Before and After: Just 3 Elements Turn This Dated Shelf into a Happy Display

published May 16, 2020
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Credit: Justine

Decorating with hand-me-down furniture is great for your wallet and the environment, but not every secondhand find is a treasure. Luckily, with the magical powers of DIY, you can do something as simple as add contact paper, swipe on a fresh coat of paint, or replace hardware and doors to take an item that may have once been trendy and catch it up to speed with modern times. Take the story of Justine’s cabinet refresh.

“My mom used this china cabinet, which she inherited from a neighbor in the early 2000s, to display her high heels in her sitting room. When she redid that space, she decided it had to go,” says Justine. “It was a semi-gloss medium wood finish with old, tarnished hardware and a tacky beadboard back, which the brown wood and glass doors hid anyway.” Despite its condition, and lack of style, she decided to still bring it back home since its “free” price tag was a perfect match for her small budget.

Credit: Justine

“I just bought my first home, and I’ve been looking for furniture that won’t break the bank, so this freebie was a must-have, even though it didn’t match my style. I was absolutely desperate for dinnerware storage,” she says. This put a lot of restrictions on her hunt for the perfect furniture, but at the same time it opened up a lot of doors for creativity. Armed with wallpaper from Home Depot, furniture paint, and some new pulls, she ended up transforming the cabinet for cheap in a way that made it look anything but. 

Credit: Justine

What was once a mediocre brown storage unit became a light and airy new statement piece, dotted with cheery lemons that complement Justine’s bright green walls in her dining room. She did the entire job herself in about a week and a half, she says. After removing the old doors and hardware, she filled the holes, sanded the cabinet down, primed it, and finished with a chalky furniture paint in bright white. But the best part? The lemon-print removable wallpaper, which she applied to the back of the shelf. Justine finished the cabinet off with custom green pulls, which she made herself by painting plain ones with acrylic paint and sealing them with clear lacquer.

The “new” cabinet is nearly unrecognizable and proved to Justine that figuring out a few DIY skills can go a long way. “If you don’t know how to do something, you can learn,” she says. “There are enough how-to videos and articles, many on this site, that you’ll never be lost for long.”

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