How I Completely Transformed My Cabinet with White Wash

How I Completely Transformed My Cabinet with White Wash

Have you ever looked at a piece of furniture in your home and thought, "Hmm, this could use a little sprucing up"? Well, that's exactly what happened to me for several months in a row when I glanced at the old, rustic cabinet in my living room. It was rough around the edges, but I saw potential for a modern farmhouse transformation.

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rustic black cabinet with light brown top on hardwood floor

Step 1: Out with the Old, In with the New

The first order of business was to remove those outdated knobs that were nailed and glued on. After a bit of elbow grease and some strategic maneuvering, they were finally off, making way for the sleek black hardware that would give the cabinet a fresh look. To remove them, I took a putty knife and hammer and gently tapped them until they came apart from the drawers and doors and then pulled them the rest of the way out.

woman using hammer and putty knife to remove knobs on black cabinet
woman's hand holding a bunch of old wooden knobs

Step 2: Smooth as Butter

Next up, it was time to tackle the rough texture of the cabinet. Armed with 80 grit sandpaper followed by a smoother 120 grit, I sanded away until the surface was as smooth as a baby's bottom (well, maybe not that smooth, but you get the idea). You want to do this in a garage or outdoors as it will create enough dust to fill your home and your lungs - so mask up as well! And don't forget your eye and ear protection!

close up of person using orbital sander to sand off black paint from top of a cabinet
black cabinet partially sanded down to bare wood
black cabinet with drawers and doors removed sitting outside on a brick patio raised up on paint cans
woman using orbital sander to sand off black paint down to bare wood on a cabinet raised up on paint cans outside

Step 3: Fill 'er Up

Any gaps or imperfections in the wood were filled in with Bondo, ensuring a seamless finish once the transformation was complete. Bondo is extremely potent in smell. A mask is definitely recommended as well as doing this process outside with lots of ventilation! After another round of sanding, it was time to wipe down the cabinet and prepare it for the next step. Check out the massive gaps that needed to be filled! (The process for using Bondo is basically just mixing two parts together and working quickly using a putty knife to press it into the gaps similarly to applying spackling to holes in drywall. It doesn't take long to dry and then you need to sand it smooth. (Remember that mask!)

can of bondo and a dust mask sitting atop the bare wood top of a sanded down cabinet
cabinet top that has been sanded down to raw wood showing close up of large crack/gap down the center
person mixing the two components of Bondo on a paper plate
person with latex gloves mixing up a solution of Bondo on a paper plateperson applying Bondo with a putty knife to a large crack down the side of a bare wood cabinet
woman in pink sweatshirt using orbital sander to sand down the layer of Bondo that was applied earlier

Step 4: The White Wash Magic

With a can of Driftwood stain by Minwax in hand, I applied a coat to the cabinet, allowing the natural grain of the wood to shine through. If I knew what happened to my can of wood conditioner (also by Minwax), I would have applied a coat of that first. I opted to skip the step rather than invest in another can. To achieve that modern farmhouse look, I brushed on a watered-down layer of primer, repeating the process until the color was just right. To water down the primer, I simply used 1 part primer and 3 parts water and mixed it up well. I applied with a large quality paintbrush. 

person using a paint brush to apply a white wash solution over stain
person using paintbrush to apply white wash solution to a cabinet
close up of a cabinet where the white wash solution has been applied to the top
person applying white wash to the drawer fronts of a cabinet using a large paint brush

Step 5: Protect that Buttery Finish

Annie Sloan's white wax was my sealer of choice! This enhanced my white wash even more while also allowing me to really smash it in all the nooks and crannies. For this piece, I simply wiped the wax on with a shop cloth and wiped it back off with the same cloth. "Wipe on...wipe off... wipe on... wipe off..."

close up of white wax after it has been applied to a wood cabinet door
close up of the side of a cabinet that has been filled with Bondo, sanded, white washed and white waxed

Step 6: The Final Touch

After the white wash was complete, it was time to add the finishing touches. I installed the new black hardware, giving the cabinet a sleek and updated look. I have this tool that makes it super easy to mark out your holes and get the hardware straight! Inside, I added shelves (using some scrap wood pieces from my workshop) to make the piece not only beautiful but functional for holding all of my candles as well. I made the shelves a little narrower as you go up so that I can get different sized candles on each shelf. The drawers are perfect for tapered and small candles.

close up of a tool being used to mark out the location of the holes needed for cabinet hardware
close up of a tool being used to mark out the location of two holes needed to be drilled in order to attach a drawer pull
close up of two holes that have just been drilled in a cabinet door and a black drawer pull laying next to the holes
lots of candles color coded inside of a cabinet on three different shelves

And just like that, my once "rusticly rough" cabinet had been transformed into a modern farmhouse beauty, all thanks to a little elbow grease and a lot of creativity. Who knew a simple white wash could make such a difference?

white washed cabinet with farmhouse modern hardware where the cabinet is sitting in front of a beige wall and styled with yellow and neutral vases and a lamp
downward view of the top of a refinished cabinet done in white wash with peeks at the yellow and neutral decor sitting on top
full on view of a refinished white washed cabinet with black hardware and pops of yellow accents on top
side view of a cabinet done in white wash finish against a beige background with small view of stone fireplace to left
close up of new modern black drawer pulls on a white washed drawer
tall white vase with whispy stems sticking out, wicker pitcher with yellow stems and a yellow candle wrapped with black and white beads on top of a white cabinet
evening view with soft lamp lighting of a refinished white storage cabinet with black hardware, yellow and white styling accessories

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