Traditional Sideboard Makeover (**Make it Modern!)

Sometimes there is a piece of furniture that is amazing quality and craftsmanship, but just not quite your style. That’s how I felt about a gorgeous traditional buffet that I bought from a friend. There is nothing wrong with it functionally, but I didn’t love the look. So here is how I gave a traditional sideboard a modern makeover.

This sideboard makeover was a labor of love for sure. But I knew it had potential if I could just figure out how to make it work. I wanted to take this super traditional sideboard and give it a modern look. It took a few weeks and I had some help from my husband, and I also made a few mistakes but I love it now!

Mid-century modern style is something I’ve loved for a while. I’m gradually transitioning some of my styles towards a modern vintage look.

Styles change and what we love for our houses changes. And that’s ok! You do you! If you have loved farmhouse style for the past 5 years, but now you want to transition away from it, do it! If you prefer a more modern look over your previous traditional style, make it happen.

There is no rule that you have to keep things the same. And for the record, I’m a huge fan of mixing styles. It’s your house and you should be happy. Mix it up – vintage, modern, farmhouse, traditional – whatever works for you and your family!

Traditional Sideboard Makeover

This piece came from a neighbor friend. It’s been in their family for a while and she was ready to pass it on to another home. I’m not an expert, but if you asked me for a description it would be traditional.

It’s solid wood and it was in perfect shape other than a few teeny blemishes. And the storage!! Who doesn’t need more drawers and cubbies to hide things away in? And of course the price – $75. Can’t beat that!

For the record, I checked around a few places to buy one and found some stunning options, but way out of my price range.

My plan for this was to update into a more modern look and replace our current buffet in the living room. And while there was nothing wrong with what we had, it definitely wasn’t modern and I’m ready for a new look! You can see our current buffet and its transformation here.

And here’s what I started with before the makeover:

traditional sideboard makeover -  before picture

Plans for the Sideboard Makeover

  • Remove the bottom part and add modern legs/feet
  • Change the hardware
  • Fill in the grooves of the doors and sides to add to the modern look
  • Paint

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Traditional Sideboard Makeover Supplies:

Budget Breakdown

I always like to see how much things actually cost when starting a project if possible, so if you’re into that, here you go!

ItemPriceTotal
Buffet$75
Wood Filler$30
Paint$30
Hardware$31
Legs$14
All other supplies$0 (already had)
$180

$180 isn’t exactly chump change, but compared to what I am finding online to purchase new, it’s significantly cheaper. Also, I sold my current buffet for $125. This is amazingly cheap but it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I wanted it gone that day. In hindsight, it was far too cheap – I should’ve asked for a minimum of $250. Oh well.

So $180 minus $125 for the old buffet, I’m out $65 total.

Traditional Sideboard Makeover

This thing was a labor of love and my husband thought I was nuts for some of the ideas I had (as always) such as cutting off the bottom portion.

The bottom part just didn’t give off all the modern vibes I am hoping for so it needed to go. Also, I knew I wanted to add modern legs/feet and it was going to be far too tall to fit behind our couch without cutting part of it off.

It was 32″ tall with the current structure and the max I could do with our couch is 29″ without looking super weird.

traditional sideboard makeover - pieces to be removed

So, here’s my style. Just try it. See what happens. We turned it on its side and I just started unscrewing pieces. Worst case scenario, it falls apart. But I didn’t think that was going to happen.

My husband will sit and stare at it forever assessing and thinking logically, but I’m too impatient. Just get in there and try.

For the record – his method is likely more effective.

Once I had enough screws removed, I could tell the bottom portion was getting loose. So we kept on and finally got the entire bottom to slide right off.

sideboard makeover
ignore our weird feet!

Now, all we needed to do was cut the supports. Here’s another issue – if you cut the supports, is it going to affect the integrity of the rest of the piece? I don’t know, but again, I’m a wing-it kind of person, and 50% of the time it works out. This time it did thankfully.

“Wing it – what’s the worst that could happen?”

…me right before I get real nervous I’m about to really mess up

My husband helped with this part because I’m not that fond of using electric saws yet. We turned it upside down on sawhorses and he cut the bottom portion completely off.

He used a straight edge guide for his circular saw which worked wonders with keeping the saw from cutting uneven. It takes some calculations to get it set correctly, but it helps tremendously.

We also had to slightly trim the backing that was on the piece since we removed part of the height. He pulled the staples out that held it on, trimmed it slightly, then hammered the backing in place again.

And now it looked super weird and awkward because it was short and stubby.

