Tag Archives: redo

Show & Tell: How to Give a Cheap Cabinet a Facelift

16 Jun

Over at Young House Love they were recently faced with a dilemma I can relate to.  Any one who has bought and set up a book shelf or cabinet knows all about the cheap cardboard backing that comes with it. They are flimsy, and do nothing to keep the shelves square to each other. But even worse they have the tell tail creases that scream ‘pre-fab, box store purchase!’ I’m going to share with you a quick and easy way to both strengthen up the cheap cabinet  and add so much character it’s drab history will forever remain your secret.

When I was setting up a room for my niece for when she came to visit,  (I’m one of those people who go above and beyond what is sane) I needed something to offer up some storage for all of the little toys and crayons we had stocked up on.

When I was clearing out the room (which had basically become a junk room) I emptied out an old tired cabinet that I had inherited from my mother. It was a cheap laminate with ugly doors that I had attempted to rescue a few years ago by painting a dark burgundy (don’t ask). I hauled it out of the apartment and asked Luke to take it down to the curb so someone who was interested in it could give it a new home.

Fortunately Luke didn’t get around to it right away and after I had walked past it a few times I started to see it in a different light. I was in the middle of painting a child’s sized table and chair set as well as retrofitting a set of hand made toy fridge and cabinet (the cabinet became a stove with some jig saw work). I loved the colours and wanted to find an excuse to slather the happiness onto another piece of work.

So I hauled the cabinet upstairs to the third floor apartment that we are currently renovating, and doubles as a work space. I wasn’t happy with that infamous cheap backing, especially since this was going to be in a room used by a child, and it needed to be sturdy. Also I had taken off the doors and wanted to make the cabinet really pop by doing something with the back. So off to the Home Depot we went.

We purchased some cheap paneling. Cheap in price: $4 for a huge piece (big enough for this project and then some) and cheap in look: fake wood grain….yuck

I went into my trusty painting kit (we have a kit for everything, electrical, plastering, plumbing).  Pulled out a roller and went off to find my HUGE tub of primer.

When you are alway renovating, this is how you buy primer. And when you have that large a tub of primer you can mix it by hand, but it’s more fun to use this handy little tool we picked up from the Dollar Store. It’s fits into a drill and is suppose to be used for the garden, but we use it to mix up everything from paint to plaster.

When you prime the paneling you want to have a good amount on the roller and make sure you get it into the recessed lines. You have to let it dry really well.

While we are waiting I’ll show you some of the main bathroom. Its the room that is closest to being done. Although this is an apartment we will be renting out eventually I still like to put in some little design quirks here and there.

Off setting the tiles and contrasting them with a grey grout worked perfectly to give basic tiles a modern look. We picked up this shower head in the clearance section. It’s not your typical ‘builder’ installation and helps to give the room a bit of character.

Because this is a rental unit we really can’t afford to sink a lot of money into the extra stuff, like bathroom shelving. So we are left with the option of using basic (and sometimes less than sturdy) items OR scouring the clearance section till we find a beauty like this. It was sold for $99 originally and we scooped it up for $20.

This is an attic apartment, so we are dealing with a lot of odd angles. The bathroom is no exception. After trying one lighting option that crowded the space above the vanity (there is a light on the walls to each side of the sink) I went online, determined to find a smaller light that would still look good. I found these reduced to $30. I think they were described as wall sconces, but I always look beyond the label.

Back to the paneling. With the primer dry I applied the paint, using a lighter coat, and being careful not to push down the roller very hard. This way paint doesn’t get into the recessed lines and they stay a nice contrasting white, with no extra work required. I did two coats, that worked for me.

With the backing ready and waiting I went to work at the cabinet itself. Sand, prime, and paint. We used some finishing nails to secure the paneling to the back and boy was it sturdy. There was no more shifting or give! Plus it looked amazing.

After the visit from Kimmy and my sister were over we changed the room into a craft room and our redone cabinet now proudly holds all my crafty odds and ends.

Do you have any tips for redoing box store furniture? Can’t wait to refinish a book shelf or cabinet? I’d love to hear from you.

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