Nursery Preview – Deacon’s Bench & Sconces

I’ve talked a little about my Deacon’s Bench. It’s a handcrafted piece that was made for my birth. It’s traveled with me from Canada to Houston to Miami to The Woodlands to Austin to Vegas and back to Toronto. Thirty years and a lot of travel has certainly caused some wear and tear, but it’s held up better than one might expect.

When I was little I kept my toys in it. As I grew up it became a place for my clothing or towels/linens. And of course it was always nice to have an extra place to sit. (Sometimes it’s super awkward to have someone in your room only able to sit on the bed.)

I’m hoping Spawn gets as much use out of it as I did. But first, I had to make a few changes so that it would work with the rest of the nursery.

I’m not actually sure what colour it started out as, but back before I moved to Vegas I painted it a medium cherry wood. It was to match some other furniture I re-purposed and painted. I can’t swear to what I used, but I’m sure it was an all-in-one polyurethane type colour. I didn’t sand or do anything special, just painted and let it dry.

I knew this time I’d have to do more work. All my nursery furniture is in Espresso, and it’s a tricky colour to match. It can look almost black in low-light, but under close observation you can still see the grain of the wood. I was having a heck of a time finding a stain anywhere in Espresso. Eventually I gave it up and mixed two colours. (Minwax® Wood Finish™ in Onyx and Dark Walnut)

The first step was to strip the old finish off and sand down the bench to get a blank canvas to work from. I got a little over-excited and I forgot to take a photo before I started work. So, just pretend the photo below doesn’t have the stripping on the front.

Deacon's Bench Start

Once I managed to remove the old finish and sand it down, it looked like this:

Stripped BenchYou can clearly see the damage on the front, right-hand bottom foot. I was worried about this, and thought I might have to fill it, but it turned out fine without the extra work.

With the clean, finish free wood exposed, I applied my stain mixture:

One Coat BenchCertainly it was darker, but not half as dark as I wanted it to be. (You can see the arm of my glider in the upper left-hand corner. It’s a good barometer for how much darker I needed to go.) I applied two more coats, but felt as though the process was really going slowly. You’re supposed to apply the stain, let it sit for a given amount of time based on the absorption you’re looking for, and then use a cloth to remove the excess. I decided to try just leaving the stain on over night.


The flash makes it look lighter than it really is. It also showcases how ridiculously shiny it came out.  I loved the colour, but the shine was driving me up the wall. I took to the interwebs to find myself a solution. What I was really hoping to find was a Matte Polyurethane. Much like my Espresso stain, I had a very difficult time with locating a Matte finish. I spoke to several experts and most of them felt like a Satin Polyurethane would work to my satisfaction.

My other consideration was the hardware; two hinges and a purely decorative heart pull on the front. They were originally black, but had chipped and rusted in places. I looked around and didn’t find anything I liked better. I thought about refinishing them. Then it occurred to me that the finish I wanted to achieve (namely antiqued) existed naturally in the hardware I already had.

So I applied two coats of the Satin Poly, reattached the hardware, and am happy to say the bench has achieved new life.

Finished BenchVoilà!

I’m quite pleased with the finished piece. Still, if I had to do it all over again, there are some things I would do differently.

First of all, do you see those gauzy white curtains in the photo above? Yeah, I should have moved them out of the way. The one on the left has some small flecks of stain on it. Not anything you’d notice without looking, but it was such a simple thing to take the time to move them out of harm’s way.

I’d also recommend trying to find the stain and polyurethane in one. I should have just special ordered the all-in-one in espresso. Maybe it wouldn’t have come out as nice, but it certainly would have taken a lot less time to come together.

While I was staining the bench, it occurred to me that I had an opportunity to “antique gold” a couple of wall sconces at the same time. I’d had them for awhile, used for everything from holding art to hanging window decor. They are going to be a part of the crib canopy for Spawn’s room, but their off-white colour didn’t work for me.

Here’s the starting and finished version:

Sconce Before and AfterFirst step to making the antique gold was to use a simple gold pant.

Pre and Post Stain SconcesOnce that dried, I used my bench stain and some cheesecloth to rub all over the sconces.

It’s a fast and dirty trick to completely change the look of an object.

I did a lot of work on the nursery this weekend, and with the exception of the “soft” decor (sheets, change pad cover, blanket(s), rug, etc) it’s just about finished.

Should be able to show you the finished look soon. (I’m very excited.) 😀




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