Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Vintage Cabinet Makeover

A vintage serving cabinet makeover.

vintage cabinet hardware latch detail

My friend asked if I would refinish this painted cabinet:

vintage storage cabinet before

Always eager for a good makeover I said 'yes' and after lots of muscle (and stripper) the cabinet is new again:

vintage storage cabinet after

Although it may only look like a paint job this cabinet needed a complete overhaul.

It's built from tongue and groove pine: top, bottom, sides, doors AND shelves.
You can see in the before picture below that tongue and groove shelves aren't exactly practical:

vintage storage cabinet before and after

 I removed the existing 'shelves' and installed 3/4" plywood solid shelves:

vintage storage cabinet interior

The back also needed some attention.  Part of the center board was missing and hardware cloth stapled over that hole?  I replaced the broken board and now the cabinet is solid again:

vintage storage cabinet back before and after

Here's a view from the inside:

vintage storage cabinet back interior before

And now the hole is fixed and we can use the cabinet as it was intended:

vintage storage cabinet back interior after

My friend also asked for wheels on the cabinet, to make it mobile on her porch.

vintage cabinet refinished

You can see the wheels hidden below, not only do they make the cabinet mobile but they also keep the wood off the moist ground prolonging its life:

vintage cabinet refinished with wheels

My friend wants to use this cabinet on her covered porch which means it will be exposed to sun and moisture.  I sealed the exterior with MacKenzie & Stewart satin poly, it has the UV protection we need and leaves a beautiful soft sheen without that yellow tinge found in oil-based sealants:

distressed vintage cabinet

distressed vintage cabinet top

Perhaps my favorite part of this cabinet is the original hardware:

vintage cabinet original hardware

But it was sadly painted over and completely neglected:

vintage cabinet original hardware before
I did some serious work on the hardware to restore it back to its original beauty (except that missing piece on the right door) otherwise the details are so pretty.

vintage cabinet original hardware stripping paint

And here it is on my friend's porch ready for action:

refinished storage cabinet on porch

Here's how I refinished the cabinet:

1. Remove doors, all hardware and loose shelving.

2. Use Kwik Strip stripper or Citristrip stripping gel.
Work in sections always keeping the piece you're working on parallel to earth, pour out stripper onto surface:

citristrip stripping gel

3. Use an old paintbrush to smooth stripper over surface, leaving a thick coating.
Immediately the old paint with bubble and loosen:

citristrip stripping gel on paint

4. Wait 30 minutes and then start scraping:
I prefer a plastic scraper that won't gauge the wood.

scraping stripped paint

5. Repeat the stripper process for a second time if your paint is thick:

stripper activating paint

6. Once done using stripper and dry, sand off any excess paint:
Sand the entire cabinet, including the base.
The LEFT door is completely stripped and the RIGHT door is still covered with green:

stripped door versus painted door

7. Moving to the back I needed to repair this screen filled hole?:

poor patch job in back before

8. Remove the screen and staples.  Sand.
Then use a jigsaw to carefully remove the partial board:

remove cut board with jigsaw

All gone:

remove cut board

9. Enlist help to wash and hose down the entire cabinet:

kids helping to wash cabinet

10. Although not necessary I choose to bleach the wood prior to any refinishing just to really clean out any old crusties.
Mix 1/2 bleach and 1/2 water and brush all over cabinet, then let dry in the sun:

bleach cabinet to clean

11. Once dry I inserted a 1x4 pine board ripped to fit into the open gap in back:

replace missing board in back

 12. The board is attached using my Kreg jig and pocket holes on the inside:

pocket holes to attach missing board

13. Next cut 3/4" plywood shelves for the interior:

install new plywood shelves

14. There was an existing ledge for the shelves to rest on but I also secured them to the side walls with pocket holes:

install new plywood shelves on ledge

15. Prime entire cabinet with Zinsser cover stain oil based primer.
Paint exterior one coat exterior grade white flat.

prime cabinet with zinsser

16. Sand to distress in keeping with tongue and groove style:

paint and distress cabinet

17. Apply Minwax classic grey stain:

apply classic grey stain to cabinet

No stain on LEFT, with stain on RIGHT:

white paint versus grey stain

18. Paint interior 3 coats high gloss white enamel:
(**Don't forget to do the doors in all these steps too!)

paint interior high gloss white

19. Flip cabinet upside down and seal base and all visible cut ends using MacKenzie & Stewart Isle of Skye waterbourne satin poly:

seal with exterior grade poly

 20. Line up wheels in corners, leaving enough space for wheel and lock to spin freely without hitting feet:

attach wheels to base

21. Predrill and attach wheels:
Then apply another coat of satin poly, going over screws to seal.

screw wheels to base

22. Flip cabinet back upright and attach doors and hardware.
Then seal with two coats of MacKenzie & Stewart Isle of Skye waterbourne satin poly again going over hardware and screws to seal finish:

seal cabinet with exterior satin poly

Ready to use:

vintage cabinet on patio


  1. You have really given this piece a new lease on life! Another fabulous project.

  2. it looks awesome, jaime! LOVE the cleaned up hardware!

  3. Lovely job! Really interesting to follow the whole process :-)

  4. You did a fantastic job restoring and revamping the cupboard so it will be around another few decades!

  5. Your hard work paid off. It looks fabulous!!

  6. Wow! You did an amazing job! I can tell there was lots of hard work put into this project but definitely worth it!

  7. Great make over on the cupboard.
    I like that you added the castors to make it mobile.


  8. I know that was a huge amount of work but it was so worth it! I love the idea of castors on an outdoor piece so you can move it aside to sweep out wind blown stuff and bugs. ~ Maureen

  9. It's beautiful! Love the antique color!!

    Jeannine @ The Concrete Cottage

  10. This is awesome! I will have to show this to my hubby :) He likes to refinish furniture.

    I would love it if you linked this up at my link party! You can find it here: