Bathroom Makover: Vintage Medical Cabinet Before

Have you ever gone looking for a vintage item, and come home with something that’s nothing like what you originally had in mind?

I did that this weekend when I was looking for a piece of furniture to use as a bathroom cabinet. But I’m probably as excited about my find as I would have been if I had stumbled upon exactly what I was searching for.

That’s part of the fun of vintage-hunting, finding something unexpected and unique. Sometimes it requires some major work and imagination, though. My vintage medical cabinet definitely needs both.

bathroom cabinet before

Yikes, right?

Ok, so let me back up a minute here. First, I’ll tell you what I had in mind. The bathroom that I just finished replacing the sink in is our upstairs, master bathroom. It has absolutely no built-in storage whatsoever. So I currently keep all of the stuff that most people keep in a cabinet either stashed under the sink skirt, or on an open Ikea cart. As you can probably imagine, this is not ideal, because it’s both not enough storage, and too much clutter.

The plan is that someday we’ll fully remodel the bathroom, and when we do that we’ll add some custom, built-in storage. But for now, I was thinking I’d try to find another (thrifty) solution.

First I turned to my bathroom board on Pinterest for inspiration, and it delivered. Man, there are some absolutely stunning bathrooms out there. I came across a couple that used vintage mid-century credenzas as cabinetry, and I liked the look a lot. If you can’t picture how that works, here are some examples.

From here.

Midcentury credenza in bathroom

From this gorgeous bathroom.

From here.

From here.

Obviously I’m not going to rip out the whole sink I just installed so I can put it on a vintage credenza, but I was thinking I could find a small credenza, cabinet, or nightstand to stash my stuff in next to the sink. Since we have mid-century dressers in the bedroom, it would fit in perfectly.  So I started searching craigslist and visiting vintage shops.

And what I had in mind was nowhere to be found. I went to every vintage shop in town I know of, and even some I had never been to before, and came up totally empty. It wasn’t even a matter of seeing exactly what I wanted, but being unwilling to pay high prices–what I wanted just didn’t seem to exist.

But while I was fruitlessly searching a big vintage marketplace, I did see a number of vintage medical cabinets that got me thinking about the possibilities. One was a vintage dentist cart with a hydraulic compartment that opened with a foot pedal! It was rather expensive, so I left it behind and headed to a shop I’d never been to before, where I came across this bargain-basement cabinet.

Whoever was selling this didn’t bother to give it the slightest bit of cleaning, which was probably partly why it had been marked down. I got extra spiders living on the underside for free!

bathroom cabinet before

I thought maybe a good scrubbing might be all that this cabinet needed, so I took it home and got right to work. While the top cleaned up nicely, I realized that it doesn’t match the body (it’s white, and the body is off-white), and there was a lot of rust and stains. If it were only stains, they might have worked as character, but I decided to turn to my old friend, spray paint.

bathroom cabinet before

So this is where I am now. I thought I’d have this done by now, but I ran into some spray paint issues, and had to wait to re-coat. It’s almost there, so look for an update soon!

In the meantime, here’s the new direction for my bathroom. Sort of–I couldn’t find exactly the look I’m going for. But these all have vintage medical cabinets, so it’s in the right ballpark.

From here.

From here.

From here.

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