1980’s China Cabinet Makeover

I’m super excited to share my latest DIY project with y’all! I took on a 1980’s china cabinet makeover in order to update my living room. Check out how I transformed this flea market find with a fresh new look!

Rearranging Furniture

It all started when we decided to rearrange our furniture. I used to move my furniture around all the time. It’s such a cheap and (relatively) easy way to get a new look in your room. Surprisingly, we had lived with the same configuration for several years and it was definitely time for a refresh!

I’m excited to share the results of my Summer Living Room Makeover, but for now, I wanted to share a big piece of the puzzle that made the final look of our living room come together.

1980s china cabinet makeover living room

Vaulted Ceilings

We have what you might consider a design challenge in our living room. I’m sure it could be viewed as a really interesting design opportunity…if you know what you are doing.

So, we have vaulted ceilings that soar up to around 24 feet high at the peak. I always thought it would be so cool to have vaulted ceilings. I always loved the idea of open, airy spaces. My living room kind of reminds me of cabins we have stayed in for several of our family vacations. I love that our house has an architectural feature.

There is just one problem: it’s really hard to figure out how to decorate on a scale that grand. I love to decorate, but honestly, it’s been a little daunting to even begin to fill up that amount of space.

A Lonely Fireplace on a Giant Blank Wall

We remodeled our house (the first time) in 2014, and when we did all that work, we also redid our fireplace. Imagine our surprise to find a house in Louisiana with a wood burning fireplace! We have really enjoyed the ambience, but the poor thing has always kind of looked under-scaled and lonely on that giant blank wall. It looked even dinkier when we flanked it with low, dark furniture.

1980s china cabinet makeover living room fireplace

Dreaming of Built-Ins

My dream would be to have custom made built-ins to flank each side and carry up the wall over the TV above the fireplace. But the reality is, that is just not reasonable for us financially, or when time and effort is considered.

Back to Reality

My solution was to reposition some pieces that I already have. I bought a beautiful book shelf with sliding glass doors several years ago on a trip to the Canton First Monday Trade Days. If you live in the area, I highly recommend you visit this once a month event. There are over 40 acres of junk, antiques, furniture, and every kind of treasure you could possibly imagine. So much FUN!

Use What You Have!

So I moved my bookcase to the left of the fireplace and my husband modified it to hold all of our TV/Sound components. It did hurt my feelings a little bit that we had to cut out the back, but it really wasn’t in the best of shape anyway. There was a little bit of water damage that made the backer board of the cabinet a little warped. And when it was all said and done, my feelings are just fine when I just see pretty cabinet and none of the rats nest of wires!

1980s china cabinet makeover living room staircase

On the Hunt for a China Cabinet!

The next issue was that the fireplace is not centered on the wall. There is a lot more space on the right side. I needed a large piece of furniture to take up the width and height of that space. My hope was that with a bookcase and a china cabinet flanking each side of the fireplace, I could achieve a similar look to having built-ins at a fraction of the price.

I spent several weeks scouring Facebook marketplace for a china cabinet. I found the perfect one with beautiful lines, the perfect size/price, and already painted…then I waited too long, and it was sold….so disappointing!

The cabinet I ended up buying was listed on Facebook Marketplace by a local thrift store called Curious Odds N’ Ends Furniture Flea Market. It is located just down the road from our local university. I love that it is so close to college students. Anyone can have nice things if you know where to look and you have a little imagination!

1980s china cabinet makeover before

The China Cabinet Criteria:

The price had to be right!

This is going to vary for each individual. Being frugal is all about living within your means. Some have more means than others, but the concept doesn’t change. You determine what is the amount you are willing to spend, according to your financial situation. Set a limit and stick to it!

It had to have at least 3 doors, preferably 4.

I know, weird, right?! But there is a reason, I promise! My couch sits right in front of this space, so I didn’t want a big wide door swinging out and hitting the couch. I also don’t like having to open a door in the center of the cabinet, then having to reach on each side to place books and decorative objects. Multiple doors saves on space and gives you direct access to storage.

It had to be 5 feet wide.

You need to go into a hunt like this knowing exactly what you need. There are a shocking number of china cabinets available on Facebook Marketplace. It can be overwhelming. Knowing exactly what you need helps eliminate options that won’t work for your space. (I can’t believe how many people are getting rid of china cabinets! You can repurpose them for so many things. I hope to share with y’all soon how I re-envisioned a china cabinet as a really lovely and ridiculously affordable pantry.)

The doors had to start at the base.

I did not want a buffet with a set of shelves over it with open surface in between. I know, that’s weird too, but I know myself and the struggle is REAL! That surface would end up being a catch-all for junk! Plus, when the shelves start at the base, you get more shelves!

It had to be REAL WOOD!

I know there are ways to paint laminated furniture, but I didn’t want to mess with that. If I had found the perfect china cabinet that met all the other requirements and price, I probably would have done it. The most important thing to look for here is quality. I didn’t want to waste my time on a junky piece of furniture. I always check the drawers in furniture pieces like this. If they are wood, or well constructed with dovetailed joinery, then it’s probably pretty good quality.

The 1980’s China Cabinet Makeover Plan:

It really wasn’t until I got to the flea market that I realized that this was definitely a 1980’s china cabinet. I was fine with it though, because I knew it was good quality and well made. So my mission when I got it home was to update three major issues:

  • Paint! White paint fixes all. the. things. I’m a believer!
  • Shelves! I wanted to replace the glass shelves with wood.
  • Hardware! The hardware was pretty ratchet…it oozed 1980’s and it had to go!

Paint is no problem around here. We have done so many projects over the years, I just browsed the shed for primer, paint, brushes, etc. I purchased 1×10’s for the shelves, and a total of 5 brass knobs and 10 drawer pulls from Lowes. Hardware was definitely an investment, but I think it is the one feature that really made a 1980’s china cabinet feel like a timeless piece in my living room makeover.

1980s china cabinet makeover before

Share Your China Cabinet & Furniture Makeover Projects With Us!

What about y’all? Have you ever taken on a 1980’s china cabinet makeover? I have SO MUCH RESPECT for people who do this for a living! This was a fun project, but a LOT of work! I think when I try this again, I will definitely consider purchasing a paint sprayer!

Related Blog Posts:

Bed Frame Makeover

Antique Dresser Coffee Bar

Frugal Storage Solution!

Pin It For Later!

before and after images of a 1980s china cabinet makeover for living room refresh
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  1. Julie

    Great project, Shanna. It turned out wonderful!

    • Shanna

      Thank you so much, Julie! =) I am really proud of how it turned out. God bless you! ~Shanna

  2. Elise

    This turned out beautifully!! Great job!! Those 80s pieces get overlooked so often!

    • Shanna

      I know, right?? haha! I think I would have felt terribly guilty to paint an heirloom, but I kinda felt like I was doing this cabinet a favor! haha! Thanks so much for checking it out, Elise! God bless you! =)

  3. Cora Lena

    Hi very nice transformation! Can I ask for an update as to what you put in it I also a China cabinet in my living room next to my fireplace but not sure what to put in it since it’s not actually located in the kitchen. Thanks!

    • Shanna

      Thank you so much, Cora! I changed out the cookbooks for more decorative items that I have collected from antique and thrift stores. I think shelves can be tricky sometimes. Maybe just display all the things you love, or maybe find some pretty baskets and hide away odds and ends to make it both functional and beautiful! I hope this helps! Thanks so much for stopping by our little corner of the internet! =)


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