Introduction: Anthropologie-Inspired Cabinet From a Worn Out Display Shelf
Having family furniture in my own home is important to me, as I treasure pieces that have a story. As we were cleaning out my late grandma's house, my eyes were drawn to this little two-shelf display unit that used to hold all of her knickknacks (see the last picture for how it originally looked in her home). With its unstable legs, dented veneer and warped wood, it was destined for the trash heap. Instead, I loaded up in my car, convinced that I could bring it new life.
The limited storage in my own home means that anytime I can get some out-of-sight storage, I take it. With that, I decided to turn this on-its-last-leg display shelf into modern cabinet with doors. Then, it was off to Pinterest for inspiration.
It wasn’t too long before I realized that I was gravitating toward some $1000 cabinets sold by Anthropologie. While those were hand carved, I knew we could get the same kind of aesthetic with a router and some creative slat placement.
So, we set out to do the impossible: turn my Grandma’s old, inexpensive, worn-out shelf that’s nearly 50 years old into a $1,000 masterpiece…without spending a grand. The video shows you the full build, and all the detailed steps are below.
Top: Thin Oak Plywood, 2”x2″ Shelf: 1”x12″ Poplar
Doors: Laminated Pine Appearance board
Door Design: All Poplar – 1”x6” (triangles), 1”x4” (inner diamond), 2”x.25” (slats)
Base/Legs: 2”x2”, 2”x4"
Soft Close Hinges w/ 1.25” Overlay (4)
Magnet Closures (2) - optional
Random Orbital Sander
Compact Router w/ Plunge Base (and 1/4” Router Bit)
Ratcheting Offset Box Wrench
Pocket Hole Jig
8” x 8” Photographs (for handles)
Sponge Paint Brushes
High Performance Enamel Spray Paint - Black
Oil-Based Paint (Quart) - White
Pro Marine Countertop Epoxy
Plastic Drop Cloths
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Step 1: Prepare the Unit
Before you begin, fully assess the original piece to decide which parts are reusable and which parts are not. This will help you determine what wood, beyond what you’ll need to make the legs and doors, you will need to have on hand.
Follow these steps:
1. Remove any current hardware on the unit. Ours had leg attachment plates that we removed with a simple drill.
2. Remove unsalvageable pieces by unscrewing them and gently tapping with a mallet.
NOTE: Do not be too forceful, or you could damage otherwise good parts of the piece.
3. Clean the unit using a water and vinegar mixture.
4. Patch any dents or dings on the unit using wood filler.
5. Sand the entire unit with 100-150 grit sand paper. This will even out the spots where you filled in with wood, as well as help the new paint adhere more securely. We used a power sander on the top, sides and bottom, and sand paper on the frame pieces and inside.
6. Replace any warped boards on the unit.
NOTE: We had to replace the top and shelf on ours. To accomplish this, we used the old pieces to outline the correct size on the new wood, rather than relying on measurements. This ensured an exact fit with the old unit.
Step 2: Make New Base With Legs
The new base and legs are part of what gives this unit a much more upscale feel.
To create this base:
1. Cut 4 legs out of 2”x2” wood. Ours were 12” tall.
2. Use either a scroll saw, band saw, or power sander to shape the legs as desired.
3. Sand legs to a smooth finish once they are cut.
4. Create a base for the unit to sit on using 2”x4”s cut at 45 degree angles for the joints. (See diagram, Figure 1)
5. Create cutouts with the miter saw that are big enough to accommodate the legs. See diagram, Figure 2)
6. To connect the base pieces and legs, you will need to drill the following pocket holes:
(2) pocket holes side-by-side to connect each 2"x4" (so these holes should go from one 2x4 into another)
(1) pocket hole on one side of the leg on the bottom--coming from the 2x4s into the legs.
(2) additional pocket holes on the other side of the leg on the bottom - coming from the other 2x4 into the leg
(1) pocket hole on each side of the leg on the top--coming from the 2x4s into the legs.
7. Drive screws through all pocket holes and legs to secure.
8. Use a router with a 1/4” straight bit to cut a Rabbet along all outside edges of the legs. This will create the appearance of a gap between the base and the rest of the unit.
9. Attach base to the unit using wood screws.
Step 3: Make Cabinet Doors
The cabinet doors are the most complex part of this build. We created these using a combination of a router for the vertical lines and spaced .25” slats for the diagonal ones.
Follow these steps to make the doors:
1. Cut two pieces of wood approximately half the width of your cabinet (leaving a tiny gap in the middle).
2. Sand doors until smooth. We used 150 grit sandpaper.
3. Pre-drill any holes for your hinges and handles.
4. Draw a diamond shape across the two cabinet doors.
5. Cut the 1”x4” wood at a 45 degree angle to create the majority of the diamond shape.
NOTE: You *can* make the complete diamond with just the 1x4s meeting in the middle with a miter joint; however, that will leave you routing vertical grooves across a horizontal joint, which isn’t ideal. To prevent this, we cut the 1”x6” board into a triangle shape and used that vertical joint for our first groove.
7. Glue the diamond pieces into place using a super glue/wood glue combination and clamp until glue is set.
To create the grooves:
1. Clamp a spare 2”x4” across your cabinet door to serve as a straight edge.
2. Run a router with a 1/4” bit the length of the diamond to create your first groove.
NOTE: We recommend doing the groove in two passes rather than one deep one.
