Don’t let people tell you that a china cabinet makeover isn’t in style in 2021 and beyond. Hands down, a painted china cabinet is one of the most fun pieces of furniture to refinish because it’s extra storage that can either be a statement piece or blend into the background. And most people will drop off old china cabinets at the thrift store because they think they’re outdated, but that’s not the case.
I scored this awesome china cabinet for a measly $40 at the thrift store. I know, right?? But I was >>THISCLOSE<< to walking away from it because if you’ve followed this blog long enough, you know that I’ve got hoarding tendencies (don’t we all???). I didn’t even want to think about the very audible grrrooaaannn my husband would give me as I lugged one more piece of furniture into our achingly cramped garage. But this china cabinet was too sweet to pass up.
Audio: Before & After: Painted China Cabinet Makeover
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And I’m glad I didn’t! It took me over a month to get around to this painted china cabinet makeover, but considering I have furniture that has been in my garage for–ahem–three years, one month is actually progress, my friend! Here’s what it looks like now!
Before we get into the why and the how of this painted china cabinet makeover, I’ll share with the materials I used for this makeover:
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- Beyond Paint – Nantucket
- Simple Green (or vinegar and water for cleaning the china cabinet first)
- Paint brush or small roller
- Rub n’ Buff
- Gold knobs (similar to the ones I used)
Should You Paint Your China Cabinet?
I wrote a popular blog post called When Should You NOT Paint Wood Furniture?? to share with you the 5 moments when you should put down the paint brush and step away from the china cabinet. (Go have a read). In this case, while the wood was beautiful, dark wood in such large pieces like china cabinets can make a dining room, living room, or craft room (places where people typically put china cabinets) feel very heavy.
I love how painted furniture breathes new life into something that might have once belonged to your grandmother or parents (like a vintage or antique china cabinet), and they left it to you. But “as is” it does nothing for your home.
Is It an Antique or Vintage China Cabinet?
Most people use the word “vintage” and “antique” interchangeably to describe something that is simply old. But that’s not the case. A vintage china cabinet is one that is less than 100 years old. An antique china cabinet is more than 100 years old. It’s usually hard to know the age of a piece of furniture unless you know for a fact it was Great-Great Grandma Betty’s that was passed down from generation to generation.
But it looks to be in pretty good shape, but just looks outdated, it’s likely just “vintage.” In that case, it’s not going to be very valuable. If it looks like it’s been through war and back, it could very well be an antique. In that case, you might want to think very carefully about whether you could be de-valuing a very valuable piece of furniture.
But let’s say you’re “all in” for painting a vintage china cabinet. Let’s talk about how to paint this vintage china cabinet without sanding and how it will enjoy its next life in your home! After all, it’s your home. Few people are likely visiting you, anyhow (especially in a COVID-19 era!) so no one will get to tell you that you “ruined” it. 😉
And while you can paint a china cabinet, you can also refinish a china cabinet with stain! It’s a bit more difficult to strip and stain it, because there are a lot of nooks and crannies that would take a lot of time to strip and remove all the previous finish. But it wouldn’t be impossible. You can check out my post How to Strip Furniture and Stain Wood: A Complete Guide for more info on how to do that.
For this china cabinet makeover, however, we’re going to stick to how to paint it without sanding so that you can breath new life into your old furniture without all the hassle and mess of sanding and priming.
Should You Use Chalk Paint for a China Cabinet Makeover?
If you’ve never painted furniture before, I want you to remember this: sanding and priming is old school. That’s right, my friend. Over the past 7 years or more, furniture paints have totally transformed how people are decorating their homes. Specifically, people are using furniture paint that is specifically made for furniture, such as chalk paint.
What used to require sweatin’ your tail off with sandpaper and coats of primer now simply requires a couple coats of furniture paint without sanding or priming. (That’s not the case for all painted furniture, which you can reach about in 10 Common Mistakes When Painting Furniture)
Also, there are tons of brands of furniture paint, such as chalk paint, and some of my personal favorite paints can be found in the blog post “What’s the Best Paint For Furniture?”
There isn’t any right or wrong answer to which paint to use to paint a china cabinet. Rather, the question is, do you want a flat finish, a satin finish, a chippy distressed look, a full-coverage look, or texture or smooth? (All of those questions can be answered in the blog post about furniture paints).
Chalk paint is a very matte finish and looks dry with no shine (the shine comes from clear wax that is applied after the furniture is painted). It sticks to virtually anything with no sanding or priming (as long as your china hutch is in good condition and isn’t chipped or stained).
