Vintage Medicine Cabinet Upcycle

Hello! Today I finally finished upcycling my vintage 1960’s medicine cabinet! Did I need an extremely heavy 1960’s medicine cabinet in grubby condition? Err.. probably not. Did I want it? Yes. Can I imagine how cool, awesome and useful it might be once I upcycle it (if I don’t mess it up)? Hell yeah. Challenge accepted.


Of course, you might just have an old cabinet lying around; if not, head to your local flea market or junk shop. Remember – we are not looking for beauty contest winners here; look for something wooden, substantial, and structurally sound. It does not matter if the piece is ugly, grubby or has seen better days. I bought mine from an amazing junk shop my friend and I happened upon on the long, long drive home from Kintyre, Scotland to Newcastle, England. Located opposite the jetty in Lochgilphead, Argyll and Bute, it’s unassuming entrance leads to an upcycler’s paradise. Furniture, odd paintings, old glassware and crockery – all piled high, grubby, and most importantly, cheap! My 1960’s medicine cabinet cost £8.



My cabinet was rather dirty, and some of the paint was flaking off. I applied some good old elbow grease and some gentle anti-bacterial cleaning products, then allowed to dry thoroughly. This one required more sanding than my naturally lazy arms would have preferred, but worth it. I’ve recently discovered angled sandpaper pads, which take some of the hard graft out.



Given that I still have most of the tin of Abigail Ahern Hudson Black in eggshell (£40 for 2.5l) left from my vintage headboard upcycle, it was a no-brainer to use this. The dark browny black will hopefully set off the mirrored cabinet doors perfectly. For an added twist, I’m going to paint the inside of the cabinet in emerald green, which only requires a tester pot. I’m not sure why, but as an experiment I decided to use a brighter emerald green (B&Q Emerald, £1.24 for tester pot) underneath, and a slightly darker green on top (Abigail Ahern Mercer Green, £2.95 for tester post). Finally, I also had some paint left over from my copper spray paint superhero post, so I decided to spray the cabinet handles to add a pop of copper to the mirrored doors (Rustoleum Painters Touch in copper, £4.99).

PicMonkey Collage

In true Eclectic Feel fashion I like to be different, and tend not to use a primer, so it needed a few coats.



Given that I’m such a clumsy-clops, I’m taking no chances whilst spraying the handles, and spend about 10 minutes applying masking tape and newspaper to get a really secure masked-off area.



I thought the drawers would be the easy part, but how wrong I was. Once I’d painted them with a couple of coats of Hudson Black(to add a bit of contrast to the green interior), the fact that they were perhaps a little too snug a fit even back in the 1960’s meant that when I put them back in, they were well and truly wedged.

cab6To get the drawers back out, I had to shimmy a kitchen knife in, then hit the cabinet from behind with a hammer. Which worked, but damaged the paint I’d so carefully applied. Boo! A couple of touch-ups later though, and it’s all OK again. To solve the problem, I sanded down the drawer edges (which will, after all, never really be seen), and rubbed them with some candle wax.

As well as the drawer problem, I confess I made a bit of a booboo. Whilst doing a tiny final touch-up without masking tape, my right hand (still recovering from that pesky shoulder surgery) jerked and smudged brown paint over the emerald. Curses! Was this project doomed to fail? I quickly picked up a damp old dish sponge I’d been using to mop up drips and smudges, and wiped the excess brown away. Except, Eek! The sponge still had some wet copper spray paint on it, which smudged over the green (and freshly smudged-in brown). Drat and double drat! In desperation, I picked up a second, dry, emergency rag I’d kept at hand (yes, I really am that clumsy), and rubbed at the copper paint…then went a bit crazy and randomly sprayed bits of the interior and exterior with the remaining copper spray paint. What can I say? I like to be different. Live on the edge!

I decided I liked this effect, but I still wasn’t happy that the cabinet edges looked a little messy and unfinished. My final, final task was to mask off the cabinet edges, leaving a strip about 1 inch wide exposed, and then add a coat of Rustoleum Painter’s Touch in Old Penny Bronze (£1.99 for 20ml). Ta-da! Not to everyone’s taste, but it kept me out of mischief 🙂 .

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4 thoughts on “Vintage Medicine Cabinet Upcycle”

  1. Hi from the States! Was looking for ideas on my bathroom cabinet redo and came upon your site, I’m going to try to find that metallic paint. I think it’s the look I’ve been searching for! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This piece made me feel a bit OCD to be honest! Kept doing more and more on it…Time to put down the paintbrush! Thanks for the lovely comment. What sort of things do you make from scratch? Jo x


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