Friday, March 30, 2012

DIY Kitchen Hutch/Buffet Redo

Hi all,

I wanted to share another redo project with you, this one is an old buffet/hutch for our kitchen. 
We were on the hunt for a piece like this for a while, since lots of them are turning up everywhere.  I guess people are getting rid of them because they can be boxy and imposing in a dining room, where they are usually found, but we had a blank wall in the kitchen we wanted to fill with cupboards or storage of some kind on the cheap. (Even though they're out of fashion - whatever that means! - people are still trying to sell them for several hundred dollars.)

The key is finding one that works for your budget (or non-budget, as was the case for us) and has the right proportions for your space, not to mention is as simple or as ornate as you like.  Note:  Some of the buffets out there are pretty heinous.  It may take some time to find a good one.

This was the wall in our kitchen before we cleared it.  Everything you see here was in-the-meantime.  (Funny how that state can last for years!)  The three square cupboards stood in for a messy pantry, and the butcher block-topped island (although we love the piece!) was just a catch-all for junk.

We actually got our hands on this really nice buffet/hutch from friends by trading it for a couch we no longer needed.  They had inherited the buffet but had no need for it, and it was sitting in their shed.

Trading is a great way of doing things, because everybody wins and 'unwanted' things stay out of landfills...  This also avoids stuff getting parked indefinitely in garden sheds, basements and garages.  Do you have anything you'd be willing to trade for something you need more?

Not bad, not bad at all!

We loved the size and shape, and knew that with some fresh paint and new handles, this could work well in our small kitchen.  However, it did need some TLC.  Because it was built old-school, the middle bottom door was bolted into place, as were the two upper glass doors on the sides.  Not so handy.  We figured we could easily update it and make all the doors open independently.

that's not dust...
First things first, the clean-up.  There was just a smidge of mildew on the lower doors (a side-effect of being kept in a humid shed).  It looked like dust, but didn't wipe away.  To eliminate it, a scrub of warm water with baking soda and bleach did the trick.  (If you have allergies, best to have someone else do this.)

We cleaned the rest, removed the back panel and handles (carefully filling the holes) and were ready to begin painting.

This time, we used our spray gun attached to an air compressor, which is a thousand times more fun (and satisfying) than painting by hand.  We chose a glossy white for the outside and a gorgeous turquoise called Jamaican Sea (yes please!) for a pop of color in the background.

Behr 'Jamaican Sea'

Here is the final result:

For the bottom doors, we swapped the medieval-looking handles for some white knobs with a cute crackle-y effect.

I love how the lines really come out beautifully in white

Turquoise makes the white dishes really pop!

I have to say, we were happy with the overall effect.  It's light and airy, and offers lots of storage right where we need it.  Also, having dishes and glassware behind glass doors is really awesome when you have people over because they can find things really easily!

A few challenges...

The rejigging of the doors proved to be much more of a challenge for us than we anticipated.  We had to get extra crafty... and the project fell into that gray area somewhere between fun and when-did-this-get-so-frustrating?

On the bottom part, because the three panels were so close together, it was too tight to add hinges anywhere to make the middle door swing open.  Trust us: we tried every which way.  Maybe we could just leave the door bolted into place and reach in behind it?  Or perhaps craft a door-within-a-door?  Or have it swing out from the top or bottom?  Folks, this stumped us for days on end.

Finally, a flash: why not join two doors together to make one large, folding double-door, like a bifold door?  And so that's what we did.  (We also added a simple cabinet-door magnet from Home Depot to help secure it in place, because it's quite heavy.)

On the upper part of the hutch, the challenge was not only the lack of space between the doors, but also locating just the right hinges to join the doors to the frame.  It was hard because they're old, so matching the style as well as finding the right mechanism was especially difficult.  (The glass panels were never intended to function as doors, so they were inset into the frame).

We searched for weeks, tried (and failed with) many different models, and finally succeeded when we went to Lee Valley.  They carry all kinds of specialty items, and had in-stock what we needed to match older methods of furniture-making: hinges made for inset doors/panels.  In the end, we learned that really specific parts may be tough to find, but with a little patience you can find just about anything on the internet.

All that to say, if you're feeling cocky about how easy it will be to make structural changes to the architecture of a piece, either take a minute to bring 'er down a notch, or make sure you leave yourself a whole lot of extra time... because you're probably going to run into a bunch of problems!

The only thing left is to add two more handles to the doors on top.  But otherwise, we're happy with our handiwork!

What do you think?


  1. wow, this is major. it looks so good, and DIY carpentry? Very ambitious!!

    1. Thanks Kim! So glad you enjoyed!

  2. looks great!
    so did you sand this at all before painting?

    1. Thank you! I did a lot of cleaning on this one but not much sanding. I did 2-3 spray coats of white self-primimg glossy paint, and so far it seems to be holding really well.

  3. God you guys are clever!! I would never have been able to change the door. Beautiful job! I love it. I really love the turquoise too. I have also been looking at hutches to do over and decided today I think I will content myself with an old wood buffet of my husband's that he hates. He wanted to get rid of it but I think it could work in my study, painted white (and with new porcelain knobs like the ones you used!) Love this post.

    1. Haha thanks! Yes, definitely see what you can make of the buffet you've got - not only would I love to read about it, but you'll be proud & happy you got crafty and it will make a great conversation piece ;-) Go for it!


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