DIY Project: Upcycling a Cabinet

DIY Project: Upcycling a Cabinet

I’ve never ‘upcycled’ anything before, until now! Upcycling a cabinet was fun and challenging, and here’s how we managed it.

Nearly a year and a half ago, we bought this pine corner cabinet for just £40 from a lady who was clearing out her mum’s house.

Update your dining room. Our dining room with wooden table and dresses unit
Our corner unit on the left that we’ve been upcycling.

It was such a great bargain, and fits in that corner so perfectly (thank goodness, we didn’t measure it). The cabinet was far from in perfect condition. Around the bottom half of the door were dents and scratches that I wasn’t sure would come out, even with sanding. And the pine in that colour looked a little old fashioned for our taste, but we bought it anyway, knowing that we’d be able to fix it up.

I kept putting off upgrading the cabinet, until Valspar got in touch and challenged me to upcycle a piece of furniture. I knew straight away which piece of furniture was going to be the lucky one, and agreed.



We headed down to our local B&Q to buy the paint, the sanding equipment and anything else we might need for upcycling a cabinet.

For the entire project, we bought:



This is the part I hate of any DIY. Give me a paintbrush and I’ll happily paint something for 6 hours, but putting tape around the edges? Sanding? Eugh.

We started by taking the unit apart, and taking all the hinges off and screws out. Jay sanded the shelves down completely, taking the horrible orange varnish off.

Upcycling a cabinet: the difference in colour once sanded.
Before and after sanding. We’ve taken the pine back to its original, non-varnished glory.

We decided to keep the shelves this colour, but paint the rest of the cabinet. This meant that the shelves needed a clear protective coating to stop them from becoming stained or damaged. We already had some wood coating in the garage from when we updated our garage doors, so Jay put this on, and the shelves were done.

He then briefly sanded the rest of the unit just to remove the top layer of varnish. We wiped the whole thing down with a damp cloth to remove any dust, and left it to dry.

Jay using an orbit sander to sand down our cabinet
Jay using his new electric sander

The next stage of upcycling a cabinet was to prime it. This is a job I don’t mind too much so I took over.

The wood primer from Valspar was really effective. We needed to put two coats on to make sure there wasn’t any wood showing through, but it went on smoothly.

Picture of our cabinet half primed

The cabinet has a glass door which I wanted to protect from any paint, so I used masking tape and newspaper to make sure the glass was covered:

Glass door covered in newspaper leaning against the cabinet
The glass door which I covered in newspaper to protect it.
Second coat of primer going onto the unit
Putting on the second coat of primer: This photo shows the difference the second coat of primer made in covering the wood.


Next, on to the exciting bit: getting the colour on! Again the colour went on really smoothly, but it dried a little bit too quickly, so it started to clump together if I went over it too many times. I learned from this, and did a small section at a time, going around the edges with a paintbrush and then filling in the gap with a roller.

One coat wasn’t enough, and it was a little patchy in some places:

Picture showing where the paint was thin and patchy in some places.
Photo showing the top of the unit looking a bit patchy
I covered the whole project on my Instagram story!

The second coat went on an absolute dream, and covered any patchy bits that I was previously worried about.

Painted, upcycled cabinet with doors open to show the inside
Finished cabinet with all the shelves in and doors on.

Overall, I was very happy with the Valspar paint and primer. The one thing I did notice with the primer was that it would scratch away quite easily, despite being dry. There was a couple of times where a paintbrush hair got stuck in the paint, and when I tried to get it out, the primer came off with the paint. Hopefully, this won’t be too much of an issue. The paint we got was eggshell, so hopefully is a little hard wearing.


Finished Product

Whole view of the dining room with the cabinet in.
Alcohol in the cabinet
Drinks and china in the display cabinet
Door handle on upcycled cabinet
We had some spare handles from our kitchen that look great on the upcycled cabinet.


Update your dining room. Our dining room with wooden table and dresses unit


View of dining room with cabinet in the corner


Cabinet: £40, secondhand

Paint and primer: £70*

New paintbrushes, rollers, and sanding equipment: £20 (this cost doesn’t include the brand new £50 Bosch orbit sander we bought, which I consider an investment as it’ll be used again. Therefore the below project total doesn’t include this.)


The unit in the photo below is made of pine, and is in a style very similar to mine. Although it’s currently in the sale, full price it costs a huge £635 which we never would have been able to afford.

Photo credit:

This is why buying solid wood furniture from charity shops, or a car boot sale is always worth doing. If the wood is in good condition, you can do almost anything with it for a fraction of the price.


I’m so excited the unit is finished. Upcycling a cabinet was surprisingly easy, it just took time and patience.


Have you ever tried upcycling a piece of furniture? How did it go?


*The paint was gifted to me for this project from Valspar. All opinions are mine. This post also contains multiple affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase something after clicking through the link on my site.



  1. January 5, 2019 / 4:46 pm

    Wow what a difference! I don’t think I’d have the courage to try my hand at upcycling but you’ve done an amazing job and it looks fabulous in your dining room.

    Melanie |

    • sarahaelsley
      January 5, 2019 / 5:55 pm

      Thanks Melanie! I didn’t know how it would turn out either, but I’m so pleased!

  2. January 5, 2019 / 9:02 pm

    This looks so good and what a bargain when compared to the unit you could have bought. My mum has a horrid orange pine dresser that she has wanted to paint for years but hasn’t had the confidence. Going to send her this post as inspiration. I’m sure that we could manage this. Might give it a go in spring/summer when we can do it outside.

    • sarahaelsley
      January 5, 2019 / 9:04 pm

      I was amazed at how easily and smoothly the paint went on! I heard from other people that spray painting was easier, but that just sounded messy. It really is worth it if she has the time.

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