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hardware cabinet no. 1 makeover


There are times when I’m out shopping for antiques and I see a piece and just know.

I know the price has been marked down because it’s stinky and dirty and a drab color and it’s going to be a lot of work to overhaul.  I know that I can work a little magic on it and make it an awesome piece.  I just know.

And, when I spotted two of these almost identical hardware cabinets, I knew.


They were both marked down dramatically, because of the reasons I mentioned above.  They stunk.  They really needed to be cleaned and painted.  And it was going to be a royal pain in the rear to paint all of those cubbies.  BUT, I just couldn’t pass them up. Everyone is looking for pieces with cubbies these days and these had loads of potential.

And loads of cubbies.

I had a few moments of doubt as I worked on the first one, but I pushed through and I feel like it’s one of my most dramatic makeovers.


Can you believe that’s even the same cabinet?!

I started off by removing the clear plastic rubber that was stapled in the doors.  I was originally calling it plexiglass, but I realized that was disrespectful to plexiglass as I was pealing it off of the frames.


They were greasy, sticky and my hands were black after pulling them off…trying all the while to touch them as little as possible.  Fortunately, they came off easily and I never, ever have to touch them again.  They’re folded up in a box at the bottom of a dumpster.  Right where they belong.

I then had to peal off all of the paper labels and remove the staples holding them, followed by a good vacuum of the entire piece.

Then, it was time to paint.  OD green and battleship gray are not exactly my colors!

I chose to keep the interior gray, because I was only going to paint all of those cubbies once.  A color that would require two coats was not even an option.  I mixed equal parts MMS Milk Paint Shutter Gray and Trophy and painted all FIVE SIDES of each cubby.

I had paint up to my elbows from that fun endeavor.


Since I didn’t mind painting more than one coat on the exterior, I decided to use Farmhouse White.  This piece is a big one and white will take away some of the visual weight.

I made an un-Marian-like decision and painted everything…the hardware included.  I felt like the aluminum tags and the brass hardware would stick out too much against the white.  Also, the green paint was slopped over them, so I felt like I could justify it.


Here’s the ugly stage.  We’ve talked about this stage a lot. It’s when I usually second-guess myself and think I should just put the piece on the curb and never mention it again.


It does look like a bit of a disaster at this point, but the second coat was nice and opaque.

I applied heat with a heat gun to the paint as it dried to cause some crazing.  This piece really needed that kind of texture.


And I distressed the edges and hardware to add a sense of age and use.  For this particular piece, I used a piece of 100 grit paper that’s soft from lots of use, so it pulls some paint off, but isn’t too “scratchy”.  I use a flicking motion across the edges, so it pulls the paint off in chips.  I have found this technique creates a more authentic look than just rubbing sand paper up and down the edge.


I knocked the paint off of the edges of the aluminum tags, too, until I liked the look of them.


There wasn’t room in the doors for real glass and that might have been a bit of a hazard, anyway, since the cabinet is slanted, so I opted for chicken wire.  I found a roll in our basement from an old HGTV project, so it was convenient as well.


I cut it to size and stapled it to the inside of each door using my pneumatic upholstery staple gun and 3/8″ staples.


I didn’t use bonding agent and I didn’t sand prior to painting, but I wasn’t expecting a lot of chipping.  I did get just a little, which I really liked.


The paint is raw, unfinished, at this point, but I may wipe some hemp oil over it just to add a more little protection.

I also added 2″ steel casters to the base of the cabinet.  It makes it much easier to move around and I like how it lifts the piece off the ground a bit, making it visually lighter than it is.


This cabinet was so much fun to style and photograph…

mms-5270  mms-5272

It would obviously be an amazing shop display, but it has lots of potential for use in a home as well.  Kriste and I thought it would make a great pantry for canned goods, a storage/display piece in a dining or living room, or it would be fantastic in a mudroom for shoes.  A pair can be perfectly nested in each cubby.

mms-5273 mms-5280  mms-5278 mms-5290 mms-5294

It was a beast, but it was definitely worth it.

