antique “art cabinet”

Marian ParsonsAntiques, Artistic Endeavors, Favorite Finds61 Comments

I have been pushing towards a few deadlines over the last several weeks and, while it’s all been fun work, I was really ready for a change of pace!  Jeff gave me a chance to get away on Saturday, so I went on a trek to HomeGoods and to a local antique shop.  I am almost always shopping for things to sell and I did some of that on this trip, but I also took some time to shop for myself.

And I found this awesome piece…


It’s an antique cabinet, obviously handmade, probably a piece some guy built for tool storage or something.



It’s been well used and worn over the years, but I find all of the rough edges very endearing.

And, what pushed it over the top for me is that it’s perfectly sized to store art supplies.


The cubbies are long enough for brushes, pads of paper, palettes, and finished works.  Some of the drawers are divided and some aren’t, making it suitable for a variety of storage needs.


I bought it with the intention to paint it, probably leaving the top wood, but I am still debating exactly how I want to paint it and do I want to change the hardware, put it on casters, etc.

I know it’ll hit me.


I’m glad to have a new piece of furniture to work on, though, and I’m very excited to have a cool storage piece for all of my newly acquired art supplies!

I’ll keep you posted on what I decide to do with it.


And, speaking of art supplies, I am looking forward to playing with pastels some more.  I did buy a set of nicer quality Rembrandt pastels.  Nice pastels are very expensive, so I started with a small set before I invest in more.  I have been browsing around to find a used set, so maybe I’ll luck out!  (If anyone knows of some quality used pastels for sale, just let me know!)


I also took a little time today to “move into” a new watercolor palette.  I had been using one that didn’t have enough wells for all of my colors, so some of the wells housed as many as 3 colors and none of them were labeled.  This palette had just the right number of wells, so I added the paints and labeled them with a color card.  This will be such a helpful tool when I’m mixing colors or trying to pick just the right shade.


My book projects are pretty much wrapped up and now it’s onto a few freelance projects and I have some upholstery work and a custom landscape dresser waiting for me!

antique “art cabinet”

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61 Comments on “antique “art cabinet””

    1. I’m with you on that too Teresa. Some pieces just need to be left and appreciated for their character. I was seriously thinking the exact same thing. I love the way it looks.

  1. I have to agree with Teresa, the patina on this piece is beautiful. That being said, I know if you paint it, it will look awesome.

  2. I love the dresser! Totally understand the need for good storage as an artist.
    BTW how long do the water colors last? I was also hoping to invest in some better ones and I’m wondering how long these would last to better understand what I’m paying for. Thanks!

  3. I love this unit. I would leave the top and drawer fronts as they are and maybe paint the rest in typewriter. Casters is a great idea. Can’t wait to see what you do with it.

  4. Like the idea of leaving the top and drawer fronts and painting the rest. BTW this is probably not antique. Certainly made after 1916. Using ‘antique’ and ‘vintage’ interchangeably diminishes the meaning of each. I understand that some use ‘antique’ for anything old. But it that doesn’t make it so! (My personal pet peeve)


  6. Looks good as it is! I also wanted to say that I don’t like the autoplaying videos under Miss Mustard Seed TV on the right side of the page. I installed an extension to block them. I just wanted to let you know since other readers might be thinking the same thing.

    1. Thanks for bringing this issue up, Amy.
      Unwanted videos were running my internet/phone bill up over $200 a month.
      My go-to computer guy helped me stop them today.
      No way I can stay online with all the video stuffing the bill.
      Since I’m advertising resistant I’m not missing anything.
      (Now if there were a list of MMS paint suppliers in my area, that would be good and i’d buy).

  7. After everyone saying to leave as is, I feel the need to comment. If it were me, I’d want it painted. I’m sure you’re going to make it look fabulous! Thanks for sharing what you’re up to. I love following along. It’s always inspiring!

  8. I know people freak out about you painting things they think should stay the same, but, girl, you do you. I think it’ll be beautiful painted, and I can’t wait to see it.

