Category: DIY

Ebonized Cerused Oak Before & After


I have always loved the look of ebonized cerused, or limed, oak.  The overall finish is a deep black, while the wood grain is filled with white pigment.  The sharp contrast accentuates oak’s beautiful grain patterns and creates a high-end, glamorous look.  This finish can be achieved in any color combination, but the classic black and white is my personal favorite.

This technique was originally developed in the 16th century as a way to protect wood from insects.  Its popularity has ebbed and flowed over time, peaking in art deco and midcentury interiors.

IMG_7516_2 IMG_7531 TabletopCU

I followed Lynne Rutter’s wonderful tutorial over at The Ornamentalist.  My table had a cerused finish originally, so I had to take a few extra steps to prep the surface.

Two pieces of advice on this technique: Firstly, it is essential to create an absolutely clean surface to work with because aniline dye will not absorb through old varnish or residue.  Starting with an unfinished piece would be ideal.  Secondly, apply your shellac carefully.  A light coat of shellac will allow the wax to fill more nooks and crannies, creating a lower contrast finish.  More shellac will keep the wax strictly in the large veins of grain.  But be careful not to apply too much or your surface will not accept any wax.


Here are the steps

1)     Stripped the old varnish with Soy-Gel.

2)     Sanded with an electric orbital sander.

3)     The original piece had a cerused treatment, so I used mineral spirits to remove old wax in the grain.

4)     The Soy-Gel stripper left a sticky residue, which I removed with paint thinner.

5)     Sanded with finer grit sandpaper to get a smooth working surface.

6)     Used a brass brush to remove debris from the grain.

7)     Used a tack cloth to remove sawdust and other debris.

8)     Mixed an ebony aniline dye with water.  Aniline dye comes in both powder and liquid forms, and it can be mixed with either water or denatured alcohol. My first coat was a bit too watered down, so I added more dye for the second coat in order to get the deep ebony finish.

9)     Then I painted on two coats of shellac.  Shellac will make it much easier to remove excess wax in the next step.

10)  Used a rag to rub liming wax into the grain and then immediately removed any excess wax with a second, clean rag.

11)  Finally I sealed the piece with clear microcrystalline wax.


I have always loved the look of ebonized cerused, or limed, oak.  The overall finish is a deep black, while the wood gra...

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Weekend Project: Mid-Century Sunroom

My sister, Elizabeth, asked for a little help tackling the last undecorated room in her home: a 4’ x 6’ sunroom.  Elizabeth, an actress and screenwriter, wanted a comfortable place to read scripts and memorize lines.  She requested a mid-century modern style that would complement her adjacent office.  The room is not weatherproof, so we chose items that would not be ruined by sun damage or dust.  Our maximum budget was $600.

Office2_560 Office1_560 ThreePics

We found the armchair and ottoman on craigslist for $100.  The chair is a mid-century reproduction from Urban Outfitters, so we aren’t worried about abandoning a valuable vintage piece to the elements.

We purchased a 3’ x 5’ grey and white chevron rug for $80 from Potted, a fabulous garden store in Los Feliz.  Our big budget splurge was a Modernica Case Study ceramic pot and Brazilian walnut stand, which we found on sale for $120.  The Case Study planter is manufactured locally in Los Angeles.

Our next stop was the Rose Bowl Flea Market—bright and (too) early Sunday morning!  But we can spot a bargain even with bleary eyes.  We found the mid-century wicker hanging lamp for $10 and a black metal magazine stand for $15.  We stopped by an estate sale near the flea market and picked up the lucite side table for $45.


We bought the plants at Elizabeth’s favorite nursery, XOTX TROPICO.  We chose a Tricolor Dragon Tree for the Case Study planter, which has beautiful red, green, and yellow striations, and a Tillandsia Cyanea in a small square planter for the side table.  The plants were $90, and the small pot was $7.

The lamp needed rewiring, so we bought a swag kit from the hardware store.  We also gave it a fresh coat of white paint.  The sunroom does not have electricity, so we tacked the electrical cord around the window frame and into the office.  The supplies added up to $15.


The project total came to $482, well under our maximum budget. As soon as we put the finishing touches on the sunroom, Elizabeth’s pooch gave our design the most important seal of approval!


My sister, Elizabeth, asked for a little help tackling the last undecorated room in her home: a 4’ x 6’ sunroom.  Elizab...

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