No Paint or Stain Cabinet Makeover

Tandy Johnson Bobo
by Tandy Johnson Bobo
1-2 Hour
I had every intention in the world to fill all the holes and paint this little cabinet, but then in the end I just couldn't do it. Sometimes our scars tell a story about us and what we have survived through. This little lady looked like she had been to battle and she was still standing strong. I couldn't take that away. In fact, I fixed her up without any repainting, staining, modge podge or any other product that would permanently changer her appearance.
I wish I had taken a full picture of how she stood when I found her in some dude's garage. It looked like she had been hiding under dust for about 30 years - dutifully holding old paints and looking like someone had used many of the edges to sharpen their knives. There wasn't an inch of this cabinet that was not covered with dings, scratches or gouges.
I decided to let her keep her battle wounds and try something different from my standard paint job. I removed all her brass; knobs, hinges, locks and put them in a plastic container. I covered the brass with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda and allowed all the metal to soak for a few hours.
Brass soaking in vinegar/baking soda solution
While the metal was soaking I did a quick wipe down of the cabinet and got to work. I was actually very surprised at how well this worked and excited to see how great the wood looked - scars and all. I poured 3 parts olive oil and 1 part vinegar in a bowl and using an old rag I rubbed/buffed/scrubed the entire cabinet. Following are a few before and after pictures.
Bottom leg before oil/vinegar
Bottom leg after
Side panel before
Side panel after.
Top edge before
Top edge after
Besides the small amount of gold detail on the top, this little cabinet was pretty plain. I could have very easily used mode podge to add images to the front or top or even painted a design, but I didn't want to do anything permanent. So I came up with a different idea... The font panels on the doors have a little gap that allowed me to add images without any damage.
Plain front door. Left is oiled not the right
Above, the left door has been been scrubbed with the oil/vinegar while the right has not. See how dingy and dull the surface was. The doors are beautiful as-is, but I wanted to spruce it up a little bit more.

I downloaded old prints from an artist, printed them out and took them to the office supply store to have laminated.
Tuck edge of paper into the door panel
Once trimmed to the correct size, I was able slide the edges in under the door panels now giving the appearance of framed art.
The top veneer was very damaged so I did the same and printed another image on card stock, laminated it and then just laid it on the surface as you would a table place mat. It not only adds color and interest, but the surface is now protected. If you are worried about it sliding, you could cut a little piece of gripper mat to go underneath.
For not using any paint, stain, or glue, I think this little cabinet turned out great. I really like that I can easily remove the images anytime and change them out without any damage to the cabinet. I love the pictures by themselves, but have not yet decided if they look the best together - I may end up removing them. What is your opinion?
I did add the tiniest amount of gold paint into the decorative sides. This I believe does not detract and only enhances the piece. If you are interested in the prints, they are done by an artist named Gaspar Camps. Here is a link to the one with girl holding the peacock fan - A google search will bring up many more.
Thanks for taking the time to look over my post. I look forward to reading your opinions and comments. Oh as an aside, 10 lb Mitchell is standing by to give you an idea on scale - Thanks Mitch!
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  • Liz Sanders Duren Liz Sanders Duren on Feb 09, 2018
    Brilliant! Love that you honored the piece and didn't chalk paint it. As much as I like painted pieces when they can't be salvaged, I like the look you achieved far more. Genius to use the art pieces. You dog is adorable, too. I have 2 littles and a foster little.

  • Karen Stepp Karen Stepp on Feb 16, 2022

    My best friend came across an old night stand in a trash pile on his way home from work so, I began to look for something he could do to give it a little life back. When I came across this project I fell in love immediately shared it with him and he's hooked on the idea of doing this to his new (old) friend. Thank you for sharing this project, I love it ❣️❣️