Before and After: A 1954 TV Cabinet Gets a New Life as the Coolest MCM Home Bar for $150

published Jul 23, 2022
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Credit: Alyssa Clark

There are tons of beautiful bar carts out there that are ready to buy — and even more possibilities if you’re willing to get your hands dirty with a little DIY. I have a hunch cocktails and mocktails taste even better when served from a handmade bar cart like this one, which Alyssa Clark (@reworkedhome) made from a 1954 Zenith television cabinet found in the trash. Really!

When Alyssa found the TV cabinet in a Chicago alley, the actual TV tube was removed and the replacement for it was busted. “I figured I could probably save the cabinet itself, and unscrewed the television portion right there in the alley,” Alyssa says. “The piece was unlikely to be restored to a full-blown functioning TV set again, so I felt the only option was to repurpose the cabinet.”

She took the vintage piece back to her place and then had her social media followers vote on its new purpose: a pet bed, a bar stand, or a plant holder. Making it a bar cart won out, but there was no way Alyssa could make that a reality without some major TLC first. “Not only was the piece filthy, but the exterior was not real wood, with a lot of modifications made to it over the years,” Alyssa says. “Sadly it was also missing a knob. I took it apart as much as I possibly could to try and start from scratch.”

Credit: Alyssa Clark

With all of the parts detached, including the speaker and the rim around the old tube TV, Alyssa scuff-sanded the piece “since it was laminate as there wasn’t any real wood to salvage,” then primed and painted it with a custom mix of black and navy to get a rich blue color. For the rim, she used a gold spray paint that matched the existing metal components, and she was able to source a replacement vintage Zenith radio knob from eBay.

Credit: Alyssa Clark

Alyssa removed inches of wood from the bottom, purchased and cut a new piece of lumber for a new bottom inside the TV (where the main bar platform would exist), and added legs to give it all a little lift. The piece didn’t have a back when she picked it up, so Alyssa also added a sheet of plywood for coverage.

Credit: Alyssa Clark

One of Alyssa’s takeaways from the project: “The more damage and missing parts the piece has, the more work and money it will cost.” It’s a helpful thing to keep in mind if you’re embarking on your own furniture flips and upcycles.

“I don’t regret what I invested into the piece, but it was more expensive than I thought, given the need for so many different supplies,” Alyssa says. She ended up spending about $150 on the materials to revive it, but she’s proud “of keeping a piece of history out of the landfill and seeing a cool piece of ’50s furniture live on for decades to come.”

Credit: Alyssa Clark

Alyssa’s also proud that she came up with a completely new use for the piece. “It was the first time I’ve repurposed something for an entirely new function,” she says. Her final steps were staining and sealing it, adding wallpaper to the back, and affixing the light-up “Cheers” sign from Amazon. Finally, she filled it with — what else? — her collection of vintage barware. Now that’s the cat’s pajamas.