New Legs for The Sideboard

But enter these amazingly affordable and stylish 4-inch legs and she was good to go. These came with the hardware we needed to install them. Since we were not actually replacing legs, it didn’t go exactly as planned. You can see the top of the screw inside the buffet when you open the doors.

But, it’s not enough to make me upset about it or worry with finding different legs. Especially at the price for those – they were exactly what I wanted and super affordable.

sideboard makeover - new legs

Mistakes I Made with The Sideboard Makeover

So, I mentioned I made some mistakes. And you know what? It’s ok. It still looks good. However, if I were trying to sell this piece for a profit, I’d fix those mistakes prior to selling. And I’ve learned a lesson in wood filler and primer to use for the next time

This sideboard had curvy grooves in the doors that were not meshing with the modern vibes I had in my head. I decided to fill them with wood filler.

Why use wood filler instead of wood putty?

There are a few reasons I chose wood filler over putty in this case, but the main one is the drying time. Filler dries much quicker than putty. In addition, my space to fill was larger so I thought filler would be a better choice. I used this post as a reference for my choice – it explains it all in great detail.

So, I started adding wood filler. Let me caution you – per the manufacturer, it’s designed for the following:

“for filling cracks, small gouges, nail holes, knot holes and other defects in unfinished wood”

I’m not entirely sure my grooves in the wood would qualify for “small gouges” but I went with it anyway. I’m sure there is an easier and better way, but at the time, that’s what I used. This is the filler I used.

Adding Wood Filler to Make My Buffet More Modern

I started with the vertical grooves on either side of the buffet. I was going for more of a modern clean lined look and just didn’t love the grooves.

The key is not to add too much at one time. Use a putty knife and gently add a bit of putty into the grooves. Let it dry completely, sand, repeat. Continue until you have the coverage you want.

The doors were much harder due to the deep grooves. I continually added filler, let dry, sanded, repeated. Over and over and over again.

Here are my two main mistakes I made when dealing with the filler:

  • I didn’t build up enough filler. In certain lights, you can still see a tiny indention where the grooves were. It’s not enough for me to do it over, but if I were selling this piece, I’d absolutely have to fix it.
  • The second mistake was not priming the doors before painting. I didn’t prime the rest, so I thought the doors would be fine even with filler. They weren’t.

When I painted the rest of the buffet, I didn’t use a primer. When I got to the doors, I painted just like the rest, but when it dried you could see a clear outline of the grooves. I added more paint but it didn’t work.

I then realized I should have primed it. So I sanded it good. Then, primed it (using a brush), then painted and it worked great. However, at this point, I had so many layers of paint that it ended up showing tons of brushstrokes.

traditional sideboard makeover mistakes

In hindsight, I would add more filler to the doors, use a spray primer, and prime the areas first. Then paint.

But again, it’s not enough to keep me from using it. It’s only noticeable during a tiny portion of the day when the light hits it just right. However, I would redo the doors completely if I were selling this piece.

Modern Hardware

I finished it off with this gorgeous modern hardware I scored from Amazon. It was super affordable and the only downside is I had to order two sizes so I have a few leftovers. However, I’ll save them for another project.

traditional sideboard makeover new hardware

traditional sideboard makeover

And just a reminder of what I started with:

It’s not perfect by any means, but for the price and the end result, I love it. It has amazing storage and it fits perfectly behind our couch.

I know some people are against changing perfectly good furniture, but if it doesn’t make you happy and match your style, I say go for it.

This traditional sideboard makeover is exactly what I wanted for far less money than if I had purchased something new.

If you’re just getting started, check out this guide for painting wood furniture to help you!

How To Make A Traditional Buffet More Modern

Traditional Sideboard Makeover

Transform a traditional buffet/sideboard into a more modern piece of furniture.

Prep Time 1 hour
Active Time 4 days
Total Time 4 days 1 hour
Difficulty Medium

Materials

  • Paint and Primer
  • Wood Filler
  • Brushes
  • New Hardware
  • Legs
  • Cleaner
  • Sanding Blocks

Tools

  • Circular Saw
  • Putty Knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Electric Sander
  • Straight Edge Guide

Instructions

  1. Prep your piece by removing all the hardware - label in bags if you plan to reuse
  2. Remove any doors and store hinges/screws in bags labeled left and right if necessary
  3. Clean thoroughly with a degreasing cleanser
  4. Add wood filler to the areas you are changing, let dry, sand, repeat until the desired result
  5. Prime over the areas covered with wood filler
  6. Paint two coats, waiting the proper drying time in between, let dry fully
  7. Reassemble
traditional sideboard makeover

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