I’ve dreamed of having a large pantry since moving into our first apartment. We had an actual pantry in that house, which was amazing, but it was small and collected a lot of miscellaneous stuff. Which is what a pantry is for, really. So when I first saw the Hamilton House pantry I was excited! Then I looked more closely and I was dejected. The room was painted electric blue with white trim, the only room on the first floor with painted trim. Well, the kitchen trim was also painted, around the three doorways in there. The pantry had one original cabinet left in it, the remnants of another one were located in the basement – only two broken cabinet doors sadly. I’m guessing the room was renovated in the 1960’s when the kitchen was renovated. The windows are replacements and were also painted white. Here are a few photos of the room when we first saw it:

So we decided that the first order of business would be to finish the stripping of the woodwork, which the previous owner had started years before as you can see from the photos. This was absolutely the worst part of this renovation in my mind. We had several people working on it and the soul crushing nature of the endless hot summer days with heat gun, respirator, and rubber gloves sent them running for the hills after a few weeks. I ended up with the thankless task of finishing the work. Frankly, it sucked. Not to mention the additional three doors in the kitchen next door. More suckville.

Then there were the electrical issues. There was a (filthy beyond all reason) ceiling fan in the pantry when we bought the house, and there were two additional junction boxes on the ceiling, one on each side of the ceiling fan. There was also an oddly placed electrical outlet up high on one wall in the room, the old fashioned single round outlet, which was recessed too. And a double gang switch. So the fan/light was operated off one of the wall switches which sparked loudly one night when I was working in there, and the fan and light went out. Our (very talented and patient) electrician, Gary, was jammed up with work so could not get in to even look at it for a few weeks so we were without light in the room which was annoying. When he finally did get there, we learned that he could not figure out where the wiring for the two ceiling boxes went. So we hung three pendants which I outfitted with antique petticoat shades and Edison bulbs and made it look like we meant to do that:

The three lightsThe built-in cabinet mid-stripA little further along in the processyikes!

Then the wall outlet became a wall sconce (much better) but the switch which should operate it was also on the mystery circuit that Gary could not find or something like that. So there is a switch to nowhere, just to confuse guests. The sconce is operated by turning the knob on it. Less than ideal but it looks pretty.

The floor tile is magical! We had to lay the pattern out in the dining room first to make sure it fit the room since we used a border tile and field tile. It's a great encaustic tile product that we sell here at the store called Caprice Loire. You can check it out here. 

Laying the tile pattern out in the dining roomLoving the tile!Jim laying the floor tileQuestioning my paint colors 

My wall paint color gave me fits after I did it, and I was planning on repainting everything in the room after we finished. But it grew on me, after the floor tile went down and the lighting went in and I got the stain and shellac on the woodwork. At night, the room is magical. We use push button dimmers on everything, so you can make it into a lovely, warm space easily. My blue ceiling disappears at night which is perfect. I got lazy and tired during the wood stripping process so I decided to paint the inside of the built-in cabinet that we stripped, another tone of blue, which I was happy with – both color-wise and time-wise. The damn door on that cabinet also gave me fits, trying to strip the woodwork around the glass without removing the glass was not a good idea. I broke one of the panes almost immediately. So lesson learned – if you are stripping cabinet doors with glass, do yourself a favor and take the panes out first.

Here is how we stripped all of this woodwork. First thing – Wagner heat gun, make sure you wear a mask. You will burn some of the woodwork if you have not done this before so try it on an area that is not obvious. I have a video here of Jim working on some of it. (his mask is nearby I swear).

After the heat gun work, you need to get the remaining paint off using stripper. We use a soy-based stripper by Blue Bear which we also sell, we use it all the time and highly recommend it. Put it on thickly, leave it for a couple hours or overnight, and then use a five-in-one tool to scrape it off.

Then you need to clean off the residue from the stripper. I used more denatured alcohol with steel wool, I used a coarse grain (3) moving down to a fine grain (0000).

There were some spots that the heat gun and stripper would not touch. For these areas we used an orbital palm sander with a coarse grit (60) moving down to a fine grit (150). This is another task you MUST wear a respirator when doing, it is a mess. I would go home at night with fine wood dust covering me from head to feet and in my fingerprints – my fingers and thumbs felt completely smooth because of the fine dust in the grooves. It’s a really weird sensation that anyone who has done a lot of sanding has probably experienced.

After everything got a final sanding with the 150 grit, I tackclothed all of it and gave it two coats of Minwax “Provincial” wood stain then eventually, after all other work was done in the house, three coats of shellac. Before the shellac went on, I used acrylic paint to touch up the many spots that just were not strippable. Dents with the white paint deep in them, dog scratches with white paint deep in them. In another life I was a photo retoucher, this training prepared me for this phase of the refinishing. It took a lot of shades of brown and gray that I just mixed up to match each area. 

When it was finally time to put finish on the wood I used amber shellac flakes that I dissolved in denatured alcohol for most of it, until I ran out after going through 8 lbs of shellac flakes and grabbed some Zinsser pre-mixed stuff from Lowe’s out of desperation. It worked fine, but I prefer the thicker consistency of the stuff I mixed up because it was less messy.

My goal was to try to make this woodwork look like the stuff in the rest of the house. But that was impossible because each room has a different color tone. So in the end, it’s all fine, the room looks much better than it did when we bought the place.

The last thing we did in the room was to add a counter under the window. I LOVE this part of the room! We used salvaged marble slabs from our warehouse; they used to be bathroom stall walls in a local Catholic girls’ school. They have holes in them which we had planned to fill, it has not happened yet but it might someday. We used an old porch post as a leg, and salvaged wood panels for the bottom shelf. It’s a great space to use when entertaining, for hotel pans, crock pots, a buffet. Or to sit and have a quick lunch or a cup of coffee. Here is the (mostly) finished pantry:

photo by dave burnet/digitaz photography

photo by dave burnet/digitaz photography

Posted on Categories : Antique Cabinets