Green to Rustic Treasure!

10 Materials
4 Hours

What happens when you take an old, built-in cabinet that is painted green and breathe new life into it? A bonafide, rustic treasure is what happens! I sourced this cabinet off of FB Marketplace for $70 and I'm so happy I did! It was originally from a farmhouse in Missouri and is at least 100 yrs. old! I knew I wanted to get some of it down to the original wood, if possible, but also knew that doing that to the whole thing would be a daunting task!

Here she is, in all her green, rustic glory! She's a bit of a beast but I had a vision for her right away and I wanted to pair her with my Dad's old cubby from his shop!

Before I could get started on the cabinet, I needed to remove the doors and hardware. I always put all the hardware and screws into a bag and label it so I don't misplace any parts.

I decided to try and strip only the doors of the cabinet. I prefer to use Citristrip because it is a bit more environmentally and chemically friendly without the odors of most other brands. I used an old paintbrush to apply it. I did do this outside but mostly because I didn't want the mess inside! After I applied the Citristrip very liberally, I covered it with a trashbag which helps it to stay moist and gives it a better chance of really getting into the paint and doing it's chemical work!

Here is the first door with the trashbag on it. I let it sit for at least 30 minutes. While I was waiting, I went inside where I started working on the base of the cabinet.

Before priming the base of the cabinet, I did scuff sand the whole thing with 220 grit sandpaper. The whole process of scuffing it and then wiping it down with a damp rag took less than 20 minutes. I only needed to rough the surface up enough to give the primer and paint something to grip on to. I then used Zinsser Primer and a cheap chip brush to prime the entire base. The picture above shows just one coat, but I ended up doing two coats. Nothing was bleeding through but I knew I didn't have a lot of the paint I wanted to use. By doing two coats of primer, I had a good base to work with and only needed two coats of paint.

I always wear gloves when actually stripping the paint off. I amusing my putty knife to scrape the layers off. I ended up having to apply Citristrip three times to each door - there was 100 years of paint on this old cabinet!

It is handy to have something you can put the gunk into as you are working. I just use a disposable plastic cup. That is a whole lot of gunk!

After I got as much paint off as possible, I wanted to remove the excess Citristrip. I just used my hose and a metal wire brush. This allowed me to get all the stripper off as well as a little bit more paint and residue out of the nooks and crannies. It was a warm day and that allowed the doors to dry very quickly out in the sun without me being concerned about water warping the wood.

While the doors were outside drying, I started painted the base of the cabinet with General Finishes Antique White milk paint. I did two coats of the milk paint. The picture above shows it after one coat. Once the paint was dry, I came in with 150 grit sandpaper and lightly distressed the whole base of the cabinet. I only like to distress pieces in the places where normal wear and tear would happen over time and a lot of use. For me, that means the edges and corners and any detail that tends to stick out more than the main body of the piece.

Here she is in all her rustic gold glory! I tried to strip the doors down to bare wood but they wouldn't have it - they were determined to hold on to some history and I'm not mad about it! She pairs perfectly with my Daddy's old cubby that he used in his shop for as long as I can remember. These two pieces together literally make my heart so happy - history, sentimental value, and function all come together in an imperfectly perfect combination!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 6 questions
  • Jenna
    on Sep 15, 2019

    What is the technical word for the cubby? I'm a huge fan of it and have no idea where or how to start looking for one! Please and thank you!

    • Katy | Rancho La Flor
      on Sep 16, 2019

      Most people would call it an apothecary cabinet but this is more of the apothecary style more than an actual cabinet. It was handmade and always had been used in a wood shop of some sort. Usually apothecary cabinets were used for medicinal purposes (An Apothecary was someone who collected and used herbs and such for medicinal purposes - an antique version of a pharmacist now). Official apothecary cabinets can also be rather large! Some people might think it is a card catalog from a library but the drawers are not that deep. If you’re looking for something similar, apothecary cabinet or card catalog will get you headed in the right direction!

  • Teri
    on Sep 28, 2019

    I love what you did I would just suggest adding feet to it

    • Robyn Garner
      on Sep 9, 2020

      I think a bottom wood skirt and feet would really finish it off. The cabinet actually looks like the top section of a larger unit.

  • Anybody know if citrustrip will work on metal? I've got a cart that's got about 15 layers of paint I'd like to take down to bare metal without years of grinding

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