Furniture paints that aren’t considered chalk paints typically have a little bit more shine to them, and may have top coats built into them that, over time, will help to protect the paint and won’t require you to add wax or any other top coat. In my opinion, these types of furniture paints require less steps and are eamateriasier and faster for newbies like yourself.
Beyond Paint, one of my favorite furniture paints, reached out and offered to let me try a couple of their paints (I chose Nantucket and Off White). I was curious to see how it worked so I said yes. I mean, free paint— can’t beat that. But I also wanted to see how it compares to Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, which is like the Godmother of Furniture Paint, which (as I mentioned) doesn’t require sanding or priming.
Just like other furniture paints, though, Beyond Paint doesn’t require any prep work–no sanding, priming, stripping–and it bonds to nearly anything. (P.S. They’ve since removed the “RECLAIM” from their name and can be found simply as Beyond Paint).
That’s fantastic because the prep work is the awful part of any project. I even hate wiping down furniture before painting it. That’s how lazy of a DIY’er I am.
But when I compared it to other furniture paints I have used, there were clearly noticeable differences:
Beyond Paint is much thicker.
When I lifted the paintbrush from the container, the paint didn’t budge. It wasn’t drippy or runny, which was sort of cool, although it did take some getting used to.
I couldn’t nail down the word I wanted to use to describe the consistency of Beyond Paint until I was nearly done with the china cabinet makeover. But finally, the word hit me:
It looks exactly like thick custard, doesn’t it? Or maybe pudding.
(I’m getting hungry now…)
But the thick “custard” has something called nano-technology (don’t let me get all technical because I’m clueless), but this nano-technology allows it to bond to ANY surface and hides imperfections within the piece because the paint is “self-leveling” which is awesome!
Even though it’s thicker, it goes on very smooth. It actually has a little bit of shine/glossy sheen which seems to help it spread easier without having to dip my brush as often, which was nice. Which leads me to my next question.
What Kind of Finish Do You Want for Your China Hutch?
Paints usually come in flat, satin, eggshell, and semi-gloss (well, at least your wall latex paints do). Furniture paints, however, are a different story. Each type of paint has a different finish.
Most chalk paints will give you very flat finishes. Clear furniture wax is typically applied to protect the surface and give you a smooth finish with a little bit of shine. But sometimes, getting that clear wax to go on without streaks can be tough!
Beyond Paint and Fusion Mineral Paint are two brands of paint that I like to use that have a satin finish build into them. In fact, their protective finish is what gives it a nice sheen. Chalk paint requires wax (or a top coat) in order to protect it. But paints like Beyond Paint and Fusion Mineral Paint have it baked right in. Which means you paint 2 coats and you’re done. That’s what I like about those paints.
I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of glossy paint. It’s a little too modern for me. But glossy finishes have their place and can look really fabulous! The best way to achieve this is to try Amy Howard High Performance Furniture Lacquer. It will give you a brilliant glossy look with protection. Don’t go the route of sanding, priming, and then using a semi-gloss paint from the counter of The Home Depot. Those paints have so much plastic in them that in a few weeks to a year the paint would be peeling off of them (ask me how I know….LOL).
What Kind of Paint Brush to Paint a China Cabinet?
My favorite kind of paint brush is an angled synthetic brush, like Purdy paint brushes. I used a brush for this china cabinet makeover, but Beyond Paint works really well with a roller, too (the Beyond Paint folks even recommend using a roller because the roller hides the brush strokes).
But the type of paint brush you use will depend on the look you’re going for.
Did you know that if you use a synthetic brush, you’ll get a smoother finish then if you used a natural bristled brush (also known as a “china brush” or a “chip brush.”)
A natural bristle brush will show more brush strokes, more texture. This look is very popular with shabby chic style of furniture. With texture, some DIY’ers will layer on a coat of clear wax to protect the paint, and then follow it with a coat of dark wax, which will settle into the brush strokes, creating an aged look. I don’t typically use dark wax (since I’m into more modern, full-coverage painted furniture), but it’s a fun look to experiment with!)
How Many Coats of Paint for a China Cabinet Makeover?
In my experience, you definitely need two coats. Some brands of paint will tell you that you only need one coat. I find that may be the cast with some brands, but most will require two coats of paint. This is what it looked like with one coat. Notice the brown wood coming through? If you want full coverage, go with two coats.