  9. I usually prefer when you paint something, because you have such a wonderful eye, but in this case, I’m in the leave-it-as-is camp. But then again, I’m not there to see it in person.

  10. Yep, this is gorgeous just as it is. Casters are a good idea, but I don’t think it needs anything else but maybe some hemp oil.

  11. I love painting pieces of furniture but this piece looks awesome as is. I would just clean it up a bit and maybe put some casters on it if you want it to be moveable. I love how rustic and cool this looks as is! I’m sure whatever you decide will be beautiful.

  12. I never leave comments, but, artist to artist, this piece has so much character with its artless drawer fronts & old dings & scratches I would let it speak for itself. Nothing needs to be improved upon, except casters would be a handy addition.

  13. I agree with a previous comment…I think it would look awesome with the drawer fronts & top left natural, just oiled, and then paint the rest of the piece in typewriter, and add castors to the bottom. I think that would look classic! And I just love seeing pictures of your dog! So glad he’s found a happy home with you & your family!

  14. Oh when I opened this email and saw that cabinet my heart skipped a beat. There is something beautiful about those old cabinets with all of the beautiful cubbies that just speaks me. Such a lovely find… and I’m glad it made your day! It would certainly make mine <3

  15. I am usually in the no paint camp but this I would like to see painted. To me, it seems too beat up and I don’t like the different wood tones, but that is just me,

    About the pastels, when I was a poor art school student I shopped here (they have good prices and a huge selection):

  16. I love 99.99% of what you do! But I have to chime in: DON’T PAINT THAT CABINET! It is unbelievably beautiful as is. Plus it stands out beautifully against the wall color in the studio. Just my 2 cents! Have a great day!

  17. Love it just like it is–even the old pulls. Looks very old and handcrafted with the older wood charm. I would just clean and oil it to bring out the life in the wood. Wheels for sure……

    Hopefully, you don’t mind all of our ideas—I’m sure you’re aware that if you show it, we’ll have an opinion.

  18. Gorgeous old piece! This might be a good piece to clean with Murphy’s Soap and some elbow grease, to get off the grime, then just let it be. It’s got an awful lot of old charm and character.

  19. OK, here’s my opinion: I hate the label things and would definitely remove those; I like the drawer pulls, so those could stay; I would need to repair that broken drawer, too. And then when you do your “Marian Magic” and paint it … Voila! Gorgeous!!!

  20. I think it would be cool to do the base in white, and the drawers in various of your colors. It would also make your things easier to find knowing which color drawer the paint brushes are in for instance.

  21. quick question – I bought a piece like this at a barn sale here in the Midwest and need to get the musty smell out of it. Any suggestions? The piece I bought has 15 smallish drawers and I’d like to use it in my family room once the odor is gone.

    Thank you – LOVE your work

  22. I would leave it as is if the wood tones were the same. I think it would look great with just a very light wash of white milk paint and letting the white paint settle in all the dings and scratches.

  23. Marian, I love your find!! All the furniture pieces that you paint turn out beautifully. You have a gift!. But when I look at this piece with all of it’s “dings” and slanted drawers, etc. I feel it might change it’s “uniqueness”. I always love how your furniture turns out though. Whatever you do with it will be awesome!! Thanks for keeping me inspired. Blessings

  24. I do love that handmade cabinet – whatever you decide to do with, it will be a beautiful piece! It is yours after all – so do with it what your heart says!

    But I must say that I LOVE that dog 🙂 He is delightful!!!

  25. I’m usually all for painting, but that cabinet is so loveably crusty I don’t know that I would paint it! There is something about a wooden art cabinet that just feels so “legit” to me. Like the one Jeanne Oliver has behind her in all her profile pictures.

  26. Normally I agree with every thing you do but PLEASE Marian do not paint this beauty. There is just too much character to loose.

  27. Marian, I agree with so many of your followers not to paint the wood. Perhaps a good cleaning and some hemp oil would do the trick. I love the hardware and the casters sound perfect!

  28. Swoonworthy…for sure. These are the type of pieces that I adore. I have an absolutely humongous one in my art studio. I love it. I’m with everyone else. Don’t paint it.

