DIY China Cabinet Makeover

Would you believe this DIY china cabinet makeover was over 30 years in the making? That’s how long I’ve owned this china cabinet. It was the very first furniture piece I ever thrifted when I moved out of my parent’s house! Below you see it in my condo, before the makeover.

30 years ago! Before digital cameras! Before iPhones! And before Hubs!

It was just me, a first time property owner, trying to turn a builder beige condo into a home with second hand furniture.

Pretty ugly, right? The finish is so dark (and shiny), you can’t really appreciate the wood grain. Even the pull handles are hiding in plain site on the drawer! Yuck. What would you do with this?

Before picture of DIY china cabinet makeover; dark wood with book matched veneer on drawers and top

Watch the Video!

Watch this relatively quick and informative video of the transformation.

Do It Over Designers

Today we’re taking part in the Do It Over Designers blog Hop hosted by Ann at The Apple Street Cottage.

We’re a group of bloggers who take something old and/or unused and ‘do it over’ into something new. These items can be found in closets, barns, garages, yard sales, thrift stores, you name it! Check out the other projects at the bottom of this post. And be sure to drop back in throughout the week to visit them all!

Materials for Chalk Painting a China Cabinet

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Condo Size China Cabinet

The one thing the vintage china cabinet had going for it was size; perfectly suited for condo living. However, back then, I wasn’t so saavy about money or my skillset. I paid $200 + delivery for a piece that had condition issues that I thought I could easily fix. But no; the glass door was so warped, it wouldn’t even close. As you’ll see later, it never went back on the cabinet. Knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t purchase it for such an ‘astronomical’ sum!

Because my condo was on the first floor, I stripped my finds right outside. Very handy for condo living and a budding young upcyler. It was a great setup.

Chair stripping in progress on patio outside condo building

Back to my Parent’s House

But on the downside, the parking lot was RIGHT THERE and I had to deal with cars lighting up my bedroom as I tried to sleep at night. It’s no wonder the easy outdoor access wasn’t a saving grace and didn’t keep me in a condo for long!

When I sold the condo and bought my first house, the china cabinet went back to my parent’s basement as-is while my Mom helped me renovate my fixer-upper!

After stripping, the china cabinet is much prettier than how I found it, don’t you think?

china cabinet with finish removed

And there it sat, unfinished – and with chicken wire in the door instead of glass! Fast forward to today and we’re having to clear out my mom’s house after she passed away last year. So it’s now or never to finish it so ti can move on to someone who will actually use it instead of store it!

Paint the Interior

The book match veneer is a nice feature but preferences have changed in the last 30 years. Now I feel like the wood is too much of a good thing! Others must have felt the same way, because I couldn’t sell it as-is.

Close up of book matched veneer before DIY china cabinet makeover

So it’s time to neutralize at least some of the wood. And there’s no better place to start than with the shelving and inside the cabinet. Out come the shelves.

wood shelves on table

Brush on several coats of BOSS. BOSS will prevent bleed through of the tannins in this old piece.

Dixie Belle boss with paint brush on top

With this project, we tried spraying BOSS for the first time and, although it looks thick, it actually sprays beautifully if you have the right size spray nozzle.

If you want a good laugh, watch the video where we start to pour the BOSS. I was just conveying Hub’s tip about pouring from the jar away from the label so you it doesn’t get covered with drips. And then it happened!

hand pouring primer into paint gun to spray

After priming, paint two to three coats of Haint Blue onto the shelves.

hand brushing light blue chalk paint on wood shelf

Some woods are heavy bleeders so you may just find, like we did with this piece, that you need more coats of BOSS than you think. Luckily the BOSS we’re using is clear so we spray another coat over the paint and then do one more coat of Haint Blue. That does the trick. Paint bleed under control!

Spraying wood shelf with additional primer after bleed through issue

China Cabinet Makeover – Sides

Before painting the main body of the china cabinet, I test a small area to see if I’ll need to prime with BOSS. There doesn’t appear to be any bleed so I paint the rest. Bleedthrough isn’t as much of an issue when using darker colours anyway so it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

I love bold colours and this pop of Peacock blue will do nicely on the sides and the trim! Dixie Belle’s mini angle brush is best for this task because it gets into all the corners. It’s my favourite multi-purpose paint brush.

Brush painting peacock blue on side of DIY china cabinet makeover

But when it comes to the fluted trim, a round brush is amazing at getting into detail like this!

