Retro Cupboard Makeover

7 Materials
2 Days

The cupboard you see was this 🤏close to ending up in the trash. Well, maybe not trash but taken apart and used as firewood. It would have been a shame as someone had meticulously handcrafted it 100 something years ago! That´s when I stepped in and gave a new life to this old piece of furniture by transforming it into a coffee/wine station for the kitchen! Doing so I greatly improved the storage and made it look pretty cool actually. What do you think?

The final design has a space on the left for all the coffee goodies and on the right, you find a wine station. AM on the left, PM on the right!😉 Under them, there are 4 big and 2 smaller drawers for storage.

Now, if you prefer more of a visual presentation I invite you to watch the video. It gives a great overview.

I planned on reusing the doors as drawer faces so the first step I did was to remove the doors. Doing so I also removed any hardware or metal that would get in the way of the circular saw. These doors were then cut a bit oversized to be later trimmed to exact measurement when installing the drawers.

The finish on the doors looked okay but one of them had some sort of goo on it that required sanding. And so I sanded not knowing if I could get them to match with the rest of the cupboard later. I am not going to pretend that I knew what I was doing but I think I got lucky. I decided to refinish the doors with the fanciest finish I had - Shellac. It seemed to be quite a bit lighter on the first coat but after three or so coats it kind of became indistinguishable from the rest of the furniture.

My process for building boxes and drawers is pretty simple. I just cut and screw together four walls and then add bottom/back also with screws. I use 12 mm plywood, long thin screws and no glue. Pretty simple!

In my case, the boxes were half the height of the cupboard door opening. The drawers were again half of that minus some room for clearance.

I also gave everything two coats of furniture paint.

The first thing I did before installing the drawers was to paint all the visible faces on the inside of the cupboard. This would leave a nice contrast between the inside and outside of the cupboard. I had to add two spacer blocks to lift the boxes up a bit so that the bottom drawers could open. 18 mm plywood was perfect for that task.

Then I just installed the boxes and attached them without sparing screws. This added quite a bit of strength to the whole cupboard as well as its joinery had become loose over time. The screws were not going to be visible anyway so I was not worried.

The somewhat tricky part was installing the drawer faces. I had cut them oversized so I had to trim them on spot. I pretty much just tried getting the size right, held it against the drawer trying not to move it while attaching with several screws from the inside of the drawer. It worked nicely and all the drawers move freely.

I also reinstalled two shelves on top of the boxes to help match the look. Each drawer also got a little knob.

I started this step by drilling holes in two glass vases that were going to be used as lampshades. I had never drilled holes in a glass before so it was kind of an experiment for me. It turned out nice though. I held the vase under running water when drilling. This helped to cool the glass and remove debris. Not pressing too hard on the bit was important as well.

The electrical part itself was pretty simple. I added lights to both sides and an outlet on the left side for the coffee- grinder and machine. Of course, the lights had to have a switch as well. The only difficult part was the fact that I was using some (modern) retro cables that were covered with cloth. It turned out to be quite a task feeding these wires through holes and connecting them to sockets and the switch. Eventually, I amangaed it nicely. The switch itself is hidden from the view but still easily accessible.

And with that, I called the project done. I am pretty happy with how it turned out and the customer (my parents) were pleased with the results as well. Hopefully, this beautiful piece of furniture will last another 100 years (or more)!

What are your thoughts on this project? Would you have done something differently?

Thanks for reading!

Take care


Check out my Youtube for more DIY videos ;)

And find me on Instagram (CraftAndu)

Resources for this project:

See all materials
Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Hometalk may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.More info

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?


Join the conversation

2 of 30 comments
  • Lisa West Lisa West on Mar 24, 2021

    Personaly i think you did a great job, for me in the back wall behind coffee pot and glasses etc, I think I would add a mirror. It would bounce the light and really light up the area well. My fiance would ditch the penant lights and put in led strip lights through out the piece so every thing is visible even the drawers. That is just how he is. He loves led lights string lights etc. We were discussing the design if a tiny home we want to build. So there will be lights at the coffee/ hot cocoa/ wine spot. As well as stairs for safety bathroom out side around the entry doors etc. I know we will have solar at one point. We will have a power hook up as well. For me I just want a coffee station in the bedroom and a giant sky light and a potty. Lol any way your idea gives me an idea for the tiny home. Thank you. I love your piece. As long as it is taken care of properly it will last more then a 100 years, possibly 300 years. What a great peice.

  • MisfitsandHeatherns MisfitsandHeatherns on Mar 24, 2021

    That is soooo awesome