A HUTCH RISES UP (FROM THE BASEMENT)

When we bought our house, the previous owner left us little-to-no treasures. There was no secret bag of money under the floor boards, no Picassos inside the flue. Well… there was this hutch in the storage space under the front porch. The same space that had been filled to the brim with garbage (not to mention a very large collection of walnuts?) and sported a pungent aroma of animal urine.

The hutch was there, clinging to dear life, mere moments from complete termite annihilation, when we moved in. We killed off the termites, our carpenter cleaned out the space, and I surveyed the hutch. It was poorly. Admittedly, I almost wrote it off. I remember saying something along the lines of, “Let’s put it on Craigslist for free. Someone can use this outside in their garden. It’s quirky, in a Berkeley garden sort of way.”

Of course, I never did that, because nothing is every really dead to me. I had an itch. Maybe there were too many relatable shows on tv at the time (Rehab Addict, Cash & Cari, I’m looking at you), and I figure, eh, I can do that!

So years later, just shy of the holiday work deadline madness that happens to both Mike and I every year, I dragged that beast out to the backyard, gathered my arsenal of tools, and set to it.

Dirty is a word. But it is not THE word to do justice to the amount of filth this poor hutch harbored. Out in the bright fall sun, I could see every detail, every past repair, every coat of paint. There was paint, then contact paper (with little roses), then more paint. There were also cup hooks all along the top. I just know, at some point in time, somebody loved this hutch, and it probably lived in my same kitchen. Of course, somebody also abused it. Pretty sure it did time in a workshop, holding leaking cans of chemicals and greasy tools in the drawer.

But overall, the shape is nice and clean, utilitarian and practical, just my style. And what I love the most, it is old. Like, really, really old.

I went into this project with the intention of doing the bare minimum. The plan was to scrape, do a light sand, clean and paint. And whatever I ended up with was what I got. Of course, that’s completely laughable now, but it was a start.

Scraping unearthed the numerous flaws. It also allowed me to get to know every crevice of this old hutch of mine. It felt futile and pointless. Scraping simply wasn’t enough. Things were dire, but I carried on…

Then I gave it a good onceover with some vinegar and warm water and let it dry and air out for a couple days.

After scraping all the loose bits my hands could muster and washing it as best I could, I knew what needed to happen. Citrustrip. There were simply too many layers of glopped on paint, one on top of another. I could not be party to this, it had to be remedied.

So I covered all painted surfaces with that magic, orange sauce, crossed my fingers, held my breath and waited.

Hello hand and iphone shadow. I’m such a pro.

Once again, I got out my scraper and really started digging in. It was never my intention to remove all of the paint, just enough so that I could sand it and end up with a relatively smooth surface. All the same, this part was daunting. And I often questioned if it was worth it and whether I was doing more harm than good.

Under the cream was this wacky combo of green and yellow, and under that, more cream.

Once I reached “as good as it gets” level, I sanded and sanded and sanded. Some reinforcing and patching was necessary—filler, wood glue and screws.

Then the fun began. Primer and paint. I used primer I had on hand and the same Simply White by Benjamin Moore that is all over the trim in our house. The plan for the hutch was to move it into the kitchen, into what had become an awkward nook between the end of the pantry and the wall. I had always intended that space to be set up with a desk, a little mail station, and maybe I will do that someday. But for now, the hutch is a good fit.

Our kitchen is black, white and grey and begging for color. I hate the current wall color, a pale lemongrass that I used to love in another life, and plan to change it soon to a light grey. So where does color come in? Taking inspiration from the old red inset, I decided to also give the hutch an accent.

But this time, I went peacock blue. I figure an old, unlovable little sad sack of a hutch like this, was the perfect opportunity for guilt-free experiment. So the only money I spent on this entire project was one quart of peacock blue paint. And I love it.

I also added some faux glass knobs from the Home Depot. Oh wait, so the only money I spent was on one quart of peacock blue paint, and these knobs. It’s kind of silly having something so feminine on this obvious workhorse, but I like the contrast. I haven’t styled the cabinet yet, so it’s a little sparse I know. I plan to fill the drawer and lower cabinet with all of Thora’s craft supplies. Both doors and the drawer stick, meaning she can’t open it herself and it’s the perfect spot for paints and clay and things of that nature. I might drill a hole through the back to run chords, make a little charging station…

Of course, the kitchen needs repainting and STILL needs trim. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m a broken record.

I have to say, I love how my little collection of Berggren Trayner pieces look against the blue. Makes me want to get more…

Truthfully, I don’t know if this project was worth it. The hutch is still sort of a mess, kind of wobbly, the doors stick etc. It was a learning process for me—about value versus my time, the skin on my hands. If anything, the hutch has been granted another life, it’s ninth life perhaps, and saved from the landfill yet again. I will enjoy it, until I build that desk or move, whichever comes first. For now, it adds a little character to our all-new kitchen and honors the history of the house on some level. Little old rickety hutch.



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