  29. A lot of passionate responses to leave the cabinet as is. I must concur. I think a little solid wood contrast with your other painted pieces is in order. However, it is yours and opinions are like… well you know, everybody has one. Do what feels right to you.

  30. Most of your pieces are meant for painting, but this one is not! Please reconsider. The color and wear are fantastic. A quick clean and polish is all it needs! I know my opinion will infuriate some, but it is MY OPINION.



  32. I used to have a buffet/chest-type piece that had the same kind of imperfections, mismatched wood tones, and a few chewed-up drawers. i loved the patina, but it definitely needed those chewed-up drawers replaced! I didn’t have the skills, time, or money, so i used it as is until I had to get rid of it years later when I moved and had too much furniture. At the very least, I think your cabinet needs: a good cleaning; the chewed-up drawers replaced; casters! Maybe, new “old” hardware. I think the label holders should stay, and in the same wonky positions as they are now. I, too, envision painting the drawers different colors of your paint line. That “look” of different colors on the same piece is kinda cute. Maybe, even sand it all down and re-stain? Perhaps, it’s time to do your own VOC-free, “safe” stain line:-)
    Whatever you do will be an improvement, take your time.

  33. I think this will be wonderful with a chippy look in any of MMS shades. On second look, the label holders aren’t as randomly placed as it appears. All the large drawers have one in the center of the drawer while the small drawers have them in a lower corner.

  34. I always wonder what’s going to happen when the painted wood phase is over and all this gorgeous wood has been painted some shade of white/gray/turquoise/black whatever…the piece will have lost it’s authenticity and it would be hard to get it back. I do love a good painted piece and have some in my home but I’m glad I haven’t painted all the wood pieces I have….a good mix is preferable to me.

    Are you planning on keeping it or selling it in the future….things you should consider.

  35. I’ve worked with pastels quite a bit and I have an extensive set of the really expensive ones. However, the ones I use the most are the Rembrandt set you have and a set of Yarka pastels from Jerry’s Artarama. You can get a set of 60 for about $60. Those two sets are the “meat and potatoes” and I use the more expensive as the “Icing” for a special color or detail. They really aren’t necessary though and a bit too soft for your ground work. Enjoy the creative process!

  36. I think this piece is amazing as is but when I look at it I feel it’s missing something. Maybe different hardware and painting like you said. I don’t think it will lose any of the character at all by painting it. In fact it could add more charm. I see it being a white and distressed like you always do. I think it could go from amazing to even more amazing with your touch on it. This piece is a cool find no matter what you do but I think when u add your love to it everyone who said you shouldn’t paint it will see your vision and think it looks amazing. ? I have never seen a piece u have done that wasn’t gorgeous so trust your gut you have a gift that allows you to enhance beauty in the old!

  37. I can see it painted white with the top left wood, but part of me says paint it a bright, inspiring, happy color so that when you go and get ready to paint just looking at it puts you in a happy, creative, energetic mood. Maybe a color you love but don’t get to use as much? Tricycle or mustard seed yellow? Something happy. Maybe a custom blend just for yourself… Treat yourself, Marian!

  38. I love that Piece! My son moved into a house that a water color artist had owned. Not only did the family leave him some wonderful paintings, but also his desk. He built it in the basement and it was too big to move Out! How I wailed when they moved and had to leave it there. On another note, I-do-have a chest similar to yours that my grandfather built for my grandmother and was in her dress makers shop. I’m right with you on maybe painting yours. mine has been painted several times, and will be painted again soon. I’m going to put a new top on mine, with some reclaimed wood since the linoleum that was originally on it is still there hiding under contact paper. You have inspired me to look into some vintage index pulls for it.

  39. Marian, my watercolor teacher recommends the John Pike palette. I love how much room there is to mix colors. Kind of big if your on the go but great if your working inside. LOVE the cabinet btw.

    1. That’s similar to the one I was using, but it didn’t have as many wells as I wanted, so I switched to this one with smaller wells, but more of them. We’ll see which one proves to be my favorite! 🙂 Thanks for the tips. I have soooo much to learn!

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