I need your help to bring an old China cabinet back to life.

by Sharyn
What can I do to bring this piece back to life?
It was my grandmother's. I don't want to get rid of it but it looks so sad.
  28 answers
  • Natasha Benua Natasha Benua on Aug 28, 2017

    is it solid wood or veneer?

    • See 1 previous
    • Natasha Benua Natasha Benua on Aug 28, 2017

      so veneer... you have to be very careful because the veneer easily exfoliates during hard exposure or excessive moistening. So I would recommend you to sand it, treat with wood-stain (if needed) and then polish with bee-wax based wax

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 28, 2017

    It looks to me like a good dark Old English Oil rubdown would do wonders. I love these left unpainted if the wood is good. And it is easier to keep dusted. Painted just starts getting a dirty look after a while.

    • Sharyn Sharyn on Aug 28, 2017

      Thank you. I prefer the warmth of wood over paint any day. Do you have any suggestions on how to repair or conceal the areas where the veneer has come off? One of the pictures shows one of the spots, unfortunately it's on the very thin pieces across the glass.

  • Eloise Eloise on Aug 28, 2017

    Check out Pinterest for ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=china%20cabinet%20redo&rs=typed&term_meta[]=china%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=cabinet%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=redo%7Ctyped

  • Carole Bisby Carole Bisby on Aug 28, 2017

    Hi, beautiful piece, I would try to keep it the same color if you could like the other lady said try the old English or get some stain an rub it all over. Definitely would get some great new handles depending your style, right now I am into the silver myself. You could paint the bottom piece (that looks pretty beat up) paint that black and use black handles or paint the bottom piece and the drawer and leave the rest the wood tone, or you could paint the whole thing if you feel the wood is into bad of shape. It really depends on the style of the rest of your furniture which way you want to go, but lovely piece give grandma a kiss for that one. Please send a pic what ever you decide to do, interested in how it comes out!! Good luck!!

    • Sharyn Sharyn on Aug 28, 2017

      Thank you. I will blow her a kiss.

      I really prefer the warmth of wood over paint. I definitely will get some new hardware for it. Maybe antique brass or antiqued silver? I don't want it too bright or too modern looking.

      I kinda like farmhouse/rustic style. Working on transforming my home a little at a time.

  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Aug 28, 2017

    Can you remove the wood insert pieces

    • Sharyn Sharyn on Aug 29, 2017

      Probably not without damaging them. They are very thin.

  • Gayle Tucker Gayle Tucker on Aug 28, 2017

    First I would replace the clear glass with something more updated; even a color with ripples in it like stained glass. Secondly, replacing veneer is really quite simple and there are many examples on youtube. The veneer roll is pretty sheap and it basically takes and iron and an exacto knife. Then stain or try to match the existing color on the replaced pieces. Try new hardware. Nice mid-century piece.

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 28, 2017

    I can see where you are talking about. I think I would make sure the ends where this piece broke off are not going to continue to peel off.

    You can google for a repair person in your area who can fix this...it will probably be expensive.

    Me, I would rub it down good with Dark Old English Oil...maybe several times...and just live with it the way it is. Sometimes, a piece is loved and it's blemishes don't count...sort of like the wrinkles we get with age. Just love the piece and enjoy it!

  • LNIX LNIX on Aug 28, 2017

    If you're looking to modernize the piece, use paint, wall paper or Contact paper on the inside backs of the shelves to accent the decor of your room. And if you repair the veneer yourself, stain it first to match, then attach. Any glue on front of veneer won't stain, as the glue seals the surface.

  • Jon27448262 Jon27448262 on Aug 28, 2017

    I don't mind the broken piece. But, you could trace a pattern onto veneer to fill in the broken pieces and try to stain that portion similarly. You cold take a drawer or door to a paint store to match it.

    This is gorgeous due to the grain and trellis pattern so why not accentuate them instead of covering them?

    If your decor is more modern, this could be a standout and really show the grain if you also strip the dark finish, and seal it with wax paste. If you like, use a grey wash stain from your paint store before sealing. Then keep the dark hardware.

    • Sharyn Sharyn on Aug 28, 2017

      I definitely don't want to cover it. I love the look of wood so I want to clean it up and accentuate the wood grain.

      I'm slowly updated my home to a more farmhouse kind of look.

