70. Sentimental Cabinet Re-do

george in his workshop (Thanks to our son, Brendan, for the photo of Grandpa in his workshop)

My father-in-law, who passed away in 2010, had this cabinet in his workshop, housing tools and hardware.grandpa's cabinet before

I think it had been a china cabinet before it was banished to the basement, replaced by a plywood built-in china cabinet that has since seen the wrecker’s ball. One door glass was missing, and it had paint and grease stains all over. But, I loved the sweet shape of it, with its cutlery drawer up top. The maple (?) top and frame had a gentle patina of its own. Plus, can you even believe those jaunty red accents?

Lucite handles, red-painted interior:grandpa's cabinet drawers

When the old folks passed away, we were able to claim a few mementos. In our efforts to live more simply, we couldn’t fit many into our “final” home. This cabinet did come home with us, though. We have very little “wall” space, but I had a corner in mind for this little gem.

I started by washing off the spider webs, sawdust, grease, etc. then letting it dry.

While I could have milk-painted it a colour, it already had that interesting red, and I needed to consider what else we had in the space. I set about refinishing. As I mentioned in my posts about refinishing the old university math doors, the most efficient way of stripping, for me, was to simply scrape the finish off.stripping paint

I used “Safe Strip” for the groovy bits, scrubbing with a toothbrush and rinsing it with water. That left a stain of its own, but it was warm and interesting. That’s the thing with re-finishing – you kind-of have to go with the flow – you never know how it’s going to turn out. (“Refinishing is like a box of chocolates….”)

After I stripped, rinsed and let dry overnight, I sanded. First, with an orbital sander with course (80) grit, then gradually to hand-sanding with about 300. I was surprised to discover, after all that, that there were still stains aplenty. Decided to just embrace them, rather than cover them up.

I repainted the shelves red. If I’d had my druthers, I’d have used red milk paint, but the supplier here on the coast has recently gone out of business.

Then, applied 2 coats of satin Varathane on the wood, lightly sanding in between coats. It looked soft and fantastic to me, albeit stained. I thought about using Miss Mustard Seed’s dark antiquing wax to improve the antique look, but decided it had enough ageing all by itself.grandpa's cabinet Collage

I reassembled the handles, doors, drawers, and got a new glass door cut. Used some leftover Naugahyde from our banquette to replace the green felt in the top drawer.drawers in cabinetbanquette:nook

I’m happy about the outcome, love it, in fact. The jury’s still out on whether it suits its new location. Kitty, the dog, is a little confused, because that’s where she used to get her food and water. Even old dogs can learn new eating habits!cabinet before & after

Because it’s Chinese New Year, the Asian vignette, with its red and gold accents, seems perfect.view of nookcabinet at bottom of stairscabinet at bottom of stairs2

Here it is in place at the bottom of the stairs.cabinet in place

On a daily basis, this cabinet, like so many other sentimental items we surround ourselves with in our home, reminds us of our loved ones, some gone from among us, and some, thankfully, still with us. countertop vignette


Sharing with: Little Red House, Coastal Charm, Mod Vintage Life, Cozy Little House (featured!) My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, VMG206, Savvy Southern Style, Knick of Time Interiors, Elizabeth & Co., The Brambleberry Cottage, The Dedicated House, Common Ground, Miss Mustard Seed, The Cottage Market, Boogieboard Cottage, Nifty Thrifty Things


9 thoughts on “70. Sentimental Cabinet Re-do

  1. Hi Gail, my Grandparents had the exact same piece, red and all. I think there was a table and chairs and perhaps another cupboard. When they built their cottage near ours (in Ontario) they brought it with them. Eventually their cottage was sold, with most of the furnishings. Several years ago I went back to our “beach” to see some old friends who still have their family cottages. Imagine my surprise when I saw the old cabinet in my friend’s cottage. I told her it looked just like the one my Grandparents used to have and she told me it was theirs, they had rescued it one garbage day when the new owners were clearing out. Wish I had been there!

  2. Gail,
    “Mr.Ed” & I are in the process of giving “new life” to a heirloom piece of furniture for a friend. The piece belonged to her Granmother, the only piece she received after her passing. Her Dad passed away this Autumn. He had done numerous attempts at painting the piece. “Mr. Ed” loves wood and I love to paint, so we are combining the two for my friend in her heirloom piece.
    We have both set through your post and read it aloud this evening. We are deeply touched by your story and your finished outcome! This is a beautiful piece with many beautiful memories. The photo at the beginning would be priceless framed and tucked within the cabinet.
    Thank you for the reminder that “things” are comforting to our minds, hearts and souls!

    • Thank you, Pat, for your thoughtful comments. With this piece, I suffered from indecision, but in the end just wanted it to be a cleaner version of what it was in his workshop. Good suggestion about the photo being tucked into the cabinet.

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