From old to new: wardrobe cabinet to bar cabinet 🍸

My husband knows that if I’m having a bad day, or if he needs a bargaining chip, nine times out of ten a consignment store will do the trick.

On this particular day we made a trip to Consignment Classics in San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood, where we found this gem:

Brown wardrobe cabinet

We were specifically looking for a piece that would make a great bar cabinet for our home. We have a beautiful but, let’s say “intimate” kitchen, and a bar cabinet would free up space in our kitchen cabinets, plus add space for napkins, candles, and and the fun kitchen non-essentials.

Design considerations

Price. West Elm and others have many options with timeless, classic styles but slightly higher price points than we were hoping for. We would have been open to budging on price depending on that arbitrary “but I love it” metric, but since we went in a rush we figured we could also shop around for a bit.

Function. We had picked out a specific spot close to the kitchen and dining room where having odds and ends related to cooking and eating would be convenient. I remember growing up, all the lovely linen napkins my mom had made lives upstairs, far away from the dining room. As a result, we used them rarely, primarily for holidays with a more formal meal. I wanted to be able to incorporate these gems into our dining experience everyday, so I wasn’t willing to budge on location even if we found a beautiful piece that was larger than this space would allow. If it wasn’t convenient, it wasn’t happening. In addition, because this space was the first thing we (or anyone else) would see when we walked in the door, we wanted opaque doors. I love a good cocktail, but booze isn’t so central to my life that I wanted “let’s have a drink” to be my welcome message to all. Finally, height. While we wanted to be spacious inside, we also wanted height above it for a mirror or artwork. Whole counter height would have been more functional overall, the height we ended up with isn’t all together unusable either.

Aesthetic. We have brown wood floors and a wood coffee table that we love, so something that added color (in potentially a cool compliment that created some balance) was on the list. Stylistically, there’s a small intersection in the “his and hers Venn diagram” of mine and my partner’s style. If modern-industrial farmhouse is a thing, we’ll call it that. If it’s not a thing, we’ll still call it that. Either way I’ll translate it to a bit of tradition with clean lines, form and function that support one another.

The refurb

With a piece that balanced our criteria nicely, we got to work! And when I say “we” I will be 100% transparent—I mean my dad. He is the ultimate in “if you want it done well, do it yourself” so he has picked up so many talents over the years that he is my go-to for all things DIY (a bit like the Internet). He helped us take inventory, figure out what tools we’d need, and pushed us to go a bit above and beyond on the patching (which was fun to learn, so ultimately I’m glad). 

Brown wardrobe cabinet with open doors
Ok, so I did have to convince my husband that these drawers were only going to be a slight pain to remove and replace with shelves… and I was mostly right.
Inside of brown wardrobe cabinet
Rungs that the drawers slid in and out on. We opted to leave the bottom one and insert a piece of wood that laid flush with it to create the bottom. The other two we removed with a mallet and chisels.
Removed rung from inside of cabinet.
Sanding down the cabinet.
Obligatory photo of me doing work, wearing a crazy outfit.
Top of the wardrobe cabinet
A couple spots needed patches, including the corner of the wood wood veneer on top that was separating from the base. We cut out a flush edge that would be easy to patch.
Cutting board and wood veneer pieces
We were able to borrow some scrap veneer from a neighbor and double it up to be the right thickness.
Clamps holding down wood veneer.
Wood glue and clamps held everything in place until it was dry.
Corner of cabinet with patch.
Complete patch with sanded and rounded corners.
Bottom of cabinet with patch.
The bigger spots we patched with veneer, the smaller spots we patched with a tub of wood patch.
Drawers painted with primer.
Primed drawers.
Cupboard doors hanging from wires
Hanging the cupboard doors for painting with wire hangers.
Wood with varnish.
Varnishing the inner cabinet shelves.
Fully primed cabinet.
The exterior complete and primed! The interior, testing possible shelving configuration.
Broken screw.
Hitting a snag along the way—screws for the hinges broke inside the door!
Dremel tool
Using a dremel to make space around the screw so we could pull it out.
Man using pliers to remove screw.
Removing the screw with pliers.
Broken screw, removed.
Tool to measure size of hole.
Measuring the size of the hole to find a dowel that would plug it back up.
Hole plugged with dowel.
Fixed—with a dowel and some wood glue! And ready to be re-drilled.
Look at that color!!
Look at all that room inside! And yes, our Roomba lives under the bar cabinet.
Now with a mirror and some succulents from the garden, the bar finally looks as great as it is functional. Success!

Stay messy and make shit happen, folks—even if it means getting paint in your hair, sawdust everywhere, and making a few mistakes along the way.

Some tools you might need along the way

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases you make using the links on this site. When possible, I’ll share content and projects that you can make with materials from thrift and consignment stores—but other times gear and tools are an essential part of your project or adventure!

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