  • Esther Esther on Aug 28, 2017

    Paint works wonders!

  • Mel Mel on Aug 28, 2017

    Nice veneered piece. I have been doing professional restoration and in business since 1979. Today I am 78 and only doing moving and insurance damage claims.

    Anything that can be moved or damaged in a house or structural can b e repaired to an original. Is this what you are looking to do? If so I can help.

    This would take about 18- 25 man hours to restore if you had the knowledge.

    Let me know if you want my help before I spend the time suggesting what to do. What do you really want it to look like? same color? sheen? veneer repairs.



    • Sharyn Sharyn on Aug 29, 2017

      Thank you. I can't afford to have it professionally done. Plus, looking at your email, I'm guessing you are in California.

      I would like to clean it up and bring out the original wood grain pattern.

  • Jon27448262 Jon27448262 on Aug 29, 2017

    If you have all rustic and natural grain finishes in the rest of the house, it could be great to strip and wax this to fit in. You can also lighten pieces by wiping white or grey finishing wax over the existing stain, and allow the wood texture to show through, but you would also have the existing warm tones showing through. Colored was paste would work best on a piece with some surface texture. Again, it seems the less risky thing to make the piece seem more farmhouse style while showing off the grain, is to strip and wax it, and keep the dark hardware. In that case, you might find that the broken veneer blends in better and not need to fix that. Good luck!

  • Jon27448262 Jon27448262 on Aug 29, 2017

    *wax paste

  • Big lulu Big lulu on Aug 29, 2017

    Good old fashioned paste wax. The kind you rub on, let dry then buff off.

    I say NO to contact paper or paint and definitely don't remove the woodwork over the glass.

    Replace the knobs with something similar so they all match.

    You could also keep the doors open and do a lovely arrangement of dishes all the same color to give another focus.

  • Big lulu Big lulu on Aug 29, 2017

    Go for a collection of like dishes or crystal to unify the inside.

  • Emily Emily on Aug 29, 2017

    I totally agree with those who say your problem is not the china closet itself but the items you have in it. DO not do anything to the china closet itself! It is beautiful! Since I love blue and white china I would suggest that, but it doesn't have to be china it can be anything you like, silver, glass, wood etc. The thing is that you need height in your displays. See the picture Big Lulu posted? That is how to decorate inside a china closet. You need fulness in the space of the cabinet. Even if the cups you currently have are more valuable you need the space filled more.

    • See 1 previous
    • Emily Emily on Aug 30, 2017

      Oh, I'm sorry Sharyn. I do see you have several broken pieces of veneer. You can buy veneer and while the wood might not be the same, the depth of the veneer would be and it can be stained to match the rest of the wood. This is really a very beautiful piece. My husband who is sometimes into woodworking (he is an artist in many media) would say that this piece should be "french polished" which is a laborious inch by inch polishing with I think linseed oil and alcohol. I think your china closet is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

  • Mel Mel on Aug 30, 2017

    Glad to help. I still work so I will need to do my work first. You will be using most products that you can purchase over the counter at a retail store. Repairing the veneer might require ordering some on line.

    We will attempt to keep tool costs down. I would like to know all the time you actually work on each step. Also keep track of all materials and tools Costs. When we are done it will be fun to see how much the project cost and how much you saved having fun doing it your self.

    Pictures of your project as we go will also be nice to see as you go.

    Yes , I am in California. Let me know if you are ready to start.

    Your first step step is to remove the doors, glass and hardware. If you show me pictures of the back side of the doors I might have suggestions how to proceed . If you are worndering how to do the first ste let me know.

    • Sharyn Sharyn on Aug 30, 2017

      Thank you. I will take some pictures when I get home this evening.

  • Sharon Sharon on Aug 30, 2017

    Beautiful veneer work, I would hate to see it painted, try giving it a good cleaning and a new top coat to make that veneer work shine. Then if you still don't like it, paint it.

    I would put some LED light strips inside and show off some beautiful china or some chartreuse glass. You could also paint the inside a bright color to modernize it and with the lights it will sing. You could line the inside with water marbled paper in bright colors too for some interest.

    Since one knob is missing, I would get some beautiful crystal knobs for all the drawers.

    Gorgeous, just needs a little TLC.

