China Cabinet Makeover

Well, I think I earned my official DIY-er badge!  I’ve always been a hands-on, do it yourself type, but this one took a bit more elbow grease and get-go.  We needed a bit more storage in our dining room, and we scoped out the usual options (IKEA, Jysk…) but I didn’t want the all-open shelves of a bookshelf, and even the big-box store options were pricier than I wanted.  So I put on my painting clothes!  

I was inspired by pictures like these:

I knew the basic look I wanted - a fresh white cabinet with a turquoise interior.  I scoured our local used furniture sites for a suitable cabinet.  I picked this one up for $175…

(seller photo)

which wasn’t bad, but I did learn a few things:

-Compile a list of questions and message the seller.  Include things like the dimensions, what it’s made of, what kind of home it’s been in (i.e. smoking or pets), how old the piece is… and anything else you might wonder about.  The cabinet I found had a very retro gold trellis pattern on the glass.  I asked if it was painted on, and if it could be removed, so the seller tested a small part of the glass and let me know it could.

-Before making an offer, ask if you can come view the item.  Come with cash ready and a truck, so that if it’s suitable you can buy it right there, but this way you haven’t committed to anything.  I basically just said I’d buy it then showed up.  I don’t think I was duped  on this one, however they said they thought it was walnut wood, but a lot of it was veneer over particleboard.  Also, it smelled a bit like cat pee and smoke in the lower cabinet.  Yeeuck.

-Be patient. I wasn’t.  I’m a “get it done now” kinda’ person.  Wait until you find the right piece, because you’re gonna’ put a lot of work into this thing.  I don’t dislike the piece I bought, but I don’t love it either.  Regularly scour the used listings (and shops, if you want) and wait until you find the right piece with the right bones.  On the other hand…

-Be quick.  I found a piece I loved.  But I hummed and hawed over it, because I wasn’t sure the seller would negotiate the price.  When I finally messaged the seller he’d just donated it to the ReStore the previous day.  (Ack!)  And when we contacted the ReStore it had already sold.  (Ack the sequel!)  So when you find the one, move on it!

And this is what I did when I bought the china cabinet:

I sanded down the whole thing, removed the glass and hardware, and filled the holes where the hardware had been with putty. 

Then I primed the whole thing with Killz primer.  It’s pretty heavy duty and helped eliminate the smells and covered all of the different materials that the cabinet was made of.  Make sure you wear a mask when using this stuff, though. I did two coats (partly because some of the particleboard sucked it up, and partly because of the cat pee smell).

For the glass I sprayed the paint with water and removed it with a butter knife.  A putty knife works better, but I did this when the cabinet came home from my dad’s garage, so I didn’t have one.  I also tried a credit card to scrape it off, but it wasn’t sharp enough.

Then I painted the thing!

The outside is Picket Fence by Martha Stewart, and the interior is Enamelware by Martha Stewart.

And then I filled up the cabinet!  I’m not 100% happy with the styling… we’re storing all of our dvd’s in those boxes and I think the black ones look too dark, so I’ll likely swap them for white.  Also, we’re thinking about frosting the glass so that things don’t look “cluttered”.  I could also just look for some really cute dishes or vases to buy and place in there. :)

You can see that the hardware has yet to be attached.  I have two zinnia knobs in aqua from Anthropologie

I really like how they look, since they reference the turquoise interior, but I only have two, which means I don’t have any for the bottom cabinets.  (Only two doors open on the bottom and two on the top)

One option is to use two old handles that were originally on the cabinet, since they match the brass centres… but I’m not sure if they make the cabinet look too retro?  I’ve also got some simple brushed nickel hardware and a bunch of glass venetian flower knobs that I got on clearance from Anthropologie online ($2 a piece!)… but I might have another DIY project in mind for those ones.

any thoughts?

So there’s my china cabinet makeover!  Hope you’re inspired to roll up your sleeves and earn your DIY badge too!  Or if you’re pro, leave a comment and give us your tips!


The paint has held up fairly well on this piece (it doesn’t take a lot of wear and tear) but I think next time I’d go with an oil-based paint.  For Canadians, Para has a really great alkyd paint.

  1. justinetaylor posted this
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