The Making of a China Cabinet - Worth the 30 Year Wait!

7 Materials
360 Months
Medium

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 bought 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?

Watch the Video!

Watch this relatively quick and informative video of the transformation.

On the downside of condo ownership, 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; it 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?

And there it sat, unfinished! 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 it can move on to someone who will actually use it instead of store it!

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.


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.

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

With this project, we tried spraying it 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 primer. 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!

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

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

Before painting the main body of the china cabinet, I test a small area to see if I’ll need to prime. There didn't appear to be any bleed so I painted the rest. Bleedthrough isn’t as much of an issue when using darker colours anyway so it’s a risk I’m sometimes willing to take for the sake of saving time.


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

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

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.

For areas we won’t be painting, we use FrogTape against the wood, then add a moisture resistant paper on top with cheaper 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 we can give you is to burnish the edges really well.


I love to stencil so am using one on the drawer. Whether you've stencil before or are a newbie, you'll find all our tips and tricks on how to stencil without bleed invaluable.

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

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


To apply the stencil, I combine my chalk paint with glaze because I don’t want a completely solid look. We also used this awesome stencil as a hidden surprise for this painted sewing box project.

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.

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.

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.

Then end result is really lacy and pretty!

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

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

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.

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.

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

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


Here’s a side view of this china cabinet makeover as I originally found it.

Before painting and after stripping:

And now.

Here’s a reminder of the front before:

Only 30 years in the making! 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!


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 :).

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Suggested materials:
  • Stripper
  • Chalk paint, stencil, primer
See all materials
Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  • Diana Deiley Diana Deiley 5 days ago

    First, I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. (I lost mine in 2021.) Second, I love the style of your hutch and admire the finished piece. Great job. Thanks for sharing.

  • Teresa Teresa 5 days ago

    I’m glad you love it!

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