Monday, January 23, 2012

From Trash to Treasure Tutorial: Cast-off Wall Cabinet Becomes Faux Apothecary Conversation Piece

 BEFORE                          &                            AFTER: 



This cabinet was such a silly thing to find. I almost didn't even accept it 
from a neighbor, who was going to throw it out, when they offered it to me. 
It ended up becoming my biggest (& longest!) project yet; 
& the project of which I'm the most proud! 
Remember when I said, "bear with me as I venture out & try new things," 
because with every project I complete I learn a little more? 
Well, get ready to BEAR
I learned a lot more than I had bargained for with this project; 
but it was totally worth it all in the end. 
Now I feel like I can take on anything, & that's a good feeling to have.
Here we go!


I got this cabinet for free & at first was going to use it as a storage cabinet 
in the garage for my refinishing tools, hardware, & painting supplies.

Then we received an Ethan Allen mailer with this server in it.:

Ethan Allen Townhouse Howell Server
Instantly, I was reminded of the cabinet in the garage; so I went about refinishing it to see if I could replicate the beautiful Ethan Allen version.


I removed the hardware, doors, & shelves & went about priming it 
with some Rust-oleum spray paint.

Next I picked the paint, which I already had from an accent wall in a bedroom. 
It took about 3 layers of paint to get it how I wanted. 

I used a Martha Stewart roller I got at Home Depot. 
These rollers make a really smooth paint finish that goes on fast & easy. 
The clean-up is the best part because they are SO much easier 
(& faster!) to clean than traditional ones!

I realized while I was painting, in order to protect my floors 
(& so it looked like it's own piece & not like a cabinet fell off the wall & lying on the floor), 
that it would need some furniture legs. 

I went back to the Ethan Allen picture for reference & the next time I was at Home Depot I grabbed some legs & mounting plates. 

I've never attached legs to furniture before, but there's a first time for everything, right?


It got really cold before I could do any more. 
It's too big to bring inside & too cold in the garage to paint. See you in the Spring!

Sometime in January 2012

Only, now here's the problem, people... I found this:

 A homemade version of 
Pottery Barn's Andover Cabinet in white at

Thank GOD that Winter came & I had to take some time off or 
I would have wasted so much time making the Ethan Allen cabinet!

Here is the real one at Pottery Barn's website:

And here are the pictures at Ana's site of how to do it:

Ummmm.... is it just me or do I already have the cabinet to do this?! 
I have always wanted an apothecary cabinet, & here's the other thing... 
I actually think it will be easier than my original plans! I will still attach the feet 
because I think they will make it look like a more stand-alone piece. 

I have my work cut out for me no matter what; but I like this cabinet a lot more! 

All of a sudden, this project got a whole lot easier & WAY better looking! Well, I'll keep you posted. I've been knocking out projects left & right lately. I need to get to posting them ASAP! I'll start making the plans now & get to work as soon as the weather allows.


I went to Jo-Ann's & got a few of these thin plywood craft boards.
They were 1/4" thick, 6" wide, & 36" long.

Of course, I knew the dimensions of the cabinet before I bought the wood. After lots & lots & lots & LOTS of math, I knew that the drawers would have to be 
6" long & 7"wide, which is why I went with the 6" wide boards. 

Less cutting on my part would ensure more uniformity. 

 I started measuring in 7" at a time 
(& double-checking & measuring again) & cutting. 

Remember the old saying, 


My husband's circular saw I used to tackle the job:



After I was done cutting it was time to start gluing the "drawers" on to the cabinet. 
My tools for the job:

I started measuring & gluing.

After they were done & needed to dry, 
I laid them side-by-side to make sure that they were even.
They were!

I set them aside until the next day.


They don't have to look completely sealed shut because they are
after all, supposed to be drawers; 

BUT I filled in any large cracks that may have popped up with wood-filler.
That needed to dry before sanding it down.

My time was up & so they had to sit & wait for what would come tomorrow in the morning.

