Old Cabinet Door Refinish

I love how old things have history! I mean, a well-built piece of furniture can outlive you and me! And think of all the people that cared for it, dusted it, used it and loved it!

Old furniture also has some element of mystery to it. We often don’t know who owned it before us, or how it came to be! I love that!!

On my last Canton Trade Days trip I found this lovely old cabinet door! 

I was drawn to its intricate carvings right away and wanted to see it painted white!

The seller said he thought it came from an old Cabinet, and he told me it had fallen out of someone’s truck! He rescued it from the side of the freeway. We both felt sorrow for the cabinet’s loss and the realization that someone may have tossed the piece because of the lost door! (I know that’s crazy… but it’s a weird part of my furniture addiction!)

Judging from it’s flat-head screws, hand carvings and wooden dowels, I knew the door was at least 80 years old.

I literally gasped when I pulled this lovely old flat-head screw out: 

Phillips screws were invented in the 1930’s and furniture manufacturers began using them exclusively because of the ability to get such a tight hold. So if you see a flat head, you know it was built long ago. (But you also have to watch out for scam artists who replace the screws.)

There are a few other evaluations I could have done on the screw to find it’s age… but I could tell they were original screws by how they pulled out of the door.

I thought about cutting off the wooden dowel at the top of the door. But I think it was used as a hinge maybe… and I kind of like that history.

Now… don’t freak out or judge me for what I did next. Antique enthusiasts would say never paint something so old…


It did come off of the original piece, and fall out of a truck. Also, it had a huge crack down the middle… and ended up at a flea market where I paid $12 for it. I don’t think it was worth much without the original cabinet.

So I pulled out my paint.

First I put Shellac on it to block any bleed through. Then I used a latex paint and went gray.

Then I made my own chalk paint and painted it white.

I hoped some gray would come through after sanding, but it didn’t, and instead, it just made my creamy white paint look bright white.

I used my paint scraper to distress and create this crackle finish, then waxed it… but it just didn’t feel right yet.

So I ordered a transfer from Iron Orchid Designs, and put it on.

It still felt too bright white, so I watered down some grayish paint and washed it on.

Then I used a sander and really went to town distressing even more. The transfer distressed so well!!

A final coat of wax and brushing it out to feel smooth, and it was done!

What do you think? I’m trying to decide if I should add an old crystal doorknob. Any ideas?


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