Cocktail Cabinet Becomes Oh So Art Deco

Valerie Burge
by Valerie Burge
10 Materials
8 Hours

A friend was clearing out her mom’s furniture and messaged me to ask if I wanted an antique bar cabinet that belonged to her great-grandmother. And of course, I did!! I drove straight over to her town the next day and picked it up (before she had a chance to change her mind!). Once I got it home and had a closer look, I was beyond thrilled with the piece. It has a built-in music box!! I have worked with a lot of antique and vintage furniture, but I’ve never seen that before!!!! It also has a slide out serving tray. Jackpot!


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The top was in really rough shape with badly cracked veneer. I removed the top layer with a putty knife. Where it was tougher to get off, I used a hammer to gently tap the putty knife under the veneer. It was so old and brittle it came off very easily. 

Veneer removal

Turns out there was a second layer of wood veneer. But there was only one small raised blemish at the front and a very thin crack line reaching to the back. I figured it was easier to repair it than it would be to get that second layer off!

I applied wood glue to the raised spot and used a toothpick to get the glue underneath it as much as possible. Then I used wood filler along the crack line, using the putty knife. Then I clamped it and left it to dry. I also used wood filler on the other cracks and gouges on the body of the cabinet.

Repairing the top


I sanded everything lightly, inside and out, with my orbital sander (220-grit), as well as a sanding block. The entire piece was covered in veneer! There was a spot in the bottom left where the veneer was also lifting off. I removed as much as I could peel off with my fingers and used the sander to smooth over the edge of the veneer, so that it would sit flush with the wood underneath. 

Bottom corner boo-boo


I washed everything with TSP cleaner/degreaser dissolved in warm water.

A good cleaning

I was hoping to incorporate some of the original finish but sadly every surface had dings and blemishes. So I painted everything inside and out, with a charcoal grey, two coats.



I wanted to give it an art deco vibe, with a modern flair. I went on amazon and found a striped herringbone stencil that I ordered, as well as stencil brushes. I hemmed and hawed about whether I should use light grey or gold for the stencil pattern. But after laying all the elements out together…the choice was obvious. Go for the gold! 

Choosing the colour

The gold is a paint I had picked up at a thrift store for $2 last year and have used many times. But there was more than enough left for this project. With the cabinet laid on it’s back, I centered the stencil between the two doors and worked my way left and right, then up and down.


Once it was dry, I used a dollar store artist brush with the charcoal paint to clean up the gold that was in places it shouldn’t be.

Detailed clean-up


I loved the shell looking back panels on the hardware, but didn’t love the dark pulls. I taped off the back panel and hand painted the rest with the same gold paint, using the dollar store artist brush. Then I laid a cardboard box on its side and hung them to dry.

Painted pulls

There were also three raised circles inside the cabinet to house the main glassware (talk about attention to detail back in the day!) that I highlighted using the same gold paint and brush.

Insert alcohol here

The doors wouldn’t stay closed, so I bought a magnetic catch at the dollar store and attached them….and then the makeover was complete!! 

Antique glassware
Pull out serving tray
Cocktail anyone?
Ready for my close-up!

I posted this project on my private facebook account and had two offers to buy it within the first hour! It really is a pretty cool set!! And she cleaned up like a shiny new penny.

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