1920's dental cabinet makeover

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint24 Comments

Can you handle another furniture makeover?  The Chapel Market is less than a week away and we’re getting to the end of the furniture I have worked on for the event.  I picked this dental cabinet up last week while I was shopping for accessories and “smalls” for my booth.  I saw this and just couldn’t pass it up.  All of the little drawers and glass knobs caught my attention and the low price convinced me to not walk away, even though I wasn’t officially shopping for furniture.

dental cabinet before & after | miss mustard seed


The piece was structurally sound, but it had clearly been neglected in a barn or somewhere moist for several years.  This makeover wasn’t going to be about dramatically changing the appearance of the piece, but about making it look and function better.

The original trim on the bottom had rotten away and many of the drawers weren’t functioning as well as they should be.  There was some good repair work, like the boards that replaced the trim on the bottom, which made the piece very sturdy and it wasn’t a noticeable repair.  There were a few things I wanted to fix, though.  First, it had a sloppy coat of paint and needed some sanding to smooth out the drips….

Miss Mustard Seed-1928

…and the joint compound at the bottom that filled in where the veneer had come off looked pretty messy.


Miss Mustard Seed-1927


My dad and I tag-teamed on this one and sanded the piece down, got all of the drawers functioning and glued the loose veneer on a few of the drawers and the cabinet door.

Miss Mustard Seed-1929


Here’s how it looked after all of the sanding and repair work.  Ready to paint!

dental cabinet before | miss mustard seed



I liked the piece in a creamy white, so I painted it in MMSMP Linen.  I did have some chipping on the top, which I didn’t really want, but there was clearly something oily on the surface that the paint was resisting, because it stuck well everywhere else.  I was going to fight it, but I decided to let it be chippy.  This piece was made in the 1920’s and it doesn’t need to look new.  In fact, it’s better, in my opinion, if it doesn’t look new.

Miss Mustard Seed-2183

glass apothecary bottles | miss mustard seed

Some of the veneer damage is still visible, but it’s not flapping around anymore and it’s not noticeable when you look at the piece as a whole.

repaired veneer | miss mustard seed

And here’s the result…

1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed

I cleaned up the glass on the cabinet and the mirror and cleaned paint off the original knobs.  Some of the knobs were replaced before I purchased it, but they looked nice, so I left them alone.

1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed

1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed

The coolest thing about this dental cabinet is that it still has a lot of the cubbies, dividers and instrument holders.

1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed

1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed 1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed 1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed 1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed

This piece was fun to style with anything I could find that would support a sort of vintage-lab look.

vintage wooden clipboard | miss mustard seed antique book | miss mustard seed glass apothecary bottles | miss mustard seed 1920's dental cabinet | miss mustard seed

I’ve really enjoyed working on this piece and having it in my studio, but it’ll be making the trip down to Alabama with us and will be for sale there.  I plan to do a post before I leave with pictures, measurements and prices of all of the large furniture pieces that are for sale, so if you’re coming to buy furniture, you can plan for it.

1920's dental cabinet makeover

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24 Comments on “1920's dental cabinet makeover”

  1. I have a beautiful dental cabinet that has lovely legs. I have it full of my jewelry, sorted by color. It is full. It makes it much easier to accessorize my outfits since the items have room and are sorted by color. It was oak, but had been painted a linen color when I bought it at auction. The top is a white marble. I have never seen one like I have, it does not have that dental office look so much.


  2. It amazes me how you churn out that painted furniture! Really admire your work. I thought at first that the cabinet might be metal, but I quickly saw that it was wood. What paint would you recommend for metal? I have an old steelmaster 10 drawer cabinet that I need to paint for my jewelry workroom. Thanks for any advice, and I hope you come back from market with empty trucks and full pockets!

  3. I love this! It’s beautifully a Miss Mustard Seed piece. I’ve been longing for one for my jewelry too, Sheily! 🙂 But in Australia, they’re rather rare so they’re very expensive. Here’s hoping I “find” one too 🙂 xx

  4. What a beautiful makeover! I so wish I could come to the market. That cabinet would be perfect for my papercrafting and mixed media supplies! Plus, as a neuroscientist I used to work in a lab, so I’m loving the vintage lab supplies you’ve styled it with. Hoping it goes to a good home. 😉

  5. I am interested in this dental cabinet, as a gift for my son. He is currently a dentist in the Navy, but will be opening his own practice soon. Could you please email me your price for this and the dates for the Chapel Hill event. I will be in Norfolk,Va, November 6-12. Is that close to Chapel Hill or the dates for that event? Thank you

  6. What an awesome piece Marian…can’t wait to see it and YOU on Friday. Looks like we are going to have some wonderful weather for the show…yippee!!!! Can’t wait to shop everyone’s cool stuff.


  7. I love this dental cabinet re-do. I did have a question. How do you remove the old smell that usually comes with these old cabinets? I have sanded, oiled and tried several things but it always seem musty and old. Any suggestions?

    1. I haven’t found any tried and true way to remove a musty smell from these pieces. I find after using them for a while in my home, the smell dissipates. I also don’t use musty smelling pieces for clothes or linens. I just don’t buy pieces that smell really bad.

  8. as a dentist, I appreciate saving vintage dental furniture when possible. These are great for crafters who need instrument storage and other flat storage. I bought one once and fortunately it was in a condition to be refinished to the original wood. expect to get, in perfectly refinished condition, a fee that is approximately the age! for a 1920’s piece fully refinished, you could get $1920! for a painted one with bubbled veneer, not so much, unfortunately…but they are good solid pieces nonetheless…

  9. This looks terrific. I purchased a very similar dental cabinet at auction this year. It is in the original wood finish which is still good, but the wood dividers were all replaced with plastic dividers. Love the look of the original wooden ones.


    p.s. I have the same mini clipboard!

  10. I need this for my bathroom! My husband and I have looking for just the right dental cabinet for the bathroom… this just might be it! Can’t wait to see the dimensions (and price). My sister-in-law and I were the first in line at Chapel Market last year and met you before the sale. We look forward to seeing you again this weekend!

  11. hello ,would you be interested in saving the cabinet a trip and selling it here? I could pick it up,thanks, laurali

  12. love this cabinet Marion, I am dying to go to one of the markets.I love what you and your Dad
    did with the piece. Absolutely beautiful.

    I hope that you have a good time in Alabama, and feel proud of your pieces, I would love to buy
    the cabinet, It is very very nic,


  13. ,I just love this! My dad is a dentist, and his office is filled with antique dental chairs and cabinets, so this tugs at my heart strings. I would use it as an art cabinet! The instrument drawers would be perfect for small paintbrushes and the different drawers would house so many supplies beautifully. Thanks for sharing Marian, good luck at Chapel Market!

  14. I absolutely love the dental cabinet. What a find! I sure wish you
    would have painted it one of your lovely colors instead of the white.
    Just sayin’

  15. Hello,
    I just found your dental cabinet make over. I inherited one that has the same drawer organization as the one you repainted. But, mine is stained dark. Do you think it is a mistake to paint it and what do you think of those cabinets where the drawers are painted different colors? Would that be too much for a cabinet this large? I guess I am looking for some design help. People are telling me not to paint it because it will spoil the “antique-ness” but I don’t intend to sell it. What do you think? At this point it will probably go up against a white wall. I was thinking either painting it white or a soft yellow?

  16. How did you get the chemical smell out of the top part? The one I purchased smells horrible in the top drawer “STERILIZER”

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