(Oh, did I forget to mention that I already repainted the cabinet with 
Rust-Oleum's Ivory Silk Satin Finish spray-paint? Well, I did... 
I also spray-painted the feet with Rust-Oleum's Oil-Rubbed Bronze.)


(Happy Birthday, Teddy Bear! I miss you!)

It's time to sand...


& paint!


After it was dry, I drilled the pilot holes 
(I'll insert the size I used here) & attached the knobs.


Here's a little tip about the knobs:
They're the cheapest wooden knobs that 
Home Depot sells, at $0.94 per knob! 
With a little Oil-Rubbed Bronze spray-paint, they look like the expensive 
$3 & up per knob that they charge for that finish! TA-DA!)



I started the next door.

While I was doing that, I looked at the cabinet...

I had to put some wood filler in the scratches that I just couldn't get to go AWAY!
Then, that wood pallet I didn't know what to do with yet came to mind & I got out the saw & began taking it apart.

& apart...

Then I measured the wood & tried to think of a way 
to make it into a reclaimed wood top for the cabinet. 

I decided if I stained it a dark color , it might look really cool 
with the oil-rubbed bronze finish on the knobs & feet.


I cut the boards & this was my first lay-out.

I started sanding,


did some rearranging,

put the doors in front of it to get an idea of how it would all come together,

& sanded some more!

Finally, I decided this top will make it look more finished. 
(The wood for the top is cut in these pictures & laid out, 
but not in the final positions & not nailed or glued down.)

Oh yeah! I almost forgot... You'll notice that the feet are attached in these pictures. 
In the beginning of this post, I showed the pictures of the "Heavy Duty Top Plates" I attached. I picked those up at Home Depot along with the feet, which conveniently already had the screw-tops attached that fit right into the top plates.

Then it was Easter weekend, so that meant traveling & break time.


I got the top glued down in place, using the same mix of construction adhesive 
wood glue I used to attach the faux drawer-fronts; 

except I ran out of the first bottle of wood glue after gluing all that craft wood to the cabinet doors & bought a bottle of Gorilla Glue brand wood glue to do the top.

I also ended up having to add four small chunks of wood, 
one strategically placed in each row, in order to create the overhang on the sides.

Some more of the tools used on this job:

I didn't use any of that wood filler from the kit. I just used the little silver tool; 
but I'm sure the rest  of the kit will come in handy some time.

Next, I used STAINABLE wood-filler to fill in all of the cracks.

Now it was time for more sanding with 60-grit first...

My husband suggested checking to make sure it was level, too. Good idea, honey!






Before it's final sanding, it needed to be extra secure; 
so I go out the finishing nails & put two nails in each board 
(except the little chunks of wood, which only got one nail), one at each end.

You can hardly see those little nail heads!

Finishing nails are done. Now the final sanding with 220(?)-grit.

It's ready for stain!


First coat of stain down, now the waiting begins.

The first coat looks pretty good, right?


Second coat of stain down... more waiting...



Ok, so by this point, I knew this stain was going to be trouble.

Here's the things about Pittsburgh in April:
the weather is unpredictable & stain hates humidity.


Stain also hates little gnats that were seriously 
spawning or something because they were 
& the little jerks kept flying in my finish & dying there!


After the three coats of stain, there was too much build-up & I had no choice 
but to sand it down (to basically the first coat) & try again.

It looked good, but you never know until it dries...

AAAAAAAAAAnd it looked like hell. 
So try, try again...


I decided to try with this thing, a "Lambswool Stain Applicator." 
According to the package, everything would turn out great!

I'd just like to say that this is the WORST product EVER!




I know you can't really see in the pictures, but just trust me. It was a MESS!

(Because of this project, I'm making a post of favorite products & one of worst products.
Guess in which post this applicator will be?!)


Having to sand down & start over, oh I don't know... 
- maybe FIVE times -
may not sound like a big deal to those people who have never stained furniture before; 
but it takes a heck of a long time for stain to dry & 
you can't touch anything else on the project or risk screwing up the stain.

