Remember the scary vintage medical cabinet I started making over last week? Well, I finished it, and I’d say it looks pretty darn good now!
On this bathroom improvement journey, I discovered some tips for cleaning up vintage enamel, and I also made a reclaimed wood shelf ledge.
Because it’s so satisfying to see them together, here’s the cabinet again when I first brought it home:
For the body, I took the door and handles off, took the drawer out, and washed everything really well. After it dried, I gave it a little bit of sanding with fine-grit sandpaper, where necessary, and scraped off some old paint drips. Next I taped off the top, and wiped everything down to remove dust.
Because it was really rusty in some areas, I used Rustoleum rusty metal primer in spots, and clean metal primer on the rest of it. The primers were thicker than the spray paint I was used to working with, so I ended up getting drips that I had to let dry and then sand down. Then I did several coats of white paint on both the interior and exterior of the cabinet. One coat of that wrinkled/crackled, so I had to let it dry, spot-sand, and re-coat.
All of that painting taught me that hair coated with a fine layer of spray paint feels like it’s been oversprayed with crunchy hairspray. Also, if you don’t wear a mask when spraying the interior of a cabinet, you can coat your nose hairs with paint. If feels weird, but I recovered.
Before I did the painting, I cleaned up the enamel top. I actually forgot to take a photo before I started scrubbing it, so it was even worse than you see above. There were paint drips, and a big rusted spill. Although I initially tried a milder soap, Barkeepers Friend did a great job cleaning up the top. I was able to get all of the paint off, and most of the rust.
Obviously there are still chips in the enamel, and though I think they add character, I was kind of worried about whether they’d just rust again if they came into contact with water. Which they might do, in a bathroom. So after the surface was nice and clean, I got off most of the remaining rust in those chips with a bit of white vinegar on cotton balls. In a post about cleaning up vintage enamel, someone said in the comments that car wax is a good way to keep enamel that you’re not eating off of rust-free. (Mineral oil is supposedly a good protective coating for enamel used for food.) So I bought a bottle of spray car wax, and polished it up. So far, so good
The cabinet has added a ton of storage to my bathroom, so on that account, I’m really happy with it. I finally have a place to stash away bathroom stuff I need to use, but don’t want out all of the time.
Aside from the medical cabinet, I added a couple other improvements to my bathroom. The most noticeable one is the wood shelf.
It’s made from reclaimed wood I found at the ReBuilding Center, although you could certainly make it with new wood. That actually would have been easier, because the wood I used really complicated things for me.
I intended to find two 1×4 pieces of wood to make my shelf ledge. But I couldn’t find any of the right length and condition, and then I came across the lovely dark brown piece you see below (the middle one). It wasn’t long enough to make both pieces of the ledge, so I searched for another, and found the bottom piece, which I realized would be perfect because it has a nice curved, routed edge on one side.
I thought they were both fir, and that the top piece must be stained. But when I asked, a guy working there explained that it wasn’t stained, it was just old and weathered. Anyway, long story short, I bought both pieces of wood, and then had to figure out how to make them match. First I tried the tea, vinegar, and rusty metal method, which produced a gray color that wasn’t brown enough. So then I turned to stains. I mixed three stains in varying proportions, and tested on the edge of an extra scrap, and the concealed edge of the shelf. I probably tested at least a dozen ratios, each left on for 5, 10, and 15 minutes, before I was finally satisfied. When I thought I was close, then I tested with the clear coat on top.
I’d say I ended up getting a good match–you probably wouldn’t have guessed that the two pieces of wood initially looked so different, would you?
To make the shelf, I clamped the shelf piece against the top edge of the back piece, and drilled four holes through the back and into the shelf. Then I secured the shelf with screws. I used two keyhole hangers to attach it to the wall.
In addition to cheeky signs, this shelf will come in handy for holding stuff like my toothbrush and toothpaste and random hairpins. You know, the things you never see in bathroom photography.
I also added a vintage porcelain towel rack to the space, and with that, the makeover is pretty much complete. Well, I want to add a towel hook to the other end of the shelf. And maybe another shelf over the toilet.
But let’s forget about that for now, and marvel at the evolution of this space.
When we moved in:
After the first mini-makeover:
After I installed the corner sink:
Unless listed here, most of the items pictured are vintage, DIY, or a combination of the two.
DIY concrete ring cone
Mirror – Ikea
Jar with copper closure – Target bargain area in the front of the store.
Ceiling light – Ikea Vanadin, but I think they’ve stopped carrying them.
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