French tip brush being used in fluted detail on trip of DIY china cabinet makeover

Same with the carvings; a round brush is your friend and well worth the investment if you’re going to be painting more furniture pieces with intricate detail like this. Close up of half painted moulding on front of DIY china cabinet makeover

Tape Tips for the China Cabinet

For areas we won’t be painting, we use FrogTape against the wood (because it’s the best paint barrier), then add a moisture resistant paper on top with masking tape. This combination of paint and protective paper ensures you don’t get paint – or splatter – on the wood you’re not painting!

Hubs has some great tips on the video on how to apply the tape for a perfect paint job! The best piece of advice I can give you is to burnish the edges really well.

Stencil the Drawer

I love this Morocco stencil so am using it on the drawer. As a matter of fact, I previously used it on this painted sewing box. However, I used it on the inside of the lid with that project. So this time, I want to see it front and centre!

Prep Work on Drawer

Clean the wood well, give it a light scuff sand and remove the dust.

Again add several coats of clear BOSS. Allow an hour between coats, but let it dry a full 24  hours before painting.

To apply the stencil, I combine Fluff with Pearlescent glaze because I don’t want a completely solid look.

Fluff chalk mineral paint and pearlescent glaze mixed in clear container with paint jars in the background

If you’re using a product for the first time, always test it on a scrap piece of wood to make sure you’re happy with it.

Then, when you go to stencil the actual wood there won’t be any surprises.

Stencil clamped to drawer front of DIY china cabinet makeover

Well maybe one surprise. When I match up the pattern, I notice I’m a little heavy handed on one side of the join and can see a line through the design.

Stencil detail showing lap line on front of drawer of DIY china cabinet makeover

But that’s an east fix. Just take an artist’s brush and dry brush a bit of the paint over those areas to blend them.

touching up stencil detail with artist brush on drawer of DIY china cabinet makeover

Then end result is really lacy and pretty!

The sides of the drawer will get the same pop of Peacock Blue as the rest of the china cabinet.

Clean the Hardware

I swear by using an ultrasonic cleaner on hardware. The ultrasonic cleaner removes crud that hand washing just can’t reach!

Just rinse all that dirt built-up right down the drain.

I let the hardware for the china cabinet dry, along with a few pieces you may remember from our post on How to Clean Brass Hardware on MCM Furniture.

Now that the hardware is clean, it’s time to bling it up again with Gemstone Mousse! This stuff is amazing! The last time we showed you how to use Gemstone Mousse, it was on a vintage sewing table treadle.

Original ornate cabinet hardware on a table shown with gemstone mousse

Gemstone Mousse really makes details pop. Just spread it on with a makeup sponge applicator or even your finger. It’s water based so washes right off your skin.

Unfortunately someone drilled a huge hole into one side of the pull (circled below). The screw mount broke before I owned the china cabinet and I guess this was the only way to save the hardware. But c’mon! You don’t need a hole THAT big! Luckily I can still reduce the size of the bolt originally there and hide the head with more Gemstone Mousse.

If you look close, you can see the bolt there on the left.

Closeup of ornate hardware on front of stencilled drawer of DIY china cabinet makeover

But zoom out and you’ll never notice it with the pretty morocco stencil pattern.

Stenciled drawer in place DIY china cabinet makeover

You don’t have to topcoat over chalk paint, but I did choose to protect the china cabinet with Dixie Belle’s clear satin.

Side of DIY China Cabinet Makeover

Here’s a side view of this china cabinet makeover before stripping:

Before painting:

Alternate: If I wasn’t in such a rush to get it out of my Mom’s house (after only 30 years lol), I might be bolder and embellish it even more. For instance, here’s an idea of how it would look with more stencilling on the side and the Magnolia Garden transfer.

The transfer did look great when I drew it in, but unfortunately wasn’t to the same scale so doesn’t work for this piece. What did work is this mirror makeover DIY where the Magnolia Garden transfer really shines and is a big feature!

Mockup of DIY china cabinet makeover showing additional stencilling and transfer at the top

And now. My basement photo doesn’t really do it justice!

Side view of DIY china cabinet makeover showing peacock blue chalk paint on side

DIY China Cabinet Makeover Reveal

Here’s a reminder of the front before:

Haint Blue sure does brighten up the interior! I think a collection of white milk glass would look lovely against the pale blue. But this china cabinet makeover would be just as beautiful displaying colourful quilts on the shelves!

After painting, there’s still plenty of lovely book matched walnut. So if you’re on the fence about painting wood, how about a compromise like this? Offset by the lacy Morocco stencil and bold pop of colour, I think this will be hard to let go after all these years :).

Reveal of DIY China Cabinet Makeover

DIY China Cabinet Makeover / Photo by Beazy

* This post is sponsored by Dixie Belle Paint. All opinions are our own. Rest assured that we have used these products and would not share them with you if we weren’t absolutely thrilled with them!

