I took it home, and primed it in preparation for painting it. MY 2 MISTAKES.... First, there was a lot of other stuff going on in my life, and somehow I idiotically forgot to clean the piece first! Major error! The dirt and oils that are naturally on the surface of even 'clean' items will impede proper paint adhesion. Every surface MUST ALWAYS be thoroughly cleaned before painting. Then my second error... the sideboard was originally covered in fake-wood-look laminate. Since laminate is such a smooth and glossy surface, I needed to either rough up the surface with sandpaper to give it enough 'tooth' to hold the paint properly, or use a primer that can go directly on to such a glossy surface (Apparently, Sherwin-Williams makes the only one...but I was using KILZ). I THOUGHT I was using such a primer, but it turned out, I had failed to do enough research and actually check for myself that it was ok - it wasn't. By the time I realized both of these errors, I had already primed half the cabinet. These errors meant that the finish on this cabinet would not hold up to much wear-and-tear, and over time, the paint would start coming off. How long before this happened could not be predicted and depended on many factors, including climate and abuse. But if I was gentle with it, I could probably get a few years of use out of it, and even if I had to retouch it periodically, I figured I wasn't looking for heirloom furniture to burden my children with, but a piece I could use and then replace when I moved or changed styles. Figuring this was a CLASSIC case of 'Good Enough' crafting, I kept going...
The primed cabinet:
After the primer dried, I saw there were some spots of discoloration - pinks and yellows bleeding through the white primer. No idea what they were, couldn't find any answers online, so I went and found a carpenter to ask. Turns out, this is another problem that came up possibly due to my earlier mistakes. He thought it was oils and glue from the old veneer leeching through. So I sprayed the whole cabinet with a light coat of stain blocker (any will do, and it dries almost instantly), then went on to the next step...
I had decided that I really hated those spindles on the doors, but what would hide them and be a design that I could touch-up easily down the road without looking 'fixed'? Trees!!! The round spindles would add some real depth and shape to my trees, and I'd always loved those pretty aspen and birch tree paintings - plus it was a design my husband would like too. So I used low-tack painter's tape to mark out the placement of my trees - all the spindles, plus some extra trees - don't forget to do the sides of the cabinet if they will be visible!
Off to Home Depot for paint! I started with their 'Oops' section - paints that were ordered by other customers than not wanted for various reasons. These paints are steeply discounted, but selection varies widely and they or may not be willing or able to tweak the color at all. I found a gallon of a suitable latex paint in a nice shade of blue and used that as the primary color. A gallon is way more than I needed, but I can use it for lots of other projects. I then used the paint swatch cards to find 4 other colors that all complemented each other and the blue quite nicely - a red, yellow, dark grey, and purple. I had those mixed up in the little 4oz tester sizes - more than enough paint for me.
I went ahead and painted the top the first base coat of blue, since I wasn't planning on continuing my trees up to the top.
When that was dry, I pulled the painters tape off - generally, you should do this BEFORE the paint is totally dry (just do it carefully), so that you don't lift off the paint with the tape. My trees are now visible as primed shapes against the 'blurple' (blue-purple background):
I then took a tube of white acrylic artist's paint I had laying around, and thickly smooshed it around all the trees - primarily along the right side. While that was wet, I took the dark grey latex and used a medium brush to make a fat uneven line of it up the left side of the each tree. Then I took a fan-shaped paintbrush and used it to draw the grey into the white and shape and define each tree in little arc strokes. I used a fine brush to go back and add some dark marks into the tree trunks, which I then feathered with the fan brush. I worked as quickly as I could, one tree at a time, trying to finish the whole tree before it dried.
This step took twice as long as all the others to dry - 2 days. When the trunks were fully dry, I used makeup sponges to sponge the yellow and red paint all over as the beautiful fall foliage. This was tricky since the paint had to go on thick to fully block the blue underneath which kept trying to green my yellow. I allowed the paint to freely drip lines over the surface, though I did NOT allow the 'leaves' to drip and run. In order to prevent the thick paint of the leaves from running down the sides, I kept monitoring the whole piece as it dried, going from cluster of leaves to cluster, and using the sponge to reblot any leaf that threatened to drip. When it was finally mostly dry to the touch (about an hour or so later), I could rest. It then took several more days before it has fully dried. But my cabinet was so beautiful, I was delighted with the result. I still need to get new drawer pulls and door knobs for it, and maybe when my nice sponges turn up I will add some wispy white clouds to the top, but otherwise, it's done and I love it!