Bar cabinets with different finishes. (Reader photo)

QWe have two dark cherry cabinets that we would like to use in a lower-level bar area. Unfortunately, the cabinets are not the same finish. We want to create a modern look for the bar and prefer an easy solution. Would you recommend painting the cabinets (color choice?) or refinishing?

Glenwood, Md.

APainting is definitely easier than refinishing. Because old kitchen cabinets are likely to have grease spatters, wipe them down thoroughly and let them dry. Scuff them up with fine sandpaper and then prime, or use a “sticks to anything” primer, such as Zinsser’s Bull’s Eye 1-2-3 or Glidden Gripper. Both of these are water-based and allow you to move on to the final painting the same day. Glidden’s formula comes in white or gray; the tinted version is better for dark paint.

For both the primer and top coats, paint each section from the outside inward. For example, on the doors, paint the frame first, then the panel. Use a mini roller to apply the paint; it’s much faster than a brush. Then quickly smooth over the paint with a nearly dry brush to eliminate pools of paint and the slightly pebbly texture that a roller leaves. Use just a single pass with the brush, though; don’t sweep it back and forth.

As for colors, that of course depends on the overall look you want for the room and whether you need to accommodate an existing countertop color. Many new bar cabinets come in white or black, and these colors do look classy and modern. Vivid colors add drama, though, and because you don’t need to appeal to a wide range of customers, like bar cabinet manufacturers do, you might want to indulge in something less standard. If you tire of the color, it’s easy to repaint later.

For design ideas, search online for images using terms such as “repurposed kitchen cabinets,” “painted kitchen cabinets” and “bar cabinets.”

I have an office chair that I really like, but it’s time to replace the gas lift cylinder because it leaks pressure. I’d rather not throw out the chair because the upholstery is still in terrific shape. I checked online, and it seems that replacing the cylinder is easy enough, but I don’t want to do it myself. Where can I go to have this service done?

Falls Church

The first challenge is figuring out the precise cylinder you need. Look under the seat for the manufacturer and model number. Then phone the company and order the part. Or call a full-service office furniture company and ask them to get it for you. David Lidie, senior account executive at the Tysons Corner showroom for Andy Stern’s Office Furniture (, said his company is happy to do that. If the part is still under warranty, the replacement cost — and maybe even the labor to install it — might be free. If not, Andy Stern’s service department can go to your house and install it, probably for the minimum service call fee of $65. If the manufacturer isn’t listed, you can schedule a service call to have the old part removed, but then you’d need to pay for a second service call to have the new part installed.

If you’d rather take the chair somewhere to have the work done, one place is Mammoth Office Furniture, a company in Herndon that specializes in used office furniture. It usually costs about $100 to have a new gas cylinder installed, owner Mike Kuzniewski says. That’s also the starting price for used office chairs at Mammoth, which usually has about 500 of them in stock. So if you do take your chair there, look around. For the same money or maybe just a little more, you might decide to just buy a replacement. The most expensive office chairs at Mammoth are used Hermon Miller Aeron chairs, for $450. New Aeron chairs list for more than $900 but can be found for about $600.

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The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in September, such as replacing weatherstripping, at