Pin our DIY China Cabinet Makeover

Pinning is always welcome and appreciated!

Pinnable image for DIY china cabinet makeover

Do It Over Designers

Our talented blogger friends have some amazing and inspiring DIYs for you! Don’t forget to visit these posts for more upcycled do-it-over transformations!

DIY China Cabinet Makeover FAQs

How Do You Modernize a China Cabinet?

Paint finish is an important consideration. I recently started using chalk paint and think it’s the most versatile paint for modernizing an old china cabinet.

First strip away the old finish. Use a stain blocker, such as BOSS to prevent bleed through if you are using light colours.

How Much Paint do I need for a China Cabinet?

First measure all your paint surfaces and determine square footage. If this is my first time painting a piece and I have no idea how much paint I willl need, I use this helpful square footage calculator. Here is a general idea of the coverage you will get with Dixie Belle Chalk Paint. But keep in mind that light colours require more coats so you may need more paint.

Container Size Surface Area
32oz ~150 sq ft
16oz ~75 sq ft
8oz ~38 sq ft

Because I’m painting three different colours, I order 16 oz containers of each colour. For my china cabinet, I used a full 16 oz container for the inside shelves (Haint Blue) and only part of the containers of the other two colours (Peacock and Fluff).

Also calculate how much primer you’ll need if one is necessary. I used BOSS to block stains because this wood bleeds! Here’s what paint bleed looks like if you don’t use a stain blocker – or enough coats of one.

34 thoughts on “DIY China Cabinet Makeover

  1. What a colorful makeover! I love the wood and paint combo. It’s perfect.

    • Thanks so much Kim! There’s always that little bit of self doubt that your vision won’t match the outcome, but I’m really pleased with it!

  2. Beautiful job, Sara. I love the stenciling. This brings back fond memories of my china cabinet makeover that was a complete wreck! As for the price? I think we’ve all done that, but, then we learn!

    • I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it. I couldn’t rub two nickels together back then and certainly couldn’t afford it. It was definitely a moment of insanity lol!

  3. Great job on this cabinet! I enjoyed your video too and the helpful tips, I always struggle with taping corners so this was a great tip to learn!

    • I’ve learned SO much from Hubs over the years; it’s nice to hear when his tips are helpful to others so thanks for sharing that Tania!

  4. What a fabulous transformation, Sara! It’s always amazing what paint can do to transform something, but I also love what stenciling can do, too! Love the finished look of your cabinet!

    • Thank you Gail! I always find it helpful to scribble my ideas over a picture on my iPad first! That way, there are no surprises. I’d hate to have to strip it again lol!

  5. Sara, live and learn, right. We grow stronger by making mistakes. The finished cabinet is beautiful. I actually liked it after you stripped off the dark stain and it was all one color. But the paint and wood combo are lovely and the stenciling adds that extra wow factor.

    • I was honestly debating whether I should clear coat it and call it a day when I first stripped it, but I’m a lot more adventurous now and love playing with colour and pattern! I’m glad I went for it!

    • I respect your opinion Ann! I too loved it but every piece of furniture in our house is refinished wood. Although beautiful, it’s time for a change.

      After experimenting with chalk paint over the last few months, I’m finding that colour can affect mood in positive ways. Personally, adding colour to furniture brings me joy and is a wonderful creative outlet so I’ll continue experimenting and sharing the outcome :).

  6. You did a brilliant job Sara. I remember you showing me this unit about a year ago. You were unsure what to do with it, you made the right choice and I love the colours.

    • So glad you think so! I’m happy it’s finally finished 🙂

  7. You must be tickled pink to finally finish this piece after 30 years. I love the pretty stencilled detail on the drawer front and the pop of turquoise gives it a fresh modern vibe! Pinned 🙂

    • I sure am; couldn’t be happier :). It’s like a bad driver forgetting his left turn signal is on. When he finally turns left and gets out of your way, it’s clear sailing 🤣.

    • Thanks Maria! After living with nothing but refinished wood for furniture years, although it’s beautiful, I’m really enjoying painting some of our pieces.

    • Thanks so much Marieza! Hope it still looks fresh in another 30 years :).

    • Thanks Lynne; I do love how lacy the stencil turned out and that it doesn’t completely cover the wood.

    • Thank you Donna! The most challenging part for me is always just deciding what to do so I’m happy to hear you liked it 🙂

  8. Sara! You are SO creative! I am blown away by the transformation of this cabinet. Thank you for the inspiration.

  9. Well damm I have the exact same cabinet. Belong to my mom!!!! 🍒

    • That’s amazing Ione! Do you know anything about it? Where it’s from, who manufactured it, how old it might be? I’m in Canada by the way :).

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