3. Move your guide board over 3/4”, clamp it down and route your next groove.
4. Repeat until you have cut all grooves across both boards.
5. Sand all edges with 150 grit sandpaper before moving on to the next step.
6. If you made any mistakes, use wood filler to even out the grooves.
7. To create the design on the outside of the diamond, space 2”x.25” slats evenly the length of the area you have to work with.
8. Cut each board to size using a miter saw.
9. Glue slats in place using a combination of super glue/wood glue. Let cure.
10. Sand outside edges with a random orbital sander until everything is flush.
Step 4: Paint the Cabinet and Doors
We opted to go with oil-based paints on this project for one very important reason: old wood + water based paints = swelling. You definitely don’t want that! For our cabinet, used a black High Performance Enamel spray paint on the outside, and a white oil-based paint that we hand painted on the inside.
To paint the cabinet:
1. Ensure that your cabinet and doors are free of any dust.
2. Wear a respirator while spray painting if you are working indoors (trust us on this one).
3. Use a spray paint primer to give yourself a nice, even surface for the top coats.
NOTES: Prime the inside and outside. Read the instructions on your primer for how long you can/can’t wait until you paint the next coat.
4. Grab the high performance enamel and spray paint the outside of the cabinet first, starting with the cabinet upside down so you can easily cover the legs.
5. Paint the entire outside, being vigilant to correct any drips with a sponge paint brush as they occur.
6. Once the outside is dry, hand paint the interior with a different color (we used white).
7. If a second coat is needed on the outside, be sure to seal off the inside of the cabinet fully (see video for how we did this).
To paint the doors, use the same method:
1. Prime the fronts, backs and sides first
2. Spray the high performance enamel over the doors after the appropriate time has passed.
NOTE: If you have any challenges getting the spray paint into the grooves, spray some paint into a cup and carefully use a small paint brush to cover any bare spots.
3. Let dry fully.
Step 5: Create the Basic Form for the Handles
These handles were SO much easier to make than they probably look. We made two sets of handles, as we were undecided on which pattern we wanted to use, so you’ll see 4 total handles in this section and the next.
To make the handles:
1. Cut two triangles out of wood to fit the space you have to work with. Ours were 8” at their widest.
2. Sand the triangles with 150 grit sandpaper until all edges are smooth.
3. Paint the backs and sides of the triangles white. We used spray paint.
4. Cut two blocks of wood that can be attached to the backs of the handles (to enable the triangles to be proud from the surface of the doors).
5. Drill two holes in each block.
NOTE: It will be easier to attach the handles later if you are precise in where you drill the holes.
6. Spray paint the handles black. Let dry.
7. Secure one bolt through each hole with a nut.
8. Use glue to adhere these blocks to the backs of the triangles.
Step 6: Give Handles the Faux Marble Look
We considered trying to fo a full marble resin pour, but then we thought of a better way: pour clear resin over a photograph!
Here's how to do it:
1. Take a photo of some marble, or find a marble resin pattern image online.
2. Print the image at your local 1-hour photo center (we printed ours as an 8”x8”).
3. Decide how you want the pattern to run on the handles.
4. Lay the unpainted side of the handle the BACK of the photograph.
5. Outline the handle with a carpenter's pencil, and without moving it, use an exacto to gently cut out the shape.
6. Repeat for the second handle, being sure that your marble pattern lines up.
7. Flip the handles over and apply spray adhesive to the bare wood.
NOTE: Follow the directions for how long it should set before you adhere the picture.)
8. Place the cut photograph on the adhesive and press firmly.
9. Wipe off any excess adhesive that may have gotten on the front of the handle.
10. Set aside and repeat on the second handle.
Once dry, create a space where you can pour resin and level your handles with the pattern facing up. Do the following for the resin pour:
1. Mix resin, following the instructions on the bottles.
2. Pour enough resin over the handles to flow over the sides.
3. Ensure that the resin covers the entire front and all sides of your handles.
4. Gently remove drips on the bottom of the handles until they stop forming.
NOTE: You may have to babysit it for a while depending on the curing time of your resin.
5. Let handles cure, following instructions on your resin.
Step 7: Attach Hinges, Handles and Magnets
You are SO close to being done! Now all you have to do is attach the doors and the additional hardware.
Follow these final steps to complete your cabinet:
1. With the doors still on a flat surface, mark the placement of the handles, ensuring that they align properly.
2. Drill holes to accommodate the handle’s bolts.
NOTE: We opted to wait to attach the handles until the doors were on to ensure exact alignment. To allow some room for adjustments, we drilled the holes for the handles larger than needed. This worked out great for us.
OPTIONAL: If you want to add Magnetic Closures, now is the time! Attach the receiving end of the magnet latch to the inside top of the cabinet frame, measure and then attach the metal plate for the magnets to the backsides of the doors.
4. Attach one side of the hinges to the doors.
5. Attach the doors to the cabinet by screwing in the other side of the hinges to the cabinet frame.
NOTE: Most hinges have two adjustment screws that enable you to make micro adjustments to how the doors sit. Look at the instructions for your specific hinges and adjust accordingly.
6. Attach the handles by inserting the bolts through the pre-drilled holes and secure with a nut.
OPTIONAL: Use an oscillating multi-tool, if needed, to trim the ends of the bolts.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Et Voila! You have (hopefully) made yourself an AMAZING cabinet. Stand back and admire your work.
If you liked this project, please head over to JustMightDIY.com for more tips, tutorials, back stories and more. And if you’re interested in checking out more of our video tutorials, check out our Instructables profile or head over to our YouTube channel.
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