Transform an Ikea Wall Cabinet With Crackle Medium!

2 Materials
4 Hours

Hubs and I are supplement users so when our local pharmacy started a twice a year anniversary sale, we wanted to take advantage of the huge price savings. Unfortunately we didn’t have anywhere to store a 6-month supply of supplements until the next sale! Enter Ikea!

I initially thought we’d find a vintage wall cabinet that we could makeover, but one day while perusing Ikea’s ‘Now or Never’ sale online, I spotted the clearance of Godmorgon wall cabinets. Funnily enough, when hubs got to the warehouse to order and pick it up, the price was more expensive than advertised but he had printed out the ad so Ikea honoured it. The next day back on the website, I noticed that they hiked the price back up! Great storage score for us; it only cost us $49!

However, the finish was less than ideal; the white stained oak effect is probably why the cabinets were being cleared.

Not a problem: we decided to update the finish with paint! If you didn’t know that you could paint right over Ikea cabinets, all you need to do is sand lightly then prime with a really good product that will stick to anything! We use a  primer called Stix. As a professional painter, this is the one Hubs recommends and uses for all our projects where adhesion is important.

There remained the decision of where to put this fairly large cabinet. It didn’t make sense to mount it in the bathroom because a) we didn’t have the space, b) we didn’t want the supplements exposed to steam.

Since we take our supplements during meal time and wanted the cabinet close at hand, we decided to mount it right in our dining room. The side wall, right beside our buffet was a perfect spot.

Originally we planned to prime the cabinet then paint it the same colour as the walls in our dining room so it would blend right in. Hubs found what he thought was our spare can of paint and took the pieces outside to paint them. Once they were dry, he brought them back inside: he accidentally used the wrong colour! He had grabbed an old paint colour we used in our hall – which has since been repainted). Yuck – It was just as ugly as the original cabinet finish!

Below on the left you can see a sample of Hillsborough Beige; the cabinet should have been painted the lighter Muslin colour shown on the right.

Instead of painting over it again with the correct colour, I had an epiphany when we went looking for the right paint and found a very old can of crackle finish: why not keep the base colour as-is, then use crackle in between the first and second coats to show the contrast between the two colours? It turned out to be one of those ‘happy accidents’!

Unfortunately, the Behr Crackle we found is no longer being made but we had enough left for this small project and I thought it would be worth a shot. The can was so old that I wasn’t even sure if the crackle would still be good. Before using it on the actual cabinet, I tried it out on a sample piece of MDF first – just in case.

To start, I primed the MDF with Stix Primer since that’s what we’d be using on the cabinet door if the crackle worked. Once dry, I applied a basecoat of the Hillsborough Beige on top of that. On top of the Hillsborough Beige, I applied the Crackle medium and let it dry for the specified amount of time.

After applying a coat of Muslin paint over the dried crackle, I got these big beautiful cracks! I was so excited that it worked!

However, when hubs went to test it on the side pieces of the Ikea cabinet, it barely cracked. After a bit of research, we discovered three things to ensure big cracks:

  1. The top coat of paint has to be rolled on fairly thick;
  2. Only roll the paint once in each area (i.e. don’t go back over the paint once it’s applied); and
  3. Subsequent areas of paint should all be rolled in the same direction.

With these three things in mind, the crackle worked like a charm. Here’s how the finish on the door looked before…..

…and here’s a closeup of how the actual door turned out. I just LOVE the huge cracks!

Once all the pieces were topcoated with a clear finish and dry, it was time for assembly. We gathered all the parts, instructions and pieces together and worked on the floor.

We didn’t bother to paint the inside of the cabinet; it just would have been a waste of material and we didn’t have enough crackle anyway. We started by assembling one of the sides with the two ends lining up the slots to receive the backer board.

The backer board was grey on one side and oak on the other, so we flipped it around because I didn’t want to see too much of the fake oak grain when I opened the door. You'll see how that looks 4 pictures ahead; you can also find all the step-by step photos on our site (link at the end of this post).

We brought the cabinet upstairs to the living room, marked our measurements on the wall with green tape and ensured the marks were level.

We didn’t have any studs behind our marks so we used heavy duty plugs to hold the screws (more details about those on our site). You don't even need a drill; they just screw right into the wall with a hand screw driver.

After installing the body of the cabinet and covering the mounting brackets, we added the hinges onto the door…

…and hung the door on the cabinet. You can compare the grey backing against the very first picture in this post: I like that it is much brighter and will show the contents better! We added the shelf pins and glass shelves and loaded in our supplements.

Faux finishes may come and go – and maybe it is currently out of favour – but now crackle has a purposeful spot in our home. I love how this crackle cabinet looks in our dining room!

I’m not sure if the pictures convey it as well as seeing it in person, but the cabinet is pretty shallow so it almost looks like a piece of artwork hanging on the wall!

We already had the paint and crackle medium on hand so for under $50 we got a lot of bang for the buck!

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Suggested materials:
  • Ikea cabinet   (Ikea)
  • Crackle medium   (Used an old can)
Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  2 questions
  • Grandmama16 Grandmama16 on Jun 04, 2018

    Do you think it would work on old real wood plain cabinets in our kitchen which were painted white many moons ago and are very worn?

  • Pam-ella Pam-ella on Jun 07, 2020

    Off topic but is that a little alcove at the end of the dining room?

    I want to try the crackle paint now!

Join the conversation
4 of 19 comments
  • Carol Carol on Jun 05, 2018

    Okay, now you need to do one for the other side of the archway! It could be the same size or a little bigger. Use it for supplements, or wine glasses, shot glasses, and so one! Great idea!

  • Victoria Victoria on Jun 06, 2018

    I had used crackle many moons ago, and never had the success that you achieved! You did a beautiful job, and it looks so nice in its place in your dining room. Have you any plans to do another cabinet on the opposite wall, making it more symmetric? You've definitely inspired me to try again with the crackle. It's true that everything old is new again!

    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on Jun 06, 2018

      Thanks Victoria! Crackle is definitely finicky; we've found that the trick is to roll on a really thick layer of paint in one direction and not go back over it again.

      Many other readers have suggested making it more symmetrical by adding another cabinet but I think it might be too much of a good thing; I think crackle is better in moderation. I'm not too fussed about it being symmetrical; sometimes you just have to let your eyes rest and leave a little wall space.

      That saying is definitely true; even avocado green made a comeback - lol.