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MCM with Coffin3
MCM with Coffin

Both of these pieces were done for customers’ nurseries. I wish I had this sense of modern style when I was pregnant years ago with my kids! For those of you who want to know how I achieve a slick finished look on mid century pieces, a step by step list is below. Other resources that could be helpful:
• Resources for Mid Century Furniture Transformations

My Mid Century Portfolio

MCM with Coffin2

#114 MCM Dresser2 by Martha Leone Design #114 MCM Dresser by Martha Leone Design #114 MCM Dresser3 by Martha Leone Design





  1. SAND
    • Preparation for areas that will be painted:  Use an orbital sander at a low speed to scuff up the finish. Sand just enough to remove the sheen from the old finish.
    Preparation for areas that will be to be stained:
     Carefully sand the surface with an orbital sander at a medium to low speed till all stain and finish are removed. Clean then prep with Pre-Stain Conditioner. Follow directions on the container for dry time.
  2. PRIME
    After all sanding is completed, wipe away all dust and vacuum the interior of drawers and frame. Then, prime with oil by using a 6″ foam roller and a brush made for oil paints. I use Zinsser Cover Stain Oil Base Primer.
  3. Lightly sand after the primer dries. Wipe down. Now, you’re ready for paint.


P A I N T   &   F I N I S H

    I have found that two coats usually get the desired results. Sometimes three coats are necessary with certain whites. 6″ foam rollers work wonderfully on these pieces because most of the surfaces are flat without much detail work in the wood. I use a high quality brush to cover areas that the roller can’t reach.
  2. SEAL
    I apply wax on white surfaces and use either Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane or Varathane water-based polyurethane on color surfaces. For waxes, I use a white rag. For Wipe-On Polys I use a staining pad, and for Varathane water-based polys, I use a black brush (found near the stains at Home Depot).
    When I reuse original hardware and the customer wants a fresh coat of paint on the pulls, here’s what I do: Sand the surface, prime with an automotive spray primer, spray two coats of the desired color, and seal with a spray polyurethane.


Take a look at my entire mid century portfolio for more inspiration. Each image links back to the post written about that particular piece.

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The bowl on the first dresser in this post was designed and created by Jennifer Coffin, a friend of mine who is an accomplished potter. Her stunning work expresses a vast knowledge of this medium and her experimental techniques never cease to amaze me. Visit her etsy shop where you’ll find more examples of her work.