How I flipped a 1980's curio cabinet into a modern statement piece!
For weeks I scoured Facebook Marketplace for the perfect furniture piece that I could transform into a modern statement. I looked at china cabinets, curio cabinets, buffets and console tables but I knew that I wanted to get on the trend of including arched elements in my home design. Then one day as luck would have it there were three arched cabinets for sale. Some more expensive than I liked and one with a cracked glass pane for $80. That's the one I picked and I had my husband pick up the piece in our truck. Once it was home and in the garage I was all sorts of excited to start the transformation process. The process, however, did not start for weeks after because other projects in the house needed to be tackled first.
I was wrapping up the Spring 2021 ORC and then worked on the loft slat wall project and once those were complete I turned my focus to this furniture flip. The first order of business was to take as much of the cabinet apart as possible. This meant removing every glass pane carefully and preserving the rubber seals that held all the glass together. Taking out all the glass shelves and then the door and all the hinges. I took out the cabinet light housing that came with the cabinet but never reinstalled at the end since it did not fit the look I wanted.
We then sanded all the wood areas down with our cordless orbital sander. Sanding is not fun but it is necessary to get the wood surface ready for priming and painting. It also helps paint adhesion which means less paint chipping after it's all said and done.
After sanding, I went to our local paint store to pick out primer and paint. I ended up picking a gallon of an oil based primer - firstly it was on sale for $18 a gallon and it was more than sufficient to prepare the wood surfaces for paint. For the paint, I decided on Benjamin Moore's Advance paint in black satin. This already came pre-tinted so it was ready to go off the shelf. I also got a 1" paint brush to get into all the corners on this cabinet and a mohair roller to roll primer and paint onto the larger surfaces on the cabinet.
Before priming the cabinet, I wiped down the entire cabinet with a rag to get all the dust off and then went over it with a tack cloth to capture any finer dust particles. I did the same for the door. I then starting priming the cabinet with an old brush (one I was ready to get rid of since the primer was oil based and I wouldn't have been able to clean it off with just water). Once all the corners and curved edges were primed, I used a roller to prime the larger surfaces such as the arch top and interior and the cabinet floor and all the wood between each glass pane. By using the roller I was able to get more of an even coat of primer and minimized any drips which would only have compromised the final finish.
Once all the surfaces had a coat of primer, I decided to move the cabinet indoors onto some brown paper to paint the black coat. The representative at the paint store warned me that in the summer heat and humidity, the Advance paint would remain tacky for too long and that my best bet would be to paint indoors for faster drying time between coats. I followed the same process as I did with primer - brushed the black paint with a brand new brush along the edges and corners and used the roller to cover all the other surfaces. I always had a roller and paintbrush handy when painting so if I needed to smooth out any drips I could use whichever tool necessary. The great thing about this line of paint is its ability to self level. That means as it dries, it levels itself out so you get a very smooth finish. Between coats I covered the roller in plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge. This way I was able to finish the painting over a couple of days and could allow for enough drying time. It also saved me from using a new roller for each coat.
I let the cabinet shell and the door dry for two days before attempting to put it all back together with the glass. I wanted to give the paint a chance to cure and minimize any chipping during the re-assembly. While that was drying, I still had work to do on the cabinet backing. The original cabinet had two mirrors held in place by some hard board. I used the mirrors to trace out the shapes on 1/4" plywood for the new backing and cut out the arch shape with a jigsaw. Once I had the two right sized pieces, it was time to figure out the stain color. I envisioned a high contrast look with a light wood color back against the black of the cabinet. I bought three stain colors - Ipswich Pine, Golden Oak and Early American to see which one would be best.
As I viewed my test piece with these stains, I liked the light and bright look of Ipswich Pine. I stained both the backing pieces with this choice and once they were dry I laid it against the cabinet in my living room to see how it would all look together. I was less than pleased. The stain color on it's own is pretty but when all the wood finishes in my home are much darker and deeper toned, this light wood stuck out like a sore thumb.
I then went back to the drawing board and tried some darker colors over the one I had already used. The winning combo was Ipswich Pine with a coat of Special Walnut on top. It was the perfect rich and slightly reddish tone that went perfectly with my dining table, the floors, the wood on the entertainment center and of course my herringbone wood wall. IT WAS PERFECT!
The cabinet and door were painted, the backing boards were stained correctly and it was then time to put all the things back together. As I started gathering all the glass pieces to start putting them back on the cabinet, I saw the piece that was originally cracked and to my surprise I had a second pane that had cracked into three pieces. My heart sank. I thought I was so close to finishing up this project but then had to figure out where to source new glass pieces from. I taped up the two glass panels that were broken and set them aside and proceeded to put all the rest of the glass on the cabinet before anything else cracked too! Luckily all the curved pieces were intact and I started with those. I held each glass piece in its respective opening and wedged the rubber seal sandwiching the glass between the wood of the cabinet and the seal. This was how it was before I took things apart and that's exactly how they went back together. I had all of them back in place aside from the two broken pieces.
I went to a local glass cutting shop, not 10 minutes from our house, and took the old pieces with me. They let me know that it was single strength glass (super delicate) and that it would be a couple of days till they were ready and they would set me back only $36. This was great news! Sure enough, two days later they called and I was able to pick up my new pieces. One of them I installed just as easily as the original pieces. The final piece was cut just a hair larger than the original and made for a snug fit. I was able to manage but had to cut off some of the rubber seal in the process. You can't tell from the outside of the cabinet that anything was different. It's a DIY project and what DIY project would be complete without a few minor imperfections? :)
After all the glass was in, I used my staple gun to secure the plywood backing to the cabinet and then finally added back the hardboard (that held the mirror in place) and secured that in place with my staple gun as well. I added the hinges back to the door and got the door back on the cabinet. It was almost done! The cabinet came with glass shelves so I got those in from where they were stored in the garage and placed the shelves on the metal pegs that were original to the cabinet. Once I gave all the glass surfaces a good Windex clean I was able to do my favorite thing - style this custom arch cabinet!
Here's how I put together various decor pieces I had to create a curated look:
I hope you enjoyed reading and seeing visuals of this furniture transformation project. I am extremely proud of how it turned out and can't believe I waited this long to flip my first furniture piece! Needless to say I won't be as reluctant the next time. If you're wondering if you can revive an old yet special piece of furniture, be assured, YOU CAN!