Using a dining room china cabinet for storing clothes in my bedroom is practical and economical.
Unlike good quality vintage armoires, dining room china cabinets are abundant and inexpensive right now. Thrift stores in our area are being stocked by estates with furniture purchased in the 1960s. In those days, every house had a china hutch in the dining room. Now that kitchens have expanded in size and are often open to multi-purpose living spaces, large cabinets are quickly going out of style since silver and rarely used dishware displayed in a hutch seem way too “grandma” for many people — even a grandma like me.
I always hated bedroom furniture. But when I sold my house and moved into a new apartment there were no amazing built-in cupboards or dressing-room drawers. That left me stranded with four plastic bins full of sweaters, scarves, gloves, T-shirts and workout wear that needed somewhere to go.
After a few visits to thrift shops in our area, I spotted a a two-tier dining room china cabinet that could be repurposed for clothing. The 57-inch length and 7-foot height was perfect in scale for the space in my bedroom. The bottom had 4 drawers and 2 side cabinets with wood shelves. The top had all three compartments with glass shelves. The price was right, too. Originally tagged at $80, I got a 10% discount and paid $72.
Opening a drawer I discovered the American of Martinsville badge. This is a mid-century American furniture house whose Scandinavian and Hollywood-Regency style mid-century case goods go for big bucks on 1st Dibs and Chairish. The china cabinet is a bastardized amalgam of 18th century American (broken pediment with a center urn) and Gothic motifs (on the cabinet doors). However, it is hand-finished and well made with screws — not staples — dovetail drawers and good-quality brass-plated hardware.
Looking past the ugly, I knew that two coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint could make a huge difference and that painting would improve the looks dramatically. Sloan’s Old Ochre, a color close to the Benjamin Moore China White used on my walls, helps the cabinet blend into the wall rather than stand out. A can of Old Village Buttermilk Paint in 1309 Antique Yellow,which I’d picked up on sale at the hardware store, was perfect for contrast on the inside backs of the cabinets.
After the hutch was delivered the first step was cleaning. It was caked with dust on the top and underneath. My vacuum cleaner has a micro tool kit which proved invaluable in getting into the small spaces and crevices. Then came the degreasing wipe-down with Fabuloso, an excellent cleaning product with a decent fragrance.
When I removed the hardware (into marked snack baggies so it would go back to the same place) it was easy to see that the previous owner had used Pledge, which left a residue. Crazy how people wax a varnished or polyurethane finish, which is unnecessary.
My work began on the bottom of the cabinet, with the drawers. Then I had to remove the shelves and lightly sand the inside backs of the cabinet on each side where I planned to use the yellow.The buttermilk paint adhered well and gave me the very mellow reproduction yellow I had in mind with just two coats.Meanwhile, Lisa, who works with me on the blog, is a championship taper. She took a slow, methodical approach to protecting the glass doors on the hutch my carefully piecing tape along the radius curves.
Taping this thoroughly takes patience and skill.
One benefit of using Annie Sloan Chalk paint is the ability to paint over varnish or polyurethane, without sanding. Even on something as dark as this china cabinet, the first coat covered and the second, which can be seen around the top of the door, covered completely. I am a paint junkie and very hard on the way paint performs. I’ve read accolades about the AS chalk paint and always remained skeptical. But I must admit it works perfectly and delivers everything it promises. I fully expected that the this china cabinet would need three coats of paint to cover the dark stain but two did the job. Brava and thank you Annie Sloan!
I first finished the bottom section and when the paint was dry I slipped it off the drop cloth into position on the rug. I also had painted the insides of the drawers to freshen them.
Then I turned to the larger top section of the china cabinet, again first painting the inside backs with the buttermilk antique yellow paint. After two coats I taped that off so the lighter paint would go neatly on the interior top, sides and bottom of the upper section.
Painting a china cabinet with so many different architectural details was a bit slow and tedious, especially along the door mullions. I worked from the inside out, so the last bits to be painted were the mullions and door frames.
Once the cabinet was fully painted I let it dry for a day or two. And because it is such a heavy piece, I had to have the movers back to place the painted top onto the refreshed bottom. Even they commented on the difference — and the improvement.
But here’s the payoff: The hutch cost $72, plus $75 to transport it to my house: $145. Each quart of chalk paint was $36 plus tax and two quarts were needed to cover. So my initial investment for a wall-size piece was about $220. Then the movers had to come back to place the top on the bottom for another $50. Even when I round it up to $300, this project was a no-brainer — economical and practical. It looks fine in the room and, while I admit the style is more flamboyant than I usually go for, it has a certain character and my much-loved vintage look.