Taking Apart Pieces Before Painting
Many vintage china cabinets have glass inserts with wood framing behind it. You’ll want to remove that before painting, being careful not to break the delicate wood or break the glass. I just whipped out my trusty ‘ole butter knife. You know how we DIY’ers roll with the creativity and stuff….. 😉 If the glass is remaining in place, use some painter’s tape around it to prevent paint from getting on the glass. If you do get paint on the glass, use a razor edge to scrap it off.
Paint the wood insert and set it aside to dry. You can take it out, but it may look plain without it. Another option is to use chicken wire for the insert and remove the glass and decorative wood!
(Pssst! I’m a lazy DIYer and tend to leave doors attached when painting. You can also remove the door and prep and paint it while it’s laying flat. That will make it easier to reinstall the glass afterwards, too).
At this point, I was ready to do a second coat of Beyond Paint. Again, this is how the china cabinet looked like just one coat. You’ll notice the color of the wood coming through. Don’t worry, that’s normal. Your first coat is similar to a “priming” coat.
When Furniture Stain Bleeds Through the Paint
Did you ever have that piece of furniture that left you cursing and had you ready to denounce DIY altogether? ..Yeah?
Well, me too. The inside of this cabinet was evil. Plain evil! This bleeding through happens when the old stain keeps bleeding through the furniture paint, no matter how many layers of paint you use. It will even bleed through regular ‘ole primer, too.
That’s what happened in this case. I wrote a post called 10 Common Furniture Painting Mistakes and How to Prevent and Correct Them. You can check that out for all the possible reasons why it happens, but just know this: it will make you want to pull your hair out. 🙂
When beginning your painted china cabinet makeover, you’ll also want to test your wood to make sure it doesn’t bleed through. When I painting my china cabinet, I noticed that this was the worse case of bleeding through I had ever seen!
This had nothing to do with the Off White paint that I used. It wasn’t that the paint wasn’t good at covering up the wood. This is true for all paints. If you’re painting mahogany stained wood, it’s notorious for bleeding through. No matter how many coats of paint you use, it will bleed through. Even regular primer won’t work.
How to Prevent Paint Bleed-Through
To prevent bleed-through, you’ve got a couple of options. You can:
- Use something called Shellac Sanding Sealer on the wood, which will create a barrier between the wood and the furniture paint.
- Use a water-based top coat (like General Finishes High Performance Top Coat) and then paint over that protective coat once it’s dry.
- Use a paint that is similar to the shade of the bleeding wood. For example, I decided to paint the inside Annie Sloan Old Ochre because that color has a yellowish tint that can mask any bleed-through. Clever, huh? Just roll with the punches….
But the best solution on how to fix bleed-through on painted furniture: use Kilz oil-based primer to seal in the “old” stain that will bleed through. I didn’t have any on hand at the time. But this is what is recommended by a lot of DIYers. (TIP: The spray-on oil-based KILZ works well, too).
What is a China Cabinet Used For?
Typically a china cabinet is for….well…fancy china dishes! You know…dinner plates, fancy bowls, and other dishes that you only pull out when guests come over for Thanksgiving. I know–makes no sense….
There aren’t very many people storing actual china dishes in their refinished china cabinets, but I do. I had found this set at the thrift store for only $40! If you’ve got a favorite set with pretty patterns, a painted china cabinet is a great place to show them off as decorations. (Psst! This set of thrifted china dishes were $40 and the cabinet was $40. Wow……$80 for this sweetness is a total deal).
Here are some other creative ideas on what goes in a china cabinet:
- Crafting supplies.
- Add a piece of wood extension and make a small desk.
- Colorful blankets
- Board games in a dining room or family room.
- Towels and toiletries in a large bathroom.
- Toys in a family room.
- Gardening supplies in a mudroom.
Updating the China Cabinet Hardware
The fun part about furniture makeovers is updating the hardware with something a bit more modern, or sometimes changing the color using metallic waxes called Rub n’ Buff that can fix and hide tarnished knobs and pulls.
I had this Anthropologie knob laying around from an old project and decided to use it. Not sure if it matches, but umm….. it matches if I SAY it matches! Take that!
I used Rub n’ Buff on the handles to match the Anthropologie brassy color knob.
Rub’n Buff is a wax metallic finish that can be used on sooo many surfaces to change the finish. For example, if you’re doing a china cabinet makeover and you’ve got ugly handles or pulls, a little Rub n’ Buff can totally make them look new.
(Left: original pulls…..Right: with Rub n’ Buff).
READ MORE: 5 Ways to Use Rub ‘n Buff
Rub ‘n Buff is amazing for transforming hardware, making it look brand new again!
Be sure to check out the link below to learn more about how you can use Rub n’ Buff around the home to spruce up hardware, furniture, and more:
RELATED: 5 Ways to Use Rub n’ Buff
Don’t Forget the Drawers!
Some people, when painting furniture or china cabinets, forget that the drawers are perfect for adding complimentary or contrasting color. There’s nothing I dislike more than opening a drawer of a freshly painted piece of furniture and seeing the drawers all yucky brown.
I decided I would try painting the inside Annie Sloan Graphite, which is actually a deep gray. I sort of like that it’s not matchy-matchy with the inside of the cabinet, you know?
Don’t forget that scrapbook paper is perfect for lining drawers of china cabinets or inside of china cabinets! Check out this fun scrapbook idea I did for lining drawers!
How to Protect and Seal Your China Cabinet
Once you paint your china cabinet, you’ll want to make sure the paint is protected. With Beyond Paint, it’s self-sealing, which means no top coat is needed (although if you’re using chalk paint, wax is needed). If it was a high-traffic piece, like a dining room table or coffee table, I would definitely recommend using their Multi-Purpose Sealer (2-3 coats) for maximum protection.
You can also use a top coat instead, such as General Finishes High-Performance Top Coat. Be careful, though, when using a top coat over white paint. Although most people think that it will be fine and won’t change colors, from my experiments, it does turn white paints yellow and that will ruin your project. (Click here to watch the experiment I did turning white paint yellow with top coat).
So let’s take a look at how this china cabinet looked before I got started. I know–shame, shame to paint that “good wood.” But like I have said before, there is a time to paint wood and a time to put down the paintbrush. And this piece passed all the RULES, so it was fair game! Although, I do see how gorgeous the wood looked. It was just way too dark for my taste. Dark furniture makes a room feel heavy and that’s not the look I am going for in my house.
With two gorgeous coats of Nantucket paint, this painted china cabinet turned out amazing! The color feels fresh, the brown is gone, and I’ve got a place to store my thrifted dishes. If you’ve got a vintage china cabinet and you’re looking for painted china cabinet ideas (especially if you’re a newbie), I hope this post will help you get started in transforming your own furniture piece!
So What’s the Verdict on Beyond Paint?
When people tell me they don’t know where to get started with painting furniture, I usually recommend Beyond Paint (click here to check out my review of the 12 most popular furniture paints) but there are so many brands of good quality furniture paint out there now. It can be hard to choose the one you want to try. But here are my thoughts on Beyond Paint in case you want to use it for your china hutch makeover, too.
What I Liked About This Paint
- Easy to use
- No sanding
- Glides over furniture
- Satin sheen
- Self-sealing, so no top coat needed if it’s not a heavy-traffic piece of furniture
- You can use it outside
- Won’t have to wax it every 6 months like you have to do with chalk paint furniture
- Has an optional sealer (use 2 coats) for high-traffic pieces of furniture
- Full-coverage painted look (great for modern furniture, too)
- Only comes in limited colors (whereas other furniture paints come in about 30). They do have more coming out all the time, so keep checking with them. (UPDATED: See how I tested out the new Beyond Paint metallic collection! My favorite is the Rose Gold).
- It’s more expensive than most furniture paints at $49.95 for a quart, but for a piece like this, I used about half of the quart. So you can easily get 2-3 large pieces painted with one quart.
- It’s not the paint to use if you’re looking for a “chippy” or distressed look. This paint is more “full coverage.”
Where to Buy Beyond Paint
Since I first started doing Beyond paint reviews, they have been expanding like crazy. Because of their feature on This Old House so many stores have been carrying it. You can buy it directly from their website, but there are other convenient places to buy it online:
AFTER! – Painted China Cabinet
My Other Projects Painted Using Beyond Paint Furniture Paint
Since completing this painted china cabinet before and after, I’ve also done many other projects! Here are some of the furniture makeovers where I have used this brand of paint:
How to Paint a Dresser in 10 Easy Steps (Using Beyond Paint)
I also completed this French Provincial dresser makeover for my mother-in-law using Beyond Paint Soft Gray. You can see that French Provincial dresser makeover here.
This gorgeous Beyond Paint project was when I repurposed my son’s old toddler bed into a potting bench, using their Poppy color, which was so fun and bright!
Lastly, I repurposed a drafting table into an eat-in kitchen table using their Blue.
And lastly, this is a patio table that I painted using this brand of paint.
How to Paint Outdoor Furniture (Using Beyond Paint)
So what do you think of my painted china cabinet makeover, my friends?? Have you ever heard of or tried of Beyond Paint?
Leave a comment below and I’ll see you in the comments section!
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