Monday, October 22, 2012

Distressed china cabinet

I'm so excited to finally show you this china cabinet makeover! If you need a refresher, I found it on Craigslist, and purchased it for $20!!! Fortunately, it breaks down into 2 pieces, so Josh was able to fit it in the back of our SUV, which meant we didn't have to spend extra money on renting a truck to get it home!

Let's rewind and take a look at where this china cabinet started:

(Seller's picture)

Because of my external hard drive being out of commission right now, I don't have access to the pictures from the very beginning stages of this makeover. Don't worry's easy enough to explain, so you won't really miss a thing! Once I recover the pictures, I may come back to this post and add them in for you.

Initially, I began by spray painting the cabinet, using a paint and primer in one. I thought it would be a great, time saving idea, since the cabinet has so much detail. Well....I was wrong! I was on the 4th coat of spray paint when I decided to throw in the towel. The spray paint just wasn't coating the cabinet well enough to continue on. I knew it would be tedious to paint it with regular paint and a brush, but I also knew that once I gave it one or two good coats, I would be done.

I worked on the cabinet while it was in 2 pieces. As always, I removed the hardware before beginning the painting process. I used very inexpensive white, latex paint, and a good quality, angled brush, similar to this one. I applied 2 even coats of the white paint, and then it was ready for distressing! Here's how the bottom piece looked after the white paint was dry. I had just begun to distress the door on the right side:

Now, on to the fun part:

Here's what you'll need to recreate this distressed look on your own piece of furniture:
  1. Brown, latex paint (mine was a $2 mis-tint)
  2. Paper towels or rags (and lots of them!)
  3. Cup of water
  4. Putty knife
  5. Sanding blocks (and lots of them...I used fine, medium and coarse)
  6. Dry, clean paint brush
  7. Angled paint brush
I began my distressed look by glazing the entire cabinet. Similar to what I did on my gray cabinet, but this time, I started by dipping the brush into the brown paint first, and then the cup of water. For each dip, you just want to skim the surface. 

Dab the brush off on some paper towel to see how concentrated your mix of water and paint is. I didn't want mine super light, but I didn't want it too dark either. This is just something you'll have to test out as you go, until you figure out your ideal ratio. 

Mine looked like this after the first swipe of the brush (this was actually a bit darker than I wanted the glaze to be):

...and after wiping once with a paper towel:

Here's the middle door of the cabinet after it got a full coat of glaze and had been wiped down:

Work in small sections so that your glaze doesn't dry before you get a chance to wipe it. Re-dip your brush into the paint and water as soon as it loses pigment, dab on paper towel, and continue to glaze your furniture. I used top to bottom strokes on the doors and sides of the cabinet, and left to right strokes on the bottom and front edges, as well as the top area of the cabinet.

The next step is to grab your sanding block and sand down the entire piece. This helps the glaze to sort of blend in and look more if the patina had developed over a long period of time.

Once the whole piece has been sanded down, start sanding down edges and high points. I started with the coarse sanding block to cut quickly, and worked my way down to medium, then fine.'s a tip! Save your fingers and use a pair of gloves if you're going to be distressing a large piece like this. I learned this the hard way, after day 1 of sanding, when I thought I had sanded my fingertips right off!

I wanted this piece to look very old, so I did a LOT of sanding! At first, I was a little unsure about how the sanding would go because this cabinet is laminate! I've never sanded paint off of laminate before, and I thought it might scrape off, not giving me the look I wanted. Thankfully it worked just fine! 

My second distressing tool was the putty knife. I used it to scrape off paint in areas...especially ones that were too difficult to reach with the sanding block. The putty knife was also nice to use because it created a different look than the sanding block did. 

Here's how one of the doors looked halfway through the sanding/putty knife process:

Keep taking a step back to look at the piece as a whole. This will help you to see how realistic your distressing looks and to see if you need to do more distressing or not. 

Every once in a while, grab your clean, dry paintbrush to dust off your piece. 

Once you're happy with the distressing, make sure you thoroughly dust your piece and wipe it down with a damp cloth. Then, seal it with a clear coat to protect your hard work. I used Minwax Polycrylic

Here's the full cabinet in my kitchen after I sealed it!

Initially, I had covered and taped off the glass with magazine paper, but it was just getting in the way, so I tore it off. 

The paint was easily removed from the glass with a razor blade.

I left the inside of the cabinet unpainted because I knew I wanted to line it with some kind of paper.

I turned to my trusty music sheets, once again (last seen here). I hung them in a random fashion with double-stick tape. This works really great and it's not permanent, so I can always change out the paper when I want!

I liked the original hardware, so I decided to keep it and make a minor change to it by using Rub 'n Buff in Ebony.

More details...

I'll try to share a picture of the filled cabinet with you soon!

This morning we are off to Audrey's one year photoshoot! I'm so excited! The rest of the week will be spent welcoming family into town for her party this coming weekend....and of course getting all the last minute details taken care of! I'm looking forward to celebrating our precious girl and spending time with family!

I hope you all liked the cabinet makeover!  Have a great week!


  1. This is absolutely gorgeous! You did an amazing job. How did you distress the sides? This is always the hardest part for me!

  2. You should post some new pics of your house! You've redecorated so much lately, I want to see how everything looks together!

  3. Thanks girls!!:)

    Marisa, I just sanded them down as I did the rest of the piece. There were certain areas I concentrated on more so than others, to give it a little variety, but I didn't get down to the wood on the sides. Hope that helps!

    Amanda...I've been thinking the same thing! I really need to do that, and it's on my list! Maybe I'll have more time after Audrey's birthday festivities!

  4. What a massive project, Rachel! I'm truly impressed - you did a great job! ;-)

  5. OW boy i love that!!I have the same cabinet, and I hate the original look I guess I will finally make a change on it. Great post Thanks a lot!!!

  6. My parents got the same china cabinet when I was 3 years old (I'm now 41!), and I have it now. I was ready to put it out by the side of the road because the style doesn't match my existing furniture and then I saw your pin. I am totally inspired and intend to redo my cabinet. You did an awesome job and I can't wait to do mine. Thanks for the instructions and inspiration!!!

  7. This is absolutely stunning!

    I came across your page when I Googled "Rub N' Buff Ebony." I was wondering, how did you apply the Rub N' Buff to the cabinet's hardware? Did you dab it on, rub it, etc.?

    1. Thanks so much! I just rubbed it on with my fingers! You can wear gloves if you want, too.


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