Before and After: A Thrift Store Display Shelf Becomes a Design Piece for $180

published Feb 28, 2021
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Before: scuffed-up thrifted wood shelf with four sections
Credit: Robin Harper

Sometimes it’s easy to spot the value in secondhand finds, and sometimes it takes a little bit of imagination. That’s the case for this wooden cubby, which Robin Harper scored secondhand at a thrift store thanks to some persistence.

“I found this solid wood piece in a local thrift store, almost entirely covered in old linens and broken appliances,” Robin says. Once she pulled everything off and saw the piece beneath, she knew it was the exact right size and type of cabinet she’d been looking for to furnish her office.

“I needed some closed storage for files and messy papers in my home office, where I am working full time now,” Robin says. “I have always loved the look of cabinets with cane doors but could never find the right size or shape.” IKEA cabinets featuring the hack were too high for the spot where she could actually fit the piece — but this cabinet was the perfect height, and Robin thought she’d be able to attach the doors she needed.

“The thrift store did not really want to sell it to me, as it was a ‘display,’ so I had to talk to the manager,” Robin says. That manager let Robin have it for a cool $30. Robin brought the solid wood piece home and got to work.

Credit: Robin Harper

Robin started by removing the labels stuck on the cabinet — a surprisingly tricky task, she says — and sanding down the wood to get rid of scuffs and discoloration. Robin made her own Shaker-style doors with pine pieces. The frames are held together with dowel joints and glue.

Robin mixed a few leftover stains to get the exact right color for the door frames to match the cabinet. Once those were done, she attached frame to the back sides using a staple gun, then fitted the doors with hardware and attached them to the cabinet with hidden hinges.

All told, Robin spent just $180 on this project — $30 on the cabinet, $150 on supplies — and was able to create a solid wood piece that fits perfectly in her home. What Robin says she’s most proud of, though: “Transforming a battered piece of furniture into exactly what I wanted.”

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