A few weeks ago we filled you all in on the roller coaster ride we endured that was the kitchen disaster in our home. But before we ever got to the point of termite infested and rotten wall discovery in our kitchen, we felt like it was finally starting to come together.

We had painted the cabinets as soon as we moved into the house, painted the counter tops with textured spray paint to give it a "stone" look, and installed under cabinet lighting to brighten the room. It was looking good, but there was an issue.

At 10' x 11', our kitchen is, by standards of our 15 foot wide house, a large room. But the cabinets were all installed along two walls with the sink in the corner, cramming all of the workable space for the kitchen into a tight area. Add to it the fact that our cabinets fall several feet shy of the 10' ceilings, and you've got a recipe for insufficient storage and an uninteresting layout.

To remedy this situation, Wendy and I started scouring eBay for something old and cool that we could use as a kitchen storage hutch. We looked for several weeks and finally stumbled on a cabinet that had salvaged from the porch of an old home in South Carolina. Here's one of the original auction photos that made us say "Hey, that piece of dirty junk would look great in our house."

The cabinet looked to be in a little bit of rough shape, but we won the auction none-the-less. About a week later a freight shipper showed up with what I referred to as "the single most disgusting thing we've ever received in the mail."

To say this cabinet was filthy was an absolute understatement. It was covered in grime, the paint was peeling and flaking, the hardware was rusted, one pane of glass missing, and the interior was full of spider webs and eggs. I think Wendy's face in the photos above says it all.

Since this was going in the kitchen, we knew we were going to need to clean things up. The paint was in such bad shape that a simple scrub down wasn't going to cut it. Instead we launched into a full scale disassembly and paint stripping process.

Using Peel Away 1, we stripped all of the paint from the cabinet pieces. It was a tedious process, but there wasn't any way I was going to live with the paint in the horrible condition it was in.

After stripping was complete, I took the pieces of the cabinet to the back yard for a thorough sanding and reassembly.

Sanding was a mess -- mostly because I hadn't discovered shop Vac HEPA filters yet -- just look at the ground. But once we were all done we had a clean cabinet just waiting for a few necessary upgrades.

After putting the whole thing back together, we added a baseboard piece to the bottom to conceal the patch that was necessary to make the cabinet sit level. If you look at the photo above you can see the right side of the cabinet is propped up on several pieces of wood. One of the legs was about six inches shorter than the other side, so without this bit of cabinet surgery, we really didn't have a viable candidate for a kitchen cabinet.

We painted the whole cabinet with the same color white as the kitchen cabinets so that it would work with what we already had.

I'm not joking when I say that painting this whole cabinet seemed to take FOR-EV-ER!

To contrast with the white paint on the cabinet, we painted a sheet of plywood bead board in the same red as our dining room (Behr's Red Red Wine) and nailed it to the back of the cabinet. This added a bit of interest to the back of the open areas and also offered a significant amount of necessary rigidity and structure to the previously wobbly cabinet.

We were feeling quite good about our progress, but we knew the top was missing a little something.

To bring some authenticity to the finished product, we bought some salvaged wavy glass to install in the upper cabinet glass doors and picked up a handful of butterfly hinges and turn latches to complete the whole look of an antique cabinet. We also applied a crown detail to the top of the cabinet to add the missing something we mentioned earlier.

The final step was to sand the wood filler on the crown and apply the final bit of paint. Through our efforts we had turned a disgusting cabinet eBay find into a functional and attractive storage solution for our kitchen. 

It was really fulfilling to know that we could take a pice of furniture that looked to be beyond its useful life and transform it back into something that could become a nice addition to our home. The exact cost escapes me at the moment, but I believe the cost of the auction, shipping, and the various supplies, paint, hardware, and glass necessary to complete the rebuild came in at about $350. Not too shabby for a cabinet that we're still using nine years later and still absolutely love. Take one more look at what it started as when we saw it on eBay.

What's the most disgusting thing you've ever purchased from the Internet or picked up as a Craig's List find? Were you successful in your mission to transform the item? Or did you end up with something that would still find it's destiny in the trash?  

Comments 20


3/14/2012 at 10:10 AM
Nice cabinet! I definitely want something similar in our kitchen one day. We currently have an antique buffet that was a hand me down which would look more appropriate in a dining room, but since we don't have a dining room, it's going to live in the living room where the rest of the fancy woodwork is.
Thanks Ashley! I can't even tell you what a lifesaver this piece has been. Without it, we'd still be schlepping our Kitchen Aid mixer up from the basement every time we want to use it. And that thing is heavy! :-)
Karin K
3/14/2012 at 3:17 PM
I remember the basement hauling days well... I am pretty sure George Foreman and Mr. Waffle never saw the light of day until we moved. The cabinet looks great and I can't believe it's nine years old!
Oh, the days of the Foreman grill. We finally gave ours away because we grew tired of hauling (and cleaning) it! :-)
Threadbndr (Karla)
3/14/2012 at 3:23 PM
The most disgusting thing ever in the mail..... Toss up between the package with the catnip in it - which the mailperson left on the porch, where it was attacked by every cat in the neighborhood. Other candidate would be some tools and gun parts that Walt ordered - covered and OVERcovered in that black oily goop that is supposed to keep them from rusting. Which would have been OK, except hubby opened it on the dining room table!
That is so funny Karla. But the real question is...did Walt use your good napkins to wipe down the gun parts that were in your dining room? ;-)

Maybe there's some truth to the old adage that all men think alike?
3/14/2012 at 3:32 PM
WOW!! This is very inspiring! I've never been brave enough to purchase furniture on eBay, but I've gotten lots of other stuff there and craigslist! None of it has been gross though. You guys have guts!

