Goodbye Ugly! | DIY Cabinet Makeover

As promised, I’m trying to carve out a little time to write each day. I thought that it was a luxury that I should save until after my “real work” was done, like eating dessert after finishing all of your veggies. Instead, I’m finding that taking a few minutes in the morning, before the weight of my to do list (read: the boxes I still have to unpack) gets to me motivates me for my day. It’s more like eating a good breakfast before taking on the day. So here goes!

When J and I got married and I moved into the frat house, I already knew that we were moving in a year. We’d decided to relocate after his military retirement, which was already scheduled for the end of June 2018. We didn’t know exactly where we would be going, but I knew that our days were numbered. With that in mind, I was selective about design and decorating choices and tried to choose my battles carefully. The frat house had a decidedly Americana feel to it, which didn’t reflect my style or J’s, so our first mission was to systematically eliminate all of that. Second was the master bedroom furniture, which was a blonde laminate oversized set that was so big, bulky and heavy that it was impractical. We switched it out for a more streamline style and his-and-hers dressers in black and white, with grey and white bedding that tied it all together. I didn’t bother with paint or fussing with the smaller pieces of furniture, like this set of dated 2-drawer file cabinets. Until now.


The cabinets are perfectly functional and house many of our records and important papers. However, the circa 2010 vibe leaves a bit to be desired in the aesthetic arena. I decided to take them on as my first project in the new house. Why this one? It was small, cheap, and could be done in a day (or so I thought). Plus, J was busy working on unpacking the garage and I could easily do this project myself.

I found similar cabinets online for anywhere from $65-120 each, but I completed this project for under $20. Score!

Step one: Gather Supplies

For this project I used:

Rustoleum American Accents 2X Ultra Cover in Gloss White
Windex (any cleaner will do)
Microfiber Cloth (or paper towel)
Phillips Head Screwdriver
The Pioneer Woman 20 In. x 12 Ft. Printed Adhesive Laminate Shelf Liner, Betsy Red 

I got everything at Walmart, but the links above are not affiliated. Get this stuff wherever you’d like!

I also used a couple moving boxes and some spare 2x4s to protect my work surface and a sandwich sized ziptop baggie to hold the hardware for safe keeping.

Step 2: Prep your surfaces


Easily the most time-consuming and labor intensive part. I removed all of the rails and hardware from the cabinets and gave everything a good wipe down with Windex. It’s not just for windows! The ammonia in Windex is great for cutting through years of grime, greasy fingerprints, and dust. I used the 2x4s to prop the cabinets up off the cardboard so they wouldn’t stick together.


Step 3: Paint!

The paint I used had a built-in primer and is rated to bond to plastic, so it went on smoothly. Starting with the interior of the cabinets, I wasn’t too concerned with covering the underlying wood grain completely, since you don’t really see the inside of the cabinet when you’re using it. Just enough to keep things looking relatively uniform.

20180630_131755.jpgNext came the outside of the cabinets. I didn’t bother with the back or the bottom, just the visible exterior sides. The key to spray paint on furniture is to go SLOW. Smooth, even, slightly overlapping strokes work best. Wait a couple of minutes between coats. I used about 4 coats.

Once the cabinets were done, I moved them out of the way and started on the drawers. I planned to use contact paper on the drawer fronts, so I just painted a light coat so that the wood grain wouldn’t show through the paper. Then several coats to the sides and inside of the drawers. Again, I didn’t bother with the underside or exterior back of the drawer.

Finally, I gave a spritz to the plastic handles.

Step 4: Wait….

The paint I used was dry to the touch in about 20 minutes and could be handled after about an hour or two. Since it was a fairly humid day, I left it to sit out for a few hours before moving it to my front porch to cure overnight. You really need to give it 24 hours to fully set. I recommend leaving your pieces in a ventilated area so that the fumes can dissipate before bringing them into your home.

Step 5: Drawer Fronts.

20180701_151447When shopping for shelf liner, I found this really pretty paper from the Pioneer Woman collection. It’s a little more expensive than regular paper, so I didn’t use it for my kitchen cabinets, but I did pick up a couple rolls to use for projects. I lined the drawers of my bathroom vanity with the stuff and used it to add a splash of color to this project. The paper has a grid on the backing, so it’s easy to cut the right size. I laid the drawer down on the grid and measured out the piece, leaving about an inch on each edge for wrap around. Then, it’s as easy as peel, smooth, stick!

Step 6: Reassemble and Marvel

After reinstalling the hardware and reassembling the pieces, I was done! It took a little long than I planned, mostly drying time for the paint, but I was thrilled with the results.


I can’t wait to finish off my office space with these cute cabinets!

Happy Monday!


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