“World peace would be so easy if everyone just read Three Cups of Tea.”
“This city will only be cool when every street and alleyway has a dedicated bike lane.”
“The problem with Starbucks is that they’ve lost the art of selling coffee.”
These ethereal solutions are themselves an art to produce. They must be obvious enough that a spectator should say “Why didn’t I think of that?” and far enough out of reach that you can continuously tout your solution without any fear that you will ever be called to act on it.
For a long time I had one of these sitting in my dining room: an old china hutch (circa 1930) that needed some very serious reworking. Structurally, the hutch was in decent shape. Aesthetically, it was in need of a lot of work. This was a piece of furniture we picked up with the intention that I would give it the makeover it needed. For five years it stood in our dining room issuing to me a license to sing my swan song about transforming the ugly duckling.
So what happened? My wife threatened to throw it away, and my house husband side kicked in. I too began to resent the wasted space and the sub-par appearance. You see, we don’t have any china to put into the china hutch, the rough nature of its finish made it difficult to dust, and everyone had already heard me talk about my grand plan.
So here’s what I did:
I had two days off from my full-time job, and I wanted to industriously make the most of my time. So in-between loads of laundry, I dragged the hutch out to the garage and started by disassembling it. It was put together mostly with wood screws, so a flat head screwdriver and a soft mallet was all I needed.I sanded down each panel individually, repaired any lifted veneer with wood glue and filler, and put a fresh coat of stain over everything. Polyurethane, sand, repeat.
I cut the middle section down considerably to make it more of a serving table than a hutch. Upon reassembly, I measured out the front opening and used one of the old shelves as a front hatch. This nice little serving table is a favorite hiding spot now for our dog Little Bit, and all of our cloth napkins and place mats live inside the hatch and out of sight.
It couldn’t be considered complete until it was decorated. On the wall, I used the old hutch door as a faux frame for a piece of fair trade Haitian metalwork. Add a plant and a bowl of wooden fruit and cross it off of my to-do list!
In total, the project cost me about $12:
- Piece of veneer from the Habitat Re-Store: 80¢
- Small can of stain: $4
- Leftover polyurethane: free
- Front panel hinges/magnetic catch: $7
- 1930s era drawer pull: repurposed off another dilapidated piece…at least I still have another project about which I can ruminate.