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June 21, 2012

Refinishing the Vintage Blonde Interior Doors to Heywood Wakefield ‘Wheat’ in Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo

By Sara in AZ

As soon as I saw the interior doors at Mom’s condo I knew I was in trouble. This was how the doors were left……..slathered with A LOT of junky latex paint that was completely peeling off and chipping in bunch of areas. It was SO not good. Mom said she would be happy if we just gave them another coat of paint, but I could not realistically just paint them either because the older paint was peeling and chipping – so it would only be a matter of time before any new paint went bad too.


I was hoping against hope that I could just use some non-toxic “safe” paint remover to get the white  paint off and just be left with the pretty blonde original finish underneath to clean up a bit. I REALLY did not want to strip ALL of the doors down and refinish them from scratch.


Buuuuuutttttttt, sadly it really did not work out that easy.


As you can see some areas just peeled right up, like above the door knob – we just peeled that area away by hand. Other areas, like the scraped area in the middle, did not want to come off at all. Sad smile


So yeah, I am a complete idiot for thinking I could have the doors done quick and easy…..and I don’t really think Mom would be happy if I left the doors all looking like the one below. Or maybe I could try to start a new trend and call it the “paint scrape” look! Smile Hey, some people really like those hand scraped wood floors!


So, defeated, I took all of the doors back to my house and went hardcore on them!


Yeah, that’s right I brought out the Jasco paint stripper and lathered it all over the doors until all of that horrible latex paint went to latex paint heaven.


You’ll know Jasco is working when all of the paint starts to bubble up and look like orange peel. It’s kinda cool actually.


And here I am scraping away. Bad white paint, bad, bad, bad! I really cannot understand why anyone would paint these beautiful blonde doors in the first place, it makes no sense to me.


And here we are with pretty much all of the white paint scraped away. Now we have to flip it over and do the other side. uggghhh.


Then after the door has been stripped and scraped off you have to sand the door down.

Twice. Sad smile

On both sides.

Once with a coarse grit to remove the remaining paint, then with a fine grit to give it a nice finish.

Let me tell you it’s a real blast, especially when it’s 110 outside!


One door sanded and ready to go and it feels like I have a zillion left. eeks!!!


I was not sure at first what stain I wanted to use to give the doors that retro blonde look. Then I thought why not use the Heywood Wakefield stain that I have been buying from needful_useful_things for several years now. I use his stain exclusively on all of the Heywood that I refinish for myself and I just love it, as the finish turns out really beautiful.


So that’s just what I did. Mom now has Heywood Wakefield ‘Wheat’ color doors! Smile


Since I knew these doors would see a lot of action, and I did not want the stain to get really marred up,  I wanted to further protect them with a topcoat. When I refinish my Heywood furniture I NEVER have to topcoat it with anything, as the topcoat is built into the stain and builds up over the course of a 4 layer process. With the doors I could only afford to give each of them a single coat of Heywood stain to achieve the blonde color, therefore I needed something else for a topcoat. I decided to use Brushing Lacquer from Deft. I was really nervous at first because I have never used brushing lacquer before and was worried it would turn out horrible looking and streaky in the end.


It actually worked out beautifully though, so yay! for Brushing Lacquer!


I won’t lie this was an incredibly tedious process. There were 5 doors and then you have 2 sides on each door – and then all of the stripping…..and sanding…..and staining……and lacquering….it felt like it took FOREVER!!!! But it was SO worth it in the end.

And here they are, the pretty new/old blonde doors. I could not get all of the doors in one picture, as there are 2 more facing the 2 on the left – but you get the idea.


SO.MUCH.BETTER!!!!! It’s my dream to have pretty blonde doors like this one day.


I wanted to show a close-up of the original door knobs in Mom’s condo. I think they are REALLY cool!


The knobs are a really sweet shape and they are smaller than most made today. They are also that pretty copper tone color that was so popular back then.


The knob sets were all manufactured by Russwin.


We had to try to hunt down one more copper tone doorknob, as someone had replaced the bathroom knob with a modern, locking, cheap brass knob  somewhere along the way and they had tossed the old copper tone knob. I hated having that brass knob stand out like a sore thumb amongst all the pretty copper knobs, so I was on a mission to find something that would work! That is why we were shopping in the local salvage store the day we found the starburst knobs for the kitchen cabinets. Anyway, I found this vintage Schlage copper tone knob that would work just fine. Though the shape is a bit different, the color is spot on! And I was doubly excited when we found a copper strike plate too!




Here is a view of the original Russwin door knob on the left, and the Schlage on the right. We decided to put the “different” knob on the utility closet door which is the door with the vent in it in the picture below.


And there you go, all the doors are almost like new now! YAY!!!


And I think I can almost hear the angels singing now!

Come back next Thursday when I add some Atomic Star Stencils around the condo!

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37 Responses to Refinishing the Vintage Blonde Interior Doors to Heywood Wakefield ‘Wheat’ in Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo

  1. Sablemable Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Saraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! You know I’m lovin’ some blonde wood, too!

    You did a great job on the doors! Thanks for showing the use of H-W stain, as that’s what I want on my kitchen cabs.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Oh gosh, thanks so much Sable! 🙂 You know, it would look beautiful on your cabinets…just make sure you order enough!

  2. Charlotte Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Sara guuuurrrrrllll, you worked your tushie off! How many hours total do you think you put in on those doors? They look gorgeous!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Thank you SOOO much Charlotte! 🙂 You know, that is a really good question…I should have kept better track of how much time I really did spend refinishing the doors. If I had to guess I’d say one door took about 6 hours to strip, sand (twice on both sides) and repair (some had holes and gouges the needed to be filled/patched and some needed glue where the wood was separating). Then it was about another 6 to 8 hours the next day for the staining and then the lacquer, as you have to factor in drying time between coats. Soooooo, maybe approx. 12 hours per door??? Uggghhhhhh, that is A LOT of time now that I am figuring it all up! eekkssssss!!!!!

  3. RetroRuth Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Wow! I absolutely love the way the doors turned out AND the copper knobs. We also have the original doorknobs in our place, but they aren’t the same cool shapes! Ours are more of a rounded shape with push-button locks on them, but they were also made by Schlage! Interesting…

    Also, you are ridiculously handy, Sara. 🙂 I might have to make you come to MI to see if we can remove the paint from my blond wood paneling….

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      Thanks Ruth! 🙂 I know, those copper knobs….I LOVE them to bits and I wish companies still made them like this today. Why can’t I remember your copper knobs??? They sound just as awesome to me girl!

      Hmmmmm, I might be able to come to MI and refinish your blond paneling…..for a price…..maybe Midnight! 😉 hee!

  4. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I can’t get over your energy, determination and gumption. I would have just said, “Wow it sucks that those doors are white…” and then hated them forever. You are amazing, my friend. And those doors are amazing too. If your Mom ever moves, she’d better take them with her.

    • RetroRuth Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Totally. Agree.

      Also, love the word “gumption”! 🙂

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      You are SO kind to say that Eartha, thank you! 🙂 I was completely screwed with the doors since the old paint was peeling off anyway, so I kind of had no choice. 🙁 You have no idea how much I was dreading this project going into it though….I’m SO glad it is over now! And yes, if she ever moves those doors are SO going with her!!!! 😉

  5. pam kueber Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Yikes. That was a lot of work — but the results are really impressive!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Oh, thanks so much Pam! 🙂 Yeah, I really love how the doors turned out in the end!

  6. Sherree Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Oh Sara so much work but they look great!!! All the blond doors (and trim) in my house have been painted too 🙁 What were people thinking!!!!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Thank you Sherree! 🙂 Oh boy, I feel your pain on your blond doors and trim being painted…luckily Mom’s trim was always white (no blond underneath) otherwise I’d probably still be there today striping and refinishing that trim! 😉

      Yes, what were people thinking….tsk tsk!!!

  7. angela longfield Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    LOVE IT! I also stained my master closet doors in HW wheat to match my furniture. Now I want to do all my doors;)

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      Thanks Angela! 🙂 Wow! Your closet doors sound SO cool!!! You should totally send in pics sometime, I would love to see! I’ll just bet it looks FAB!!!

