Introduction: Restoring My Grandma's Vintage Spice Cabinet

About: Hi! I am Elisse - a pharmacy student, coffee addict,food lover, amateur photographer and an avid crafter. I love art, jewelry,macrame, embroidery but also science, chemistry and drug structures! My Instructabl…

If you ever happen to visit any Balkan household there is a 50% chance you'll come across this piece of history - the almighty spice cabinet.Both my grandmas and great-grandmas had one of these.My earliest childhood memories include the heavenly smells coming from this cabinet and that's why I couldn't get myself to just throw it away even though it was dirty and it needed a lot of work to restore it.

This cabinet has a very santimental value and that's why I took it home,cleaned it and gave it a fresh new look.It is now beautiful and I use it to store my craft supplies.

If you have a piece of furniture like this - old and dusty,don't let go of it yet! I will show you how to make it brand new again.

Let's get started!


  • Vintage spice cabinet
  • Chalk paint
  • Foam brushes
  • Glossy varnish
  • Rice paper for decoupage
  • Craft glue
  • Brushes
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Electric sander
  • Birch plywood
  • Electirc jig saw
  • Metal drawer handles
  • Hot glue
  • Stencils
  • Modeling paste
  • Pliers
  • Craft knife

Step 1: The Before...

I told you this was a dirty and dusty cabinet.

The very first thing you need to do when working with vintage objects such as my spice cabinet is to thouroghly clean them up.

I started by taking all of the leftover spices out and lightly cleaned the drawers.There was a lot of residue - keep in mind that this spice cabinet is probably 60 years old.I was gentle with some of its parts but others needed to be replaced completely.The front wood parts of the drawers,as well as some of their bottoms were in pretty bad shape - the wood was cracked and separated.I ended up removing the front parts of the four larger drawers and the bottoms of three out of four of them.

Step 2: Removing the Handles

Not going to lie - I did not like the handles of this cabinet at all.I wanted to replace them with some beautiful vintage bronze handles,so I took the old ones off.

The handle was pretty securely attached so I grabbed a sturdy craft knife and gently started cutting from all sides.Once it started moving I used some pliers to take it out.There were some nails sticking out,so I cut them with the same pliers.

I repeated the same process with all five drawers that had handles.

Step 3: Sanding,sanding and More Sanding

Think of your vintage object as a canvas that you want to create art on.You wouldn't paint on a dirty,uneven surface,would you? Every restoration project is bound to include a sanding step.It's a crucial part of the process.Sanding gives you a smooth surface and gets rid of any excess dirt.

I started out by sanding by hand but quickly realized it would take way too much time so I switched to an electric sander.I took out all of the drawers and started sanding the cabinet itself first.I used different sized sanding papers,since some parts needed rougher sanding and some needed a more gentle approach.I repeated the sanding process with all of the drawers as well.

Wherever the sander couldn't reach I sanded by hand - the insides of the drawers and the inner parts of the cabinet.The sanding took me the longest time while making this project but it was worth it in the end,so have patience and get sanding!

Step 4: Adding New Fronts

I used leftover birch plywood i had to replace the old wooden drawer fronts.

After putting the drawers in,I measured each of the plywood pieces to be about 0.5 cm longer and wider.The drawers are a square shape so it was relatively easy to measure everything.I traced the measurements onto the plywood,which I then taped.I retraced the measurements onto the tape.The tape is used to make sure a clean cut is achieved.

I cut each plywood piece with an electric jigsaw.To ensure a safe environment make sure the plywood doesn't move and wear protective eye equipment - I secured my plywood with some clamps.

For the bottoms of the drawers I used a lighter plywood.Repeat the same cutting process here:

  1. Trace the missing bottom part of each drawer
  2. Tape the places you will be cutting
  3. Retrace the measurements
  4. Proceed to safely cut

Step 5: Sanding and Gluing

The squares I had just cut needed some sanding,too.I sanded each of the four sides lightly.Then,I proceeded to sand the surface of the squares at an angle.I repeated the angled sanding technique on all four sides.

I glued each square to each drawer using some universal glue.When it comes to gluing make sure you spread it evenly. While I was attaching the squares I made sure they stayed in place while the glue was drying.I also made sure to clean up any excess glue before it had dried.

Step 6: New Drawer Bottoms

I attached the new drawer bottoms using some hot glue and let them dry.Any empty spaces I filled up with hot glue as well.

Step 7: Cleaning and Painting

The fun begins now - you get to decorate your object however you like!

I started out by cleaning everything with some wet wipes to get rid of any excess dust.

For the painting I used a beige colored chalk paint and a foam brush.This was my first time using chalk paint and it's safe to say it was a success and I will definately be using ot again in the future.

Some tips I have for you:

  1. Work slowly with small amounts of paint
  2. Wipe off any excess paint
  3. Paint using the same strokes - make sure the direction is the same
  4. For any hard to paint spots like the inside angles I used a small brush

I painted everything - the inside and outside of the cabinet and drawers.I applied two coats of paint,wainting for each coat to dry completely before the next.

Step 8: Rice Paper

Once painted it's time to decorate the cabinet.I chose to go with rice paper with a floral pattern.

Place the rice paper onto the first drawer and measure about 0.5 cm less lengthwise and widthwise.Trace everything with a pencil and ruler and cut.

Repeat the same steps for all of the drawers.

Step 9: Floral Pattern

I wanted to make the pattern seamless so that everything would be coheisive.That's why I chose to cut the rice paper first and then proceeded to glue.

To make the pattern coheisive continue the cutting process from where you cut the first piece - refer to the first photo.Repeat the same steps for the rest of the drawers.

Step 10: Gluing

To glue the rice paper I used regular craft glue.Spread it evenly,using a brush and glue each piece of rice paper down.Work gently with the rice paper since it's very delicate.

Finally,lightly go over everything with a bone folder.

Step 11: Adding Texture

I wanted to add some texture to this cabinet so I used a stencil I had and some modeling paste.This is the perfect opportunity to hide any imperfect spots,like dents on the wood.

Place the stencil wherever you like it.Apply a generous amount of the paste evenly to the stencil.Make sure the stencil doesn't move anywhere while you are working with it.I used a library card I had to smooth everything out and get rid of any excess paste.Lastly,remove the stencil carefully and you are left with a beautiful textured piece.When working with a stencil make sure you clean it every three to five designs later.

Repeat however many times you like - I covered both sides and tops of the cabinet with this swirly design.

Step 12: Painting the Texture

I painted over the textured pieces after they had completely dried with the same beige colored chalk paint using a foam brush.

Step 13: Make It Glossy

To seal everything in place use a glossy varnish.Apply two coats of it everywhere with a foam brush. Apply the second coat only after the first one has completely dried.

Step 14: Adding the Handles

I found these amazing drawer handles at my local craft supply store and knew they would be perfect for this project.I decided to use some hot glue to attach them to the cabinet drawers.

I started out with the larger four drawers and marked where each handle would go.Using some hot glue I attached each handle and cleaned up any excess glue with a nail art dotting tool.

I repeated the same steps for the small drawers,too.

For the long drawer I chose a different style handle.It had three separate parts - two small bits and the nadle itself.I marked where everything put together would be perfectly centered and attached the first small bit.I then put the hanging piece into the already glued bit and attached the second small bit with hot glue.Finally,I cleaned up any excess hot glue.

Step 15: Trash to Teasure

The end result had my grandma in shock.She couldn't believe what her mother's old spice cabinet had turned into!

I am very happy with the way everything turned out.I hope this project inspires you to give a second chance to objects that seemingly belong to the trash and turn them into something beautiful.

Happy crafting!

Trash to Treasure Contest

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest