My Story of Refurbishing Vintage Store bought Furniture

I have read the blogs of Furniture DIY Queens with amazement & a slight sense of envy at these women.  They seem to be constantly refurbishing furniture they found on the street or pimping out Ikea furniture ,& the result is flawless & unique decor on a budget.

I admit I have always wanted to be one of these DIY Queens.  I have some basic carpentry skills, expensive taste but a Value Village budget so there has always been an appeal to “making my own furniture”.   Time seems to be the only thing that was standing in my way.

This July I decided to take my first plunge into Furniture DIY & refurbish a cabinet I bought this past fall at a vintage shop.   I’m proud of the final result but, it was not as easy as I thought! The experience did however inspire me to write my own DIY blog post in the popular format, with a twist of “real talk”.

The Before:

This is the cabinet I bought this past fall.  I was not a fan of the colours & the paint job wasn’t of the highest quality & was already chipping off the top.


The Tools You Will Need (Which may take multiple store trips)

  • An old cloth to put your furniture on (I quickly learned that paper does not work as well for this type of job.)
  • Furniture Stripper
  • Metal scrapper
  • A rag to clean off the paint you scrapped off
  • A hand sander
  • Sanding attachment for your drill as your arms were not powerful enough to get the damned paint off
  • Multiple brushes
  • Wood stainer with polyurethane in it as you refuse to do 4 coats of painting
  • The stubbornness of a mule
  • Wine


I wouldn’t recommend buying everything at once.  If the piece was painted you really have no idea what it will end up looking like, so I’d recommend stripping off the old paint first & seeing what you end up with.

The Steps:

Day 1: Decide that this is the day you will start your multi-day project!

  • Lug your cabinet outside, prep your work space & tape-off the glass.
  • Apply the paint stripper to the cabinet.
  • Wait for it to bubble, it will look like this:IMG_6108
  • Start stripping the paint with the metal scraper.
  • Half-way through you realize that the paint stripper did not get all of the paint off.
  • Try sanding it off.
  • Get exhausted with effort of sanding by hand.
  • Decide to try another coat of paint stripper .. tomorrow.

The result of Day 1 of work

Day 2: It is too hot to work on the cabinet as it is middle of heat wave & your outdoor work space is in the middle of the sun.

Week 2: Heat wave still on.  Now raining.  Cover up the cabinet with something & wait until next week.

Week 3: Okay now this is getting ridiculous.  You can’t just have the cabinet outside. You must finish project & celebrate personal carpentry skills on social media with before & after pictures.

Week 3 Day 1: Okay you decide that 3 weeks is probably not the standard DIY Queen time-frame for such projects.  Plus, roommate told you she is “sick of looking at the half-finished cabinet in the backyard” which resulted in right type of motivation to get this project done or die trying.

  • Apply another coat of pain stripper.  Pretty much use up the whole bottle as decide to do legs of cabinet as know it will bother self & its been 3 weeks of this project so may as well do the best job.
  • Well .. it got more of the paint off ..

Week 3 Day 2: Sanding..

  • I hate sanding.
  • I hate sanding things with rounded edges & details.
  • I hate sanding in the sun
  • Oh this piece is loose must re-attache it.  Hurt self in process.
  • But, got more paint off so success!

Week 3 Day 2 sanding progress. This is as much sanding as your hands can take.

Week 3 Day 3: Staining Day 1

  • Okay so didn’t get ALL paint off so have decided to go with a rustic type look so good thing that left the purchase of painting things till end.
  • Invite friend over for consultation on the vision for the cabinet & some wine.
  • Get one coat of stainer done!  Huge success!

Week 3 Day 4: Staining Day 2

  • Cabinet does not look so bad.  Hopefully second coat will stain the white paint & not leave white blotches.
  • Stain inside of cabinet, which magically changes the piece closer to your vision! Yes, you are a DIY carpentry genius.
  • Apply second coat of stain with huge sense of smugness in personal skills.

Week 3 Day 5: Finishing touches

  • Cabinet looks amazing!  Spend hour admiring cabinet in backyard as having morning coffee.  However, now you decide that the old handles will not do & you need new fancy cabinet knobs. You did work on this for 3 weeks.
  • Turns out store you thought had cabinet knobs does not & do not want ugly ones from the hardware store.
  • Google stores.
  • Find store 20 minutes away.  Hope on bike to get your knobs!
  • Get knobs on.
  • They look gorgeous!
  • Can’t close door really .. will figure this out later.

The new knobs!

The Finished Project:

An Instagram photo worthy of any DIY Queen!


Lessons Learned:

  1. Really, really think about the amount of effort & time this will take before starting.
  2. Do not start this project in the middle of a heat wave.
  3. Plan it out.
  4. Put together a budget of how much you are willing to spend.
  5. Do it!  It was fun, very rewarding & now I have a great piece of furniture that I love.



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