The finished product is really beautiful. Each picture was exponentially better than the last and the hinges shot was my fav. They add SO much!
Thanks for your comment Becky!

Actually (and surprisingly), eBay has been an amazing source for furniture over the years. We've purchased antiques like our bed and grandfather clock, as well as all of the oriental rugs in our house. Some pieces were dirtier than others, but all in all, we've been really happy with the items and their prices!
3/15/2012 at 12:16 PM
Great job! Can you talk a little about how you installed the crown at the top? Did you have to add extra pieces to the top so you could nail the bottom crown into it? How do you sturdy the crown?


Sure thing. I actually did something pretty simple. Given the spring angle of the crown at 38 degrees, I just ripped a couple of short pieces of 2x4 at that angle. The 2x4s act as backer blocks for the crown, so I attached them to the very top top of the cabinet with some nails. Then I nailed the crown right to these backer blocks making sure the lower portion of the crown was level and even along the whole cabinet. I was far easier than I expected. I was worried it would be harder given that there is no upper support to nail the crown against, but the backer blocks cut at the right angle and with the right reveal made it easy. Just don't put backer blocks right in the corner, even if it creates a corner with the right angle. The blocks in the corner will tend to force the miter apart.
3/15/2012 at 1:11 PM
Alex, thank you for your explanation. A follow up to your answer. Did you place the 2x4's with the exposed face being the 4" or 2". I would think that having a taller face would make it easier, but less rigid and prone to pulling out when shifting and having the 2" face would make it more rigid on bottom, but flimsy on top.
Since the crown we used is a 4 5/8", at it's angle it really didn't need more than the 1.5" reveal of the short side of the 2x4. That amount of flat nailing solace along with the lower overhang amount is plenty for a sturdy backing.
3/16/2012 at 9:43 AM
Wow, the cabinet really was in a bad shape. It also happened to me, that I bought on ebay the picture looked better than the reality. -> www.trashury.net/?post=11 Counting everything together (picking the thing up, special paint, supplies... time, also), I couldve easily bought a new locker instead. The good thing about diy is, no matter how much it sucks while you're doing it, in the end its the biggest reward to look at the finished piece and think "i did that" :) and compliments of others even enhance that ;)
Oooh, I love it! I know what you mean about being able to buy new for less time and money...but there's something about doing it yourself that brings satisfaction like no other! (And I think your efforts were totally worth it!)
3/18/2012 at 1:14 PM
Thanks :)
3/22/2012 at 9:40 PM
Wow. You guys did a nice job. I had originally seen this hutch back in the shopping bag post, and I had thought it was a reproduction, but the fact that it's old makes it totally cool.

I think the worst thing I've ever bought (as far as it turning into a huge nightmare) was a wall clock. I always tend to buy clocks that need extensive restorations, and I usually have a very good idea of how much work each clock will need, what parts are missing, and what can, and can't be replaced/remade. This clock, however, turned out to have a live infestation of woodworm (furniture beetle). These little bastards can survive extreme temperatures, and the eggs can take up to 3 years to hatch. The bugs can then fly out and infest any other wooden items. I practically freaked out. But I really didn't want to part with the clock.

In the end, I was able to find and apply a special wood-penetrating insecticide (the best option) to the entire clock case, and it seems to have worked exceptionally well. Once the case was treated, I was able to finish the EXTENSIVE restoration on the clock, and it's actually now one of my 10 best pieces.

Here's the before(s):

And the after(s):
Note: the top crest and bottom finials are new. The originals were missing.
3/22/2012 at 9:47 PM
Ok so the links got screwed up somehow. If you copy/paste one of them, you can then just swap out the file number (ie: ...01.jpg ...02.jpg etc.) in the address bar, which will make it easier.

01-12 for this set:

01-06 for this set:
Holy crap! Awesome job on the restoration!! This clock reminds me so much of our grandfather clock between the face and the finials. (Which still needs to be fixed, as you know.)

The woodworms sound like they were a total nightmare. I'm so glad you were able to find a good solutions to kill those little buggers!

And c'mon...you really thought our hutch was a reproduction? Don't you know us better than that by now? ;-)
That is some great and impressive work. Our cabinet was sort of our first shot at this sort of a thing, and there are some things I would absolutely do differently in the future, but it was good for a first shot.

Sorry about the links, I need to work on the HTML parser in the comments, it always tends to mess up links. It's on my blog to do list. Until then, I fixed up your comment.
3/23/2012 at 5:45 PM
Shame on me, I know. But honestly, through photos alone, it's pretty hard to tell (and I know you're only teasin' me).

And yeah, didn't mention it earlier, but the expression on your face was priceless! :D
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