It's not like staining a deck or porch, it's tedious & has to be perfect because it's a piece of furniture that will be in your house; & it's going in my entryway, so every guest who enters my home will see it. 

I came across some excellent advice when I began sewing a few years ago, 
& it went something like this:

"When you are creating something, 
there is a BIG difference between 
handmade homemade."

(Obviously, you want to your creations to look handmade.)


Getting the stain just right probably took me about a week, maybe a little less. Just when I was about to give up, paint & distress it instead, I figured out a WONDERFUL solution!

I took what was left of the PolyShades stain in the little can (which wasn't much...) & added some spoonfuls of Gel Stain (which seemed MUCH easier to apply) straight into the little can. I shook the bejeezus out of it (PUT THE LID BACK ON FIRST, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!) & made a mixture of my own stain that was still a beautiful, dark color - 
but much, MUCH easier to apply.

I sanded down to the wood (in most places) - one... last... TIME...

& applied the first coat of my mixture.

Even though it was still wet, it already looked a thousand times better than all the other coats I had done. I was hopeful that maybe I wouldn't even have to do a second coat!


The next day I noticed one teensy-tiny problem I had overlooked...

See the handful of little rough spots? 
They're there because in those specific areas, I had removed all of the stain 
& sanded all the way down to the wood; BUT I did not condition the 
exposed wood so it didn't end up matching the rest of the finish. 

So I broke back out my extra fine sanding block & my conditioner. 
I sanded the rough areas, used a foam brush to add the conditioner, 
waited the 15-30 minutes, wiped the excess, let it dry & stained again.


Beautiful, right?!

Well, my son was up from his nap; 
so time to put the lid back on the stain & return to this another time.


Needless to say
- as seems to more often that not be the case with me - 
I had taken one step forward & two steps back.

Well, let me introduce you to one of my favorite products!



I figured I might as well touch-up the rest of the cabinet, as well.

See spot???


See those mistakes?

Voila! Much, much better!
It still needs touched up with paint, but I'll do that 
at the same time as the final glazing & polyurethane.

I moved the feet plates back because they were too far out. 
In the picture above, only four of the feet were moved in. 
The ones on the end of the right of the picture still needed moved.

Now in the pictures above & below they are all in their final resting places!


Now that the stain was done (HOORAY!), 

I took the knobs off to finish the top with a coat of hardening finishing wax 
(applied in tiny circles just like waxing a car - "wax on, wax off!"),

add the decorative wood trim moldings
(that's Gorilla brand wood glue mixed with construction adhesive again),


attach the finishing touches (like magnets to catch the cabinet doors & keep them shut),

& touch up all the ivory-colored paint & apply the glaze to the rest of the cabinet. 
(I did not glaze the stained wood top.)

I wiped & wiped the glaze (with professional painter's wiping cloths, duh), but I still thought it might be too dark. I'd have to let it dry & see it then to be sure.

Also, had you noticed that the right door sagged a little lower than the left? 
I knew that was going to need hiked up!

Finally, I thought that the large pieces of decorative trim were probably a little too much; 
but again I gave them a couple days to see if they would grow on me...


...Nope! They didn't;

so off they came.


The glaze was too dark, too.

I had to sand off the glue from removing the wood trim & repaint the sides; 
so while I had out my finishing sander & "Tiny Touch-It-Up Kit,"
I removed the handles (again) & got to work.

In the pictures below, the left side is sanded & the right is not. 
See how much brighter & clean it already looks?
I wanted to keep the glazed look, I just didn't want it that dark.

Now, both sides are sanded. The right side stripped down further than the left, 
but no big deal because it's all getting painted anyway.

Both sides painted...



- The Final Five Things -

1. Polyurethane the whole sucker,
2. Re-attach the knobs,
3. Polyurethane again,
4. Attach these self-leveling, heavy-duty felt pads to the bottom of the feet 
to protect my hardwood floors,

5. Carry it inside! (With my husband's help, of course...)


APRIL 24, 2012. 



