Vintage China Cabinet Makeover: Matte Black and Natural Wood

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If you’re a fan of vintage style china cabinet, you’ve come to the right place. Today I take you to my friend Bruno’s workshop. Bruno has always been fascinated by vintage furniture and antique decoration items. In this post, he will share with us this vintage china cabinet makeover in matte black and raw wood.

Buffet Mado Melchior avant son relooking
Before makeover: a china cabinet in good condition but quit outdated

First of all, I will let Bruno introduce himself.

My name is Bruno. I love both furniture upcycling and history. You can learn history through furniture’s because it shows previous generations life style. I like mid-century and vintage furniture. I’m a fan of vintage but functional furniture, especially furniture that was designed to be mass-produced and affordable to the average homeowner.

How long have you been upcycling furniture?

The very first piece of furniture I upcycled was given to me by my grand-mother. It was a vintage china hutch! I enjoyed painting and refinishing this hutch so much. This is how it all started! For two to three years, I upcycled one piece of furniture per month. Each time I showed the final result to my friends and family, I was asked if I wanted to sell it. I restyled 10 to 15 china cabinets and hutches that all sold out very quickly. I even started to have a waiting list of customers who wanted a restyled cabinet. In April 2021, I launched my own upcycling business. Of course I will not focus only on redoing vintage cabinet and hutches. I plan to broaden my scope to mid-century furniture, industrial style furniture and even art deco pieces.

Could you introduce us to today’s makeover candidate?

Of course. This cabinet is a Mado style china cabinet called Melchior cabinet. It was very popular kitchen furniture in France during the 1950’s. Simple and functional china cabinets were very common before being replaced by build-in kitchen. This is the 3rd time I’ve revamped this type of cabinet. Nowadays, these cabinets are very popular among people who have a small apartment because they are not very wide. These cabinets are hard to find and they may sell for a high price.

Buffet Mado avant customisation
Despite being quite small this cabinet offers a great space for stocking.

The cabinet structure is made of solid pine wood and the doors’ panels and sides are made of fine veneer. The cabinet was coated with varnish. This kind of cabinets were designed to be mass produced and affordable. Pine wood is a softwood, inexpensive and easy to work. That’s why it was a very popular wood within the furniture industry.

How did you prep this cabinet before painting?

When I first saw this cabinet, I knew immediately I could turn it into something nice and functional. With painted furniture, I use my heat gun to remove the old finish. When the piece is varnished, I only sand. I start sanding with a 40 grit sandpaper then I move on to 120 grit, then 180 and so on until I get a smooth finish. Pine is a soft wood. You must be careful not to scratch the wood when sanding.

When this cabinet arrived at my workshop, I noticed the upper doors not at the same level. So I removed the hardware, filled the holes with wood filler and attached the hinges again.

Buffet Mado qui sera relooké en noir et bois brut
On this picture, we can see that the two upper doors are not aligned.

How did you paint this china cabinet? Is this two tone finish- black and wood – your personal touch?

Yep! The combination of chicken wire, raw wood and matte black is my personal touch. This black matte paint was introduced to me by friend of mine. She is an artistic painter and uses this paint. Actually, it’s not even a proper paint but I won’t say more. I apply this paint directly on the wood without priming. Pine is a porous wood, the paint sticks to the wood even without primer. I paint all my furniture with a brush and you can’t see any brush marks. I seldom use a roller to paint furniture.

Buffet Mado relooké noir et bois
After Makeover: A black and raw wood china cabinet ready for a new life

What finish did you chose for this black and wood cabinet? Wax or varnish?

I’m not a fan of varnish or polyurethane finish. I prefer waxing. Currently, I’m using an old furniture waw I found at my grand-mother’s place. I was lucky enough to get a bunch of tools and supplies from an old furniture workshop that was located at her place: wax, old varnish, wood chisels…

How do you work when you upcycle a piece of furniture? Do you have a clear plan when you start your makeover?

I don’t usually have a specific plan when I start, just some ideas. I don’t know if I’m going to paint most of the piece black and leave some natural wood or the contrary. I decide what I’m going to do with the piece as I go along, depending on its condition. I generally decide how I’m going to paint the piece after sanding it. At this stage, I have a clear view of the condition of the furniture and I’m able to decide an action plan. For example, some part of the furniture may be damaged or I was not able to remove some stains by sanding and thus, I will decide to paint these parts of the furniture and leave this other natural.

 I always try to keep the authenticity of this furniture intact. Hence my idea to replace the glass doors – which I really don’t like – with chicken wire. It reminds me these old pantry cabinets every household used to have. By the way, the chicken wire I uses is very special to me too. It comes from my grandmother’s former poultry house. My grand-mother does not raise chicken anymore. So I regularly go to my grandmother’s place with my wire cutters and I cut the wire I need for my furniture makeover.

What tools and supplies did you use for this china cabinet makeover?

The tools and supplies I used are very basic:

Here are my recommended supplies to make your own two-tone china cabinet:

The tool I use the most is my orbital sander. My workshop is located in a remote area and there is no electricity. So I bought a cordless orbital sander. I only have one electric sander. When I can not use my orbital sander, I sand by hand…

Here is the final result. The combination of matte black and raw wood really enhance the modern and sober design of the piece. As for the chicken wire, it brings a touch of authenticity. I love this makeover!

Buffet Mado relooké avec du grillage à poules
China cabinet after makeover: painted black and raw wood

If you are based in France, I would highly recommend that you pay a visit to Bruno in the south-west part of France. He will be happy to show you around and introduce his work. You may also find tastefully redesigned furniture on his website. You can also follow her on FacebookInstagram(all accounts are in French but you may still enjoy the pictures if you don’t read French).

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Vintage china cabinet makeover matte black and wood

Happy Makeover!

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