The China Cabinet Beautification Project

September 08, 2014

For as long as I’ve lived in my apartment I’ve wanted a little china cabinet to go in my dining room. My kitchen isn’t huge and I loved the idea of being able to display pretty dishes and other things in the top of a cabinet with glass doors, but hide less-attractive-but-needed items like napkins and place mats in the lower half.

I looked for months on Kijiji and Craigslist – there were lots of cabinets available, but I needed one with a small footprint and one that was within my tiny budget. It was quite some time before I found anything that would suit, but eventually I did. As luck would have it, my new cabinet had some very familiar details – it’s the same style as the console/sideboard I have in my living room.
China Cabinet before
The before
When I first saw the cabinet I had visions I stripping and refinishing it just like its mate – however I was soon thwarted by something that I didn't notice until I tipped the cabinet over to start working on it. I knew that the cabinet hadn’t been treated too kindly and was filthy, however there was one small detail I hadn’t noticed when I bought it - one of the feet (for lack of a better word) was irreversibly damaged - the wood base was missing a rather large chunk. This immediately took the wind out of my ‘woo-hoo, new project! ‘ sails, and left me completely stumped on how I was going to fix it. I could strip the veneer easily enough, but as the missing chunk was at the front corner of the base, even if I could repair the structural wood underneath I would have to re-veneer two sides. While I repaired the veneer on the base of my console, the repair there was on the side and isn’t easily seen. The front of the cabinet would always be on display, and I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to do a good enough job with the veneer replacement. Compounding the issue, I didn’t have the tools, space or skills for any woodworking, so repairing the base myself was impossible.
broken china cabinet base
Needless to say I was completely stumped as to what to do so the project came to a screeching halt. Eventually I got tired of the cabinet sitting there empty and ugly and I decided to just Google local woodworkers and email them asking if they might be able to replicate the entire base of my cabinet. Eventually I found one who was willing to work on such a small project and I schlepped the damaged base cross town on public transit so he could copy it. Skilled trades aren’t cheap, and his expert work cost me nearly 3 times what the cabinet did.
brass hardware before and after polishing
My china cabinet was quite dirty when I got it - the hardware before and after a prolonged polish
Once my cabinet had a sturdy base it was time to turn my attention to its beautification. The new base was natural wood and I could have attempted to veneer it, but I opted for paint instead. I’m normally firmly in the ‘wood should not be painted' camp but the veneer on the entire piece was in really rough shape, cracking and splitting, so painting it was the only option. After using wood filler to fix the worst of the blemishes I primed it, and then did two coats of colour.
painted china cabinet
I debated painting the interior of the cabinet a fun hue, but in the end I decided that I wanted the items I displayed behind the glass to be the focus so I chose a warm white – Coconut Sugar (PF 60). For the exterior I wanted something that would highlight the brass hardware I spent so long polishing, but I didn’t want anything too dark. I chose Fort Beauséjour (P2144-02) which is a lovely blue-grey. Both colours are from Para Paints.
painted china cabinet
I think my china cabinet is a million times better than when I got it and, in the end, I’m glad I persevered.

As a member of the Para Paints Blog Crew I was supplied with the paint used for this project.

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26 comments

  1. wow it looks FANTASTIC!!

    also, I want to steal those giraffes

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  2. It looks amazing! I love the gray/white/brass combo. The styling is great too.

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  3. Oh wow this is a fabulous transformation! I love love the grey!

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  4. beautiful transformation! I love the colour too! And I agree on keeping the insides white, it shows off your collections better.

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  5. wow! an amazing transformation! the hardware is heavenly and I just the colour combo! nice work:)

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  6. I am glad you persevered too! I had such a giggle visualizing you 'schlepping' (I don't think I have ever used that term before!) across town on public transit. You now have a piece that will be a keeper for a long time!

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  7. That looks great now! Amazing transformation.

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  8. Nice job! It looks like a million bucks now!

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  9. What a beautiful transformation! I love the colour you chose. And your display inside looks beautiful, too!

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  10. wow, girl that looks so amazing.
    I love DIY projects that turn out so well

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  11. I think your cabinet looks great - the gray is really pretty. I used to be a no painting wood furniture kind of gal, but once I jumped on the 'paint it' train I never looked back. I am working on my first 'grown up' refinishing project - trying to sand and re-stain a Mid-Century dresser, and I have discovered it's way more work than I bargained for. I love the dresser but the project is not moving very fast...

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  12. Stripping and re-staining a piece of furniture is a lot of work, but oh-so worth it in the end. My refinished dresser is still the project I'm most proud of.
    Don't worry you'll get your project done :)

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  13. It looks lovely in grey with white showing off your collection and I do like the hardware too - okay so I like everything about it!!

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  14. Wow, it looks great!! I love the color you chose!

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  15. Oh, it looks so good! We have a cabinet I've been wanting to paint for months (it's on my to-do list), and now I'm convinced for sure! P.S. your new blog looks great :)

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  16. All you hard work sure paid off. The base of the cabinet looks great and I love the grey you chose.

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  17. Wow what a transformation! I love the new look - good for you!

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  18. Pretty much love this! The colour looks so great with the gold. Gotta love a good thrifted score! All that hunting and waiting sure paid off :)

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  19. This looks so beautiful!!! Ok, question: what did you use to polish your brass? Everything I've tried makes it go a weird silvery colour??!
    Seriously, amazing job!

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  20. Hey Thalita,

    I used Brasso liquid and some soft cloths after I soaked them overnight in water with a bit of dish soap. I'm pretty sure the hardware is solid brass - I'd test it somewhere inconspicuous if there's a chance your hardware is plated.

    Hope that helps!

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  21. Oh WOW, I had to go and do a double check with the before picture again... it does not even look like the same cabinet! You did an amazing job, wow!

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  22. Lovely! Michelle, love the choice of paint, and your little giraffes :)

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  23. love the grey colour and how it looks with the brass!

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  24. beautification is indeed what you have achieved brilliant-astically.

    :)

    stop by when you have a moment: http://hellolovelystudio.com.

    smiles.

    michele

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  25. LOVE IT!!!! You will keep that forever - well worth the investment :)

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