  8. Maureen Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Sara, may I please adopt you? You have always wanted to live in Alaska, right? Seriously though, you do absolutely wonderful work. The doors look amazing, and the patience you must have to do this kind of thing, I really admire that.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      You can totally adopt me Maureen! 🙂 And you know what, Alaska is sounding pretty darn good to me right about now what with these AZ temps in the 110 range!

      Thank you for you kind words though, it really means a lot!

  9. Pat M Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Beautiful job, Sara. This is true Restoration; it takes a LOT of effort, but the result is so “right.” You inspire us!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words Pat M, I really do appreciate it! 🙂

  10. Andrea Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Those doors turned out fantastic, Sara! Your hard work was definitely worth it!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Thank you so much Andrea!!! 🙂

  11. FlyingTexan Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Wow! I am duly impressed with the finished product. Those doors look gorgeous! Nice work!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Well thank you Flying Texan! 🙂

  12. Onyx Reply

    June 22, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Wow, that’s a lot of work. They turned out looking great!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Thank you Onyx! 🙂 And yes, lots and lots of work!!!

  13. Jacquie Reply

    June 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

    You have worked so hard and lovingly for your Mom..and it has turned out beautifully. Sad to hear that you don’t have any of those awesome kitchen knobs left. I may just try to figure out how to combine mine with something else.
    Would you give drop me a quick email, I have something I would like to see if you would be interested in, and I don’t want it scrapped. You might be able to help me out with it. Thanks Sara!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words Jacquie! 🙂 Sorry about the knobs, but don’t give up hope…you may just run across some one of these days!

      Off to send you an e-mail!

  14. Jason Reply

    June 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Everything you’ve done looks great! Redoing the doors makes a huge difference and was definately worth it. Plus all your Mom will have to do is Liquid Gold them once in a while. We always did the woodwork once a year with it at Mommom’s and I do the same at my house or more often since my house wasn’t as well taken care of before I got it and the doors are kind of dried out and stuff. Mommom’s new house doesn’t have the same trim so she doesn’t really use it now. Love the knobs too! I love it all – everything!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Well, thanks so much Jason!!! I really do appreciate that! 🙂 I will have to keep Liquid Gold in mind, we used Howard’s Feed N Wax on all of the dried out kitchen cabinets and that REALLY worked out well!

  15. Susan Reply

    June 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for posting the progress to the condo. I am really enjoying them and seeing all the retro details that are going into the wonderful transformation. Keep up the good work!

  16. ingrid Reply

    July 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Hi, great job on the doors! I am on the same hunt for a copper tone door knob, but live in las vegas and can’t find them anywhere. I constantly check my local re-stores but never find anything. Could you share with me where you got yours? Thanks.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      July 16, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      Hi Ingrid and Thank you! We found the knob at a local salvage store that is just like the ReStore – but they only have like 2 locations right in the Phoenix area….no locations in Vegas. I was there recently and was looking for more knobs, but I saw none unfortunately.I would say to not give up on the ReStore because you never know what will turn up there. I’d also look on eBay and Craigslist to see if anything turns up. If I ever find another one I’ll let you know!

      • ingrid Reply

        July 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm

        Thank you! After seeing that you found one it inspired me to do more online research. I googled satin bronze tulip door knob and it appears that you can still order them from some places, so I decided to order one while I continue to check the restores and hope that it looks similar to the others in my house. I am going to check out southern cali restores as well, and likewise if I come across some I will let you know.

        • Sara In AZ Reply

          July 18, 2012 at 2:29 pm

          Ingrid, I am really interested to see if the new knob you ordered matches the finish of your old knobs – let me know!

          I almost hate to tell you this…but the condo right next door to my Mom’s was gutted out a few years back, before Mom ever had her place. I shudder to think about all of those pretty blonde doors and lovely copper tone knobs just being tossed in the trash. ugggghhhhhh. 🙁 I just wish I had known…….

          I always keep my eyes peeled for those kind of knobs, so yes I will definitely let you know…thanks for keeping your eyes peeled too! 🙂

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