  • Lizzette Lizzette on Aug 30, 2017

    Linseed oil is a great product for cleaning and restoring wood furniture. You can add fabric , contact paper or wall paper to the back of the shelves for an easy non permanent pop of color. I would recommend using wallpaper sizing to prepaid the surface before using any products with an adhesive. This will allow you to remove it cleanly without damage the hutch when your ready for a change. If your looking for a new way to use the hutch I have one in my bathroom filled with white towels and apothecary jars. The lower cabinets I use for sheets it makes a great linen cabinet. I hope this helps good luck.

  • Esther Esther on Aug 30, 2017

    yes. I had an old radio that was my Grandfather's and it was starting to look blah. I bought regular paint and applied it and we have had so many compliments. I think the paint just brought it back to life. I love it! I did leave the inside the original color so I could be reminded how it used to look all over.

  • Fiddledd224 Fiddledd224 on Sep 02, 2017

    You might want to paint or apply wallpaper to the inside for contrast and then paint the trim on the glass to match.

  • Mel Mel on Sep 02, 2017

    Sharyn, where are we on your project?


    • Sharyn Sharyn on Sep 02, 2017

      Sorry, I totally spaced on the pictures. Posted a few below

  • Sharyn Sharyn on Sep 02, 2017

    Sorry Mel. I spaced on the pictures. Here are a few of the inside hardware

  • Mel Mel on Sep 03, 2017

    spacing is real, we all do it. Sorry to say I did not see any pictures. Maybe I am doing something wrong.

    If you want to feel good about how your project can become try this:

    Your paint store most likely will carry a spray can with a brand named Deft, it is a clear finish that comes in gloss, similar gloss and satin. Hoping you can use a spray can without getting runs, if not get the can that brushes the finish. Follow directions on the product you choose.

    I'm suggesting that you pull out one draw remove polish if it has been used. When dry feel finish to see if it is smooth. Lightly sand with 400 grit sand paper. Remember only sand to smooth out rough spots. Towel dry and apply finish. it could take several coats.

    Put the newly finished draw back in and see how it looks. Please share a picture. If you are happy, proceed. Remember to remove the glass and wood insert Before finishing.

    If you want to repair veneer it would need to be done before applying finish. If areas need color, this too can be done.

    Any problems let let me know. You will feel like a pro. Good fun for you.


    • Sharyn Sharyn on Sep 06, 2017

      Can you see the pictures now?

      Question for you. I've been reading a lot on ways to it up and what products would work best. Unfortunately this has left me more confused about what I should use.

      One said do not use anything with oil as the oil will retain water and damage the wood, another said don't use anything with wax because it can be hard to remove and attracts dust and dirt.

      I saw something called Amish Wood Milk. not sure if that would be better.

      There are tons of products out there and every one of them seems to have a reason not to use it.

      What would be your suggestion as far as what I should use to clean it up and hopefully make it shine?

  • Mel Mel on Sep 07, 2017

    How many ways can you make spaghetti sauce? Yes, everyone knows how, some ok, some a little better. So many ways. Pick someone you believe has your best interest at heart. Someone with experience that will work at your pace. Someone that can solve a problem when it happens. It will happen.....

    When I was learning I had many people offering suggestions. So many times I was told water is not good for wood. ....Water is used to grow a tree. When logs are stacked they spray with water. So why is water bad for wood?

    I went with an old timer to learn and did not take others advice until I had had a long history of working with this pro who has years of results for his customers.

    Cross training in the beginning will get you frustrated and slow down the learning process.

    let me know what you want in a mentor, it's ok if you use someone else.


  • Candy Walsh Candy Walsh on Dec 30, 2017

    I would love to see this in an old white with some dark wax, it's a beautiful piece!

  • Lisa S. Lisa S. on Dec 30, 2017

    Get Howard's Restore -A-Finish. $9.00 at Home Depot. Wipe on with a soft cloth, wipe off with a second soft cloth. Wear gloves. Pick a color which matches. It will restore it very easily and make it beautiful. Then fill it with your pretty things! Don't paint you will ruin the integrity of the piece. Take off the hardware and scrub with brass polish. If that does not help then very fine grain steel wool (from the hard wear store) .

  • Nancy Nancy on May 14, 2022

    I have a China cabinet that is very similar to yours and it is also my grandmothers cabinet And keep it in good shape and looking nice, I oil it daily.