And the part of me that knew told the other part of me that she was right.

hardware cabinet Collage

Now I have to finish the hardware cabinet’s slightly larger, non-identical twin…


…and this sweet hutch I picked up off craigslist…


Of course, it’s an unfortunate shade of brown at the present, but it has come to the right place…

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  1. This could make a great addition to your freestanding future kitchen…

  2. That cabinet is amazing Marian, I cant believe its the same piece! I cant wait to see the next two.

  3. What a beautiful transformation! Just perfect! I love the cubby styling, too. Looking forward to seeing more finished projects as you get ready for Luckett’s.

  4. Emily says:

    My jaw literally dropped! Amazing!

  5. That is crazy cool! It doesn’t even look like the same piece! Love love love this one. Hugs, CoCo

  6. Ahh so so good! Another piece I’d love to make plans for and recreate. Beautiful find.

  7. Debbie V. says:

    You always find the coolest pieces!

  8. Three Letters….O.M.G. ! You completely rocked it!

  9. Beautiful transformation. You sure can spot a diamond in the rough! This would make great storage in a mud room/entry for shoes, hats, gloves etc. It would be adorable in a craft room too. So many possibilities. Wish I had space for something like this!

  10. Donna Courtney says:

    Oh my God, I love that cabinet, this would be great for a quilter, I saw stacks of fabric in those cubbies. What a transformation!!!

  11. I love it!

  12. KathieB says:

    Fabulous makeover, Marian! I’m wondering what you did to alleviate the smell. I have a couple old pieces that still have a musty smell even after scrubbing, bleaching, sitting in strong sunlight, and more. Any tips will be appreciated.

    • Liz H. says:

      KathieB-I had used tung oil on a dresser for my son’s nursery and the odor was horrific. A wipe down with a rag saturated in white vinegar did the trick, no more smell the next day.

  13. Ariel says:

    What a transformation! Just gorgeous! I wish I could buy that from you…it would look so beautiful in my sunroom with vintage gardening tools, gloves, grain scoops and little pots and planters stacked inside. An old, galvanized watering can on top and windmill blades hung on the neighboring wall. One can dream, right?!

  14. Bille says:

    I have been a fan of yours for a few years now and I love your blog, your photographs and all
    the mustardsizing, but I think what I love the most is the way you tell your story each day. There
    is humor, understanding and a real concern for the lucky pieces that get your special touch for
    all of us to see. Your heart is always showing and we all love you for that.

  15. Julie W says:

    Adore this piece! I immediately saw it filled with the gazillion shoes cluttering up my floors, along with scarves, hats and the miscellany my boys bring in each day. What a wonderful transformation!

  16. Virginia says:

    Love it! I would immediately buy that hutch from you, so if you decide to sell it like you did the baker’s rack, you have a buyer!

  17. When will I stop being amazed at the transformation a beautiful color of paint makes?

  18. Sarah says:

    Enjoyed hearing the process – especially the part about second guessing yourself! Glad to know I’m not the only one who does that along the way! It is so lovely with your items in it!

  19. Melissa Leach says:


  20. What a transformation! Those chicken wire doors are just perfect!

  21. Denise says:

    Wow! Love it!

  22. Kristy A says:

    Love the cabinet…but I really love those crocheted drink cozies…where can I get some?

  23. TKraft Art & Interiors says:

    Marian, your sweat equity has worked its charm again. It’ hard to believe these were built out of plywood, a real visionary as most people would have kept on walking. Truly an exquisite restoration, oh what a beautiful second life this piece will lead…

  24. Fabulous makeover for a really unique piece! I thought of fabric or yarn storage too. Love it!

  25. Krista says:

    So adorable! What a transformation! Love the chicken wire doors!

  26. Beautiful, charming, practical and a labor of love. I am impressed by the amount of work you go through to get a piece from point A to point B without breaking it or your back! And then to top it off, you lovingly labor to make it more beautiful than it was when it was new!

  27. Lisa Carter says:

    Now THAT is magic! Great job!

  28. Amazing difference with the Marian touch!! Oh how I would love to have that piece to display so many things!!

  29. Leslie Collison says:

    I love seeing the you wearing so much paint. Gave me a wonderful laugh. For once I got a view of what my husband sees. He is always telling me that I get more paint on me, than I do my project. Thanks for sharing. The cabinet turned out fantastic as usual. Kudos to you Marian!!

  30. Donna Tullis says:

    best line of the post…’its an unfortunate shade of brown at the present but it has come to the right place’ totally had me lol – yes my dear it has truly come to the right place indeed!

  31. Cheryl says:

    OH…what the imagination can produce?? You dear one are a shining ?!!!

  32. Mary Ellen says:

    Oh my, this is my ABSOLUTE favorite piece EVER!! I am also a knitter and my container stashed yarn is just screaming to be put into all those cute little cubbies! The chicken wire is right up my alley also, I love everything about this piece. Lucky you, I am envious!!

  33. What a fabulous transformation, yet another silk purse from a sow’s ear! I am eager to see how you change up the brown hutch. You could not be more correct when you said it “came to the right place.”

    • I see pieces like this at garage sales and think “What would Miss Mustard Seed say?” When I see a piece before you start, I still can’t imagine what you will do with it until you’re done – and I’ve been following you for a long time now. I ADORE THIS PIECE!!!!!!

  34. Nancy says:

    Why is it that you never wear rubber gloves when you do your work? Iy would ruin my manicure..not to mention the skin on my hands, to be exposed to such difficult and rough work (sanding, screwing, washing, painting, wiping down) . Do you have a view on this?

    • marian says:

      I wear rubber gloves when I stain and work gloves when I’m working on projects that might give me blisters (like when I’m stripping a sofa with a million staples.) Otherwise, I like feeling what I’m doing and I don’t mind getting messy along the way. I also play guitar, which is hard on the fingers and nails, so I’ve given up the idea of having a nice manicure!

  35. Nancy says:

    Fabulous transformation ! In the picture where you are up to your elbow in paint , at first glance, the end of the paintbrush looked like a finger, and it took me a minute to figure it out. I’m looking at it thinking, “whose finger is that ?”

  36. Margie says:

    Darling!!i bet those cubbies were a real bear to paint! I know it goes against your grain, but have you ever tried spraying just the insides of items that are really tough to brush? I’ve done both, but not with chalk or milk paint. I use both on everything else, but I’ve been known to cheat on the insides,

  37. Vivian Q. says:

    I would choose the gorgeous ivory!

  38. Donna R says:

    These hardware cabinets are AWESOME! You’re a genius!!!

  39. Natalie in Ohio says:

    WOW! I am i-love with this stunning piece! Fabulous job Marian!
    The lucky person who gets to own it is so blessed! Oh how I wish it could be me!

  40. Nicole Davis says:

    You’re so amazing at what you do. I wish, just wish we had great finds like those here in the west. The history just isn’t here, unfortunately. Even finding pieces from the 40s and 50s is a stretch. Thanks for all your great ideas.

  41. Awesome, Marian!!! Looks great, as always. I envy you so much, with these lovely babies to transform as a living :)

  42. Laurel Meribela says:

    It looks fabulous, love the transformation! I just purchased some of your paint & so loved the heat gun crackle tip. I can’t wait to try that one myself!

  43. Dianne says:

    You have great vision!

  44. Katie says:

    Hey Marian! Thanks for the link to your pneumatic staple gun. What compressor do you use? I’m thinking about buying one and didn’t know where to start!! Thanks

  45. Great pieces! Put some great prices on those. I did quite a few cubby pieces last fall for my store, and all I can say is…get a paint sprayer! Makes all the difference in the world…

  46. Wow ! Love that piece, turned out beautifully and SO much potential. I love it!!!

    Great other pieces as well can’t wait to see what you do with those 😉

    Lauren | Lovely Décor

  47. This looks so amazing! I have no words!!!
    Soo cool!
    Love the color!

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