Our wonderful customer L has an impressive panelled entrance hall to her London home; opposite the front door is a glazed door screen leading through to the main hallway. A side window give light into the entrance hall, which lacked only one thing - storage for coats, boots. shoes and the like. L had been using a freestanding hanging rail until she could find a fitting solution for the space opposite the window.
She came across The Fettling Fairies website and contacted Joy (the Bossy Fairy) to discuss her exacting requirements, based on the style of a hall cupboard we had produced as a custom item for a previous customer. The wood surface finish on wardrobes can sometimes be quite rough inside compared to the outside; L wanted us to ensure that her hall cupboard would be smooth and well finished. Once the basic specification was agreed, we set out to try to find a similar wardrobe to the previous one. After several days intensive searching, we were astonished to find one which was nearly identical. We purchased this and arranged for our couriers to collect it to bring to our workshops in North Yorkshire. Joy contacted L and told her the good news; the final specification was agreed, which included markedly different colours for inside and outside. L chose some special knobs. For the hanging space, she told us she would like pegs, rather than a hanging rail or hooks.
When the wardrobe arrived, in sections as expected, our Practical Fairy found that it had been taken apart incorrectly; he put it back together to check all was ok and to work out how it should properly come apart. (We had decided that due to the size and weight of the piece. it would be necessary for us to deliver and assemble the hall cupboard ourselves in L's home.)
Our Practical Fairy spent over two days removing the dirty old wax from the outside of the wardrobe. Paint does not adhere to wax, sanding it can just melt it further into the wood surface and it is insoluble in nearly all cleaning solutions. We employ special techniques and solutions to remove wax. After this, the wardrobe was taken apart again to be sanded inside and out. The Practical Fairy cut up an old pine wardrobe for material to make the custom shoe section of the hall cupboard. He also manufactured the peg rails to be used inside the hanging compartment. After several sessions of filling and sanding, he was ready to commence painting the numerous sections. We also masked the drawers ready for painting.
After thorough preparation, we always start with a coat of shellac based primer. This gives a first class base to the finish but also acts as an excellent block to stains that can seep through and sealer for knots. From experience, we know that some materials can need a second coat of this primer, in this case it was not necessary. Virtually all our pieces are spray painted to achieve the best finish with careful sanding between coats. Paint containers specify when paint should be touch dry and when it can be re-coated. They fail to mention that new paint is soft and needs time to cure. At the Fettling Fairies, we leave paint to dry and cure overnight (and usually for at least 20 hours) between coats in our heated drying rooms where we keep an eye on temperature, ventilation and most important, humidity.
Our next step was to apply undercoat. You'll find lots of furniture upcyclers selling online who feature the fact they use Farrow and Ball colours. We know many of them don't bother to use an undercoat, those that do seldom use the correct one for the topcoat colour. In order to get a Farrow and Ball colour to look correct, it's important to use the undercoat colours they specify. In this case, we used water-based acrylic resin Dark Tones undercoat for the outer surfaces of the hall cupboard (and the inside of the doors). We used Red & Warm Tones undercoat for all the inside surfaces. (see the photo showing Red & Warm Tones being overcoated with the topcoat colour.)
After another night's drying, the Practical Fairy fine sanded the undercoats and started to spray the first coat of topcoat of water based acrylic satin paint. The outer surfaces and doors were all done in F&B 'London Clay' - a charming warm brown. The inner surfaces were all done in F&B 'India Yellow'. We loved working with these colours and were so impressed at our customer L's tasteful selection. Our photos of the India Yellow don't do it justice, making it look brighter than it is and garish, which it isn't. It's a subtler, warmer tone than shown in our pictures (The picture of the peg rails unfitted is probably the closest).
The following day, the second coats of India Yellow and London Clay were applied after careful fine sanding. After another night in our drying rooms, everything was sprayed with a coat of water based matt varnish and then left to dry and cure for a day.
Our Practical Fairy then assembled the boot and shoe storage section into one piece which included the right-hand side and the middle panel. He then fitted (already painted) moulding bead to the edges of the shelves and uprights. He temporarily fitted castors to the base section that contains the drawers so that we could move the whole cupboard around our workshops in the final stages. He then carefully reassembled all the sections together.
Next the peg rails were fitted into the hanging section. We had sourced new bronze coloured finial hinges to replace the original brass ones which the Practical Fairy fitted when he rehung the doors, adjusting them so they fitted their catches just right. At this stage all the new knobs were fitted. Our Artistic Fairy did a few small manual touch up jobs then we moved the cupboard into one of our drying rooms overnight. The next day we sprayed over the touch-ups with matt varnish for an even finish.
Yet another day saw us photographing the cupboard, then we took it apart ready to transport to London. Our Practical Fairy took the front off with the three doors still hung to save us time. All the sections were carefully bubble wrapped. On the day of delivery we carefully loaded all the sections into our van using plenty of soft furniture blankets - along with L's large console table which we had refinished. The Bossy Fairy and the Practical Fairy set off after lunch and arrived outside L's lovely home at around five thirty. We received a warm welcome and a lovely cup of tea each. We explained that it would take us about an hour to assemble the hall cupboard and proceeded to bring it section by section into the hallway. Assembly went very smoothly and once we were happy it was all properly aligned, all the screws were put back in.
We were very proud to see our cupboard making a statement in such a grand hallway, but most of all we were please to achieve our aim - a delighted customer!
If you think this was rather a lot of work, everything produced by The Fettling Fairies gets the same care and effort.
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