Grandma’s Art Deco Singer Sewing Machine Cabinet


In May my grandmother, who is 91 years old, made the move to an assisted living center.  Over the last decade she has streamlined a lot of her stuff, I suppose in preparation for some of these transitions.  Although she did not have a great volume of belongings, she still had more than she could fit in her one bedroom abode.  We were invited to go through her apartment and say if there was anything that was of interest to us.  There were a few things that I knew I was interested and then there were others that I merely commented, “I don’t know that I want it, but don’t send it to the landfill.”  When the other grandkids had had a chance to see what was there and comment on their wishes I was informed that a few of those items that I had made the above comment about were not spoken for, and was faced with deciding if I really wanted them or not.

As kids we did not take vacations very often, but we would take a five hour drive to visit my grandma a couple times a year.  My grandma and her husband were fierce pinnacle players.  Now, I never had an interest in playing this highly competitive card game with my family, but what I do remember was sitting on a little stool at my grandma’s art deco sewing machine cabinet that sat near the dining table while the rest of the family played pinnacle and ate sausage.

This item was one of those things that I remember was always a fixed piece of furniture in my grandmother’s home.  She was an avid quilter and sewer in her day.  At some point she upgraded her sewing machine and removed the singer sewing machine from its cabinet, but the cabinet remained in her dining room and held different things in the drawers. She always had crocheted runners and pictures of family displayed on top.   To be honest this piece had seen its better days and I could not even imagine it in my home as is, but it still held fond memories for me.  My mom assured me that I could use creativity and do whatever I wanted to make it my own.  So I loaded it in our van and brought it home.  The kids thought it was so neat…with all the little drawers and the top that flipped open.  They began taking ownership of it right away; however, I had decided that I could make it into a cute little writer’s desk in the corner of our living room and it would not be something for the kids.

IMG_1266I took out all the little remnants of carpet that lined the drawers and already began to love this piece more.  This cabinet was made in the 40s or 50s but had been reupholstered likely in the 70s and had carpet put in the drawers in those popular harvest colors of the era.  The wood was a bleached blonde veneer and matched nothing in our home, so I decided that this would be fun time to try out some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

I thought I would go with a nice neutral color, but the lady at Mama’s Happy talked me into buying the paint in Aubusson, which is a nice peacock blue, and I am so glad she did.  The whole thing got sprayed down with a coat of shellac to seal any old smells and prepare for the paint.  I ended up putting two coats of my ASP on the whole thing and two coats of wax.  I lightly distressed the edges and  buffed it to a nice sheen and was amazed at the change.

For the seat I used some left over fabric and added nailhead details.  It was so fun to try out my pneumatic staple gun and had a helper right there watching every step of it.  The kids love the seat because the cushion lifts up for extra storage.  They had all kinds of ideas for the treasures that they could put in there, but the longer I worked on it the more this became my desk and I was surprised how territorial I got over what could be stored in it, how the top could be ‘stylized or not stylized by them’, and what its uses would be.


I still have ideas for ways that I can make the cavity where the sewing machine used to be functional, but for now I am so happy I welcomed a little slice of art deco into our home and broke style rules to make it my own.

One more before and after shot…..



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