The cabinet gave us lots of extra hidden storage for office, printer, & paper supplies
as well as reference books, media, & current reading.

I'm so glad I took my time with the reclaimed-wood top. 
It turned out so beautiful!


I'm so behind on all my posting because I just had to finish this project! 
I'll be sure to get caught up in the couple of weeks. 
There has been lots of stuff 'Rescued From The Curb!' & plenty of 'Goodwill Hunting!' 
You can look forward to about 10 new posts (at least!).


There will be a beautiful window pane mirror I painted & distressed (I will show in another post & link up here) to compliment the leaf mirror. I've seen a lot of layering of mirrors lately & I love the effect.

The leaf mirror in the picture has an antique glaze I whipped up by blending 
Martha Stewart paints with her special finishes.


 There are also two small lamps I'm working on because I THINK that this cabinet screams for a lamp on either side, but I'll have to see after I get them finished whether they will look better here or on the buffet I'm building for the dining room. 
That second lamp might be dangerous if it stays in this exact position in the entryway 
& be at risk of getting knocked over.

I'm working on reclaimed-wood shelves, also from a wood pallet; 
but not as finished or stained. 
I'm going for a more rustic look with the because I want to blend my two favorite themes:

1. Traditional (yet comfortable & functional) 
2. Reclaimed/Vintage 

This will establish our style that carries throughout the entire house 
right from the very beginning.

...Enough said.

For now, I just HAD to get the pictures up because I'm so proud of how great it turned out. 
I'll be sure to post updates as the entryway progresses.


I'm linked up to MISS MUSTARD SEED's 'Furniture Feature Friday!' 
Scroll down & "Like" number 194, "Faux Apothecary Cabinet." 
Help a fellow mom-trepreneur! 
(Silly me, I can't believe I haven't been linking up all my projects before this... but going to do that now. 
:) Yay, this is fun!)

"It was more than discovering something that I loved to do - 
It was discovering someone I had always been." 
 ~ Natalie ;-*
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  1. OMG! I came over from MMS. This was a labor of love! Thank you for posting the good,the bad,cand the ugly! I really appreciate knowing just what all it took to get this right. And you did right!

    1. Thank you SO much, Mimi! I guess I always the blogs where they just go from the before pictures to the after pictures without much detail. When I started out doing projects, this was kind of frustrating because I didn't know a lot then about products, power tolls, paint supplies or techniques, etc.

      It's not very helpful to beginners to write, "I sanded, primed, & painted..." It's much more helpful to show what type of sandpaper & the results the different grits have, what tools were used, the brands of primer & paint, & how they were applied.

      It's also a good thing to show that it's OKAY to change your mind & go a different direction; & sometimes there are roadblocks that come up & stop an original plan. Sometimes you might just have a better idea pop into your head along the way & it's okay to try those out, too! If it DOESN'T work out, it's also not a big deal to rewind & get back to where you were. I've had to learn a lot on my own & with each project, I learn more & gain more confidence to try new things.

      This type of hobby or career can really lend itself to other areas of your life - like patience, taking your time, standing back to look at the bigger picture, nothing lasts forever, persistence, & on & on. I'm glad you liked the project. I can't wait to get back to more, but I promised myself to put everything on hold while I get my garage & workshop area in good organized, working-order... I've been itching left & right to start things but keep telling myself NO; so please come back soon to see what else I've been up to. If you like what you see feel free to pin, share, & follow my blog! Thanks & I hope to see you here again soon! -Natalie

  2. That is gorgeous! You did a fabulous job!

    1. Thank you SO much, Katie! Stop back often as I have so much to update; but like I mentioned above, now that I know the scale of this endeavor, I HAVE to finish organizing my workshop first. Also, feel free to pin, share, & follow my blog! Thanks again, Natalie

  3. Love the way it turned out. It reminds me of the way i kind of do things too. We can help it. right? lol Love it great job. I'm gonna have to try to do this, its awesome! I blog over at designtigirl pass by and say hi. -Nicole

  4. Awesome job! Thanks for all the detailed pictures! :)