Here is the tutorial I promised for the Gustavian Grey Armoire! I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the process of its metamorphosis! I learned so much and I am excited to share it with you!
I love working with hand crafted pieces like this. Every detail was created by a human being...and it shows. Unfortunately, these pine Mexican Armoires are outdated, having seen popularity in the mid to late 90's, they are a trend whose time has come. It is evident by the sheer volume of pieces like this on Craigslist. This particular armoire is a bit different in that it has a domed top with a carved cutout in front.
There were some challenges with this armoire. I wanted to change the vernacular, which meant I had to remove the old hardware. That was no small feat, because the pulls on these Made In Mexico pieces are not screwed in, they are hammered in! Lots of effort but it was worth it! I ended up using a hammer and a flat head screwdriver. Be careful and patient so you don't cut yourself with the screwdriver, like I did!
allowed me to envision the piece without the hinges and black hardware and to see what it would look like painted...
A bit about hinges... I now know everything there is to know about hinges, including their origin and entire history. There are more than 20 different types. Three of those types made their way into my home and had to be returned because they would not work on this piece. The doors are very thick! I ended up using plain old butt hinges.
I chose 2 inch hinges and merely placed them under each existing strap hinge and drilled small pilot holes, then attached them all and finally removed all the existing strap hinges. I then filled the holes with wood putty and let it dry overnight.
I also filled the knotholes with wood putty. It required two applications, allowing the putty to dry thoroughly between applications.
I then sanded the putty with a fine grit sandpaper.
Painting came next...
2). One Coat Annie Sloan Old White
3). (Not Shown) Second Coat Annie Sloan Old White
4). One Coat French Linen
5). Sand with Medium grit sandpaper.
When I create a piece I keep several factors in mind. First, the history. I wanted this to resemble a Gustavian antique so I researched the history of Gustavian furniture as well as hardware.
In 1771, the future Gustav III returned to his native Sweden from the French court of Versailles to ascend the throne as king after his father’s untimely death. The young monarch had been inspired by French architecture and decorative arts and saught to create the "Paris of the North" within the borders of Sweden. Trips to France and later to Italy gave further impetus to Gustav’s passion for the classical. During his reign (1772-1792), the king transformed this once removed European country into a cultural forerunner within Europe. Though the introduction of the Gustavian style actually predates Gustav III's reign, it was the young King that was responsible for disseminating the new style throughout the country.
Early Gustavian decoration was clearly inspired by the French Rococo and later the Neo-classical movements, but the Late Gustavian style was more closely identified with Italy, after engravings from the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii began to circulate in Sweden, ushering in the transition between the more romantic Early Gustavianstyle and the stricter lines associated with the furniture of the Late Gustavian period.
Following these foreign impulses the Swedes created a more restrained or austere style of decoration more suitable for Sweden than the over embellished continental Baroque and Rococo styles.
Original 18th century finishes were achieved by multiple layers of a pigment such as black Iron Oxide, mixed with linseed oil.
The typical Gustavian grey was reached by mixing these two ingredients and the depth of the color depended upon how much iron oxide was used. A high sheen is not common among Gustavian painted piece
Historical artisans used gesso as a primer sealer for filling open-grained woods and as a wood putty to correct natural faults, imperfections and defects in the various substrates they worked on.
Gesso was a do-it-yourself material. It was made by combining plaster of Paris, or gypsum, with liquid hide glues.
The white "primer" coat mimics this finish.
When I paint a piece I peruse hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs, as well as old paintings. I look to see how the piece withstood the ages, where the paint is worn away and the patina of time and use.
With this piece I imagined it came from a large home that had only fireplaces for heat and candles for light. I was heavy handed with the Annie Sloan Dark Wax to mimic the acrid, clinging smoke that no amount of cleaning could erase. Then I sanded the corners, where busy hands may have grabbed the doors through the centuries, taking bits of paint and depositing oils. I then sanded around the hardware to mimic the efforts of the housekeeping staff to keep the hardware clean. I imagined a servant buffing in the same pattern each time she was assigned the task of cleaning this armoire. Up and down...side to side...year after year... until the pattern became engraved upon the surface. The mops they used sometimes nicked the base of the piece and removed paint. I can envision them bustling around the armoire in my mind's eye. Can you?
One coat of Annie Sloan Clear Wax, followed by a coat of Dark Wax. I HIGHLY recommend using a wax brush. It is easier to control and it uses FAR less product than any other method.
Remember to have clean t-shirts or terry towels on hand to rub the wax in after it is applied.
Escutcheon keyhole cover...a little more ornate than I wanted but I could not find the perfect one! I placed on on the upper right hand cabinet door and the lower right hand cabinet door and used a mock key pull to mimic a key.
I placed one of these laurel, torch keyhole escutcheons on each drawer and used mock key pulls as well.
The escutcheon was antique so I didn't have to age it. I found two on ebay. They aren't precisely what I was looking for but close enough.
The mock key pulls had a shiny brass finish. I first soaked them in acetone to remove the clear sealer, wiped them off , rinsed in hot water, then boiled them in a mixture of salt and white vinegar. I used a ratio of one cup to one cup.
After you boil them for 10 minutes, remove them from the vinegar and salt solution and place them on a baking sheet in the oven at 450 degrees for ten minutes. Please be cautious when working with chemicals and high temperatures!
It is difficult to tell but the finish had a lovely patina. The photo does not do it justice! See how the paint is worn away, as if years and years of use and cleaning abraded it?
The piece still needed something, so I found these large finials on ebay. I think they were probably from an old pair of fireplace andirons.
Perfect! You can also see how the white peeks through the grey.
I even played around with Pixlr
to see if I wanted to paint the trim white. Though I did like it, I chose not to. If I did I would use simple drawer pulls (handle type).
I bought these bun feet on ebay to add to the bottom. I never did so because Handsome Husband's arm injury meant I had no helper to turn this extraordinarily heavy piece on its side. They would have looked nice, however. At five inches, they would have also added some much needed height.
I actually loved it with just one coat of Annie Sloan Old White (2nd photo)! The pine finish was really easy to work with! The pine showing under the paint had an authentic aged feel.
I absolutely love Before and After collages!
This piece took a bit longer than most but the paint, itself, took fewer than two hours total.
I chose not to paint the interior because I love the pine finish.
I hope I covered everything! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
As of this moment, there are five Mexican Pine armoires on my local Craigslist. Some even have lovely curved doors! Every time I come across one I can envision what it could be! This finish and hardware would be beautiful on Kitchen cabinets, Bathroom cabinets or even small wooden boxes!