Repurposed China Cabinet Into Kitchen Island And Pantry

When you need more storage and a spot to enjoy your morning coffee in a small kitchen. Here's a budget-friendly idea to get both by repurposing a small china cabinet into a kitchen island and pantry.

When we gave our honey oak on honey oak kitchen a budget-friendly makeover, Helpful Tips For Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets White, we contemplated removing the china cabinet and adding a bank of cabinets to the back wall. While that would definitely help our problem with lack of storage, it leaves nowhere to sit and enjoy our morning coffee or much-needed additional counter space.

Ideally, we would love to blow out the wall between our kitchen and living room but being a load bearing wall, this option is far too costly.

Repurposed China Cabinet Into Kitchen Island and Pantry

Repurposed China Cabinet Into Kitchen Island And Pantry

Repurposed China Cabinet Kitchen Island Plus Pantry

Disclosure: I've included affiliate links in this post so you can see the products or similar products we used in this project. See my disclosure policy.

This is the china cabinet we started with. It has sentimental value because my husband surprised me with it and matching table and chairs one Christmas Eve. I'm so glad we were able to use it as the foundation for our new custom built-ins.

Repurposed China Cabinet Island Pantry Before

The top and bottom pieces of the china cabinet were separated to form both the small kitchen island and pantry unit.

China Cabinet Top NOW Built-In Pantry Storage

What we did was build a melamine cabinet with three storage cubbies that lined up with the three doors on the top of the china cabinet.

Repurposed China Cabinet Pantry

The upper portion of the china cabinet was cut to fit the new pantry carcass and secured with wood screws. Three large custom oak doors were ordered to match the profile of the china cabinet doors.

The exterior of the melamine pantry was faced with an oak veneer and the original china cabinet crown molding was replaced with a larger profile. All the oak was stained a dark walnut to match the lower cabinets in the kitchen.

To get an idea of how we built the lower pantry unit, this is what it looks like open. The original oak back on the upper cabinet was kept to dress it up behind the glass doors. You can see the lower part of the pantry unit does not have a back. Essentially we built a melamine rectangular box with two sides, a top and bottom, two dividers, and a kick plate underneath.

Repurposed China Cabinet Pantry Interior

Our small kitchen doesn't have a lot of cupboards and so this pantry opened much-needed space in the cupboards for dishes, pots and pans, and plastic kitchenware storage.

We added metal brackets to each storage compartment for adjustable shelving which is very handy (pictured below).

Repurposed China Cabinet Pantry Adjustable Shelves

Now for the lower part of the old china cabinet...

China Cabinet Base NOW Small Kitchen Island

Building the small kitchen island was rather easy. All we did was add feet to the base to raise it to counter height, as it will also be used for extra food prep workspace.

Repurposed China Cabinet Kitchen Island

We found a small 6 bottle wine fridge that fits perfectly without losing a much-needed drawer. We cut an opening on the side of the island to accommodate the fridge rather than removing a door from the front. Not 100% convinced we made the right decision but it's too late now.

Repurposed China Cabinet Kitchen Island Bar Fridge

Wood brackets were mounted to the back of the cabinet to support the new countertop. On a cold -20C (-4F) winter day we found the perfect granite slab that matched our kitchen counters tucked in the back of a local cabinet shop's storage yard. We went with a simple square profile edge to match the kitchen counters.

We found lattice back bronze metal counter height swivel chairs with leather seats that fit perfectly.

Repurposed China Cabinet Kitchen Island Chairs

The electrical box for the light fixture was relocated above the center of the island. I found the perfect 5 pendant light fixture with frosted glass that provides great task lighting for reading the paper and food prep.

Repurposed China Cabinet Kitchen Island Pendant

We are so happy with the additional storage, counter space, and comfortable spot to enjoy our morning java - thanks to the gifted china cabinet that keeps on giving. It has become the heart of our kitchen and we just love it!
Repurposed China Cabinet Into Kitchen Island and Pantry

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Helpful Tips For Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets White

Our 20-year-old appliances were hanging on by a thread and it was time to bite the bullet and replace them. The thought of putting new stainless steel appliances into the wood box we call a kitchen makes my heart sink. A new kitchen is not in the budget and besides, our custom oak cabinets are in perfect condition. Instead, we chose to get that dated honey oak outta here and in this post I'm sharing some helpful tips for painting kitchen oak cabinets white, so they last.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets White

Helpful Tips For Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets White

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets White After

So you understand what I mean about the wooden box we called a kitchen for far too many years, here is what it looked like before painting the cabinets...

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Before

See what I mean? Big difference, right? Now the floors no longer compete with the cabinets and the room looks so much brighter.

Before we go further, I must apologize for the poor quality of the before and in process photos. They were taken with an inexpensive point and shoot camera and as you'll learn further down in this post, the photographer was a little unsteady on her feet.

Disclosure: I've included affiliate links in this post so you can see what products I used or recommend for this project. See my disclosure policy.

A splurge in the budget-friendly kitchen makeover

We did splurge on one thing in the kitchen and that was replacing the nasty aluminum slider window that would freeze closed and be covered in condensation during the winter months. It just had to go and had been on my wishlist for well over a decade.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Window Before

I'm so glad we spent the extra money and went with a bay window. It adds so much light into the room, gives an unobstructed view of our backyard, and I love having a ledge for plants.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Window After

Budget-friendly countertop compromise

We replaced the Arborite counters a few years prior to the makeover. My wish was to replace them with a granite slab but it wasn't in the budget. We compromised with granite tiles found at a local auction for a fraction of the cost. For a seamless look, we butt the tiles close together so the grout lines are less visible and carried the tile right up to the base of the upper cabinets. Maybe one day there will be room in the budget to replace them with the real thing.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Granite Tile

An interruption midway through the makeover

A small kitchen like ours should only take about a week at the most to finish. Mine took almost six because midway I fell on a patch of ice that landed me on crutches. Determination is my middle name and I figured out a way I could climb the step ladder with my good leg while supporting my body with a crutch and got the job done. Besides, those new appliances were being delivered soon.

Lower cabinets stained

I'm not going to lie, it was hard putting paintbrush to solid oak but we did stain the lower cabinets. Thankfully those were finished before my accident. The cabinet doors were prepped much the same way as the steps outlined further down in this post but rather than paint, they are stained a dark walnut with this stain.

I love the two-tone look between the lower and upper cabinets that are so on trend right now. We went with a high contrast between the lower cabinets and the hardwood floor.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Stained Lowers

What to do with the wood bulkhead

The next order of business was dealing with the oak-clad bulkhead. We contemplated replacing it with drywall but opted for a quicker option by making the wood appear to be drywall. To do this we covered the grain and the wood joints with this patching compound. It dries quickly, it's hard as nails and doesn't shrink.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Bulkhead Before

Sanded smooth and painted the same color as the walls, one would never know it is wood.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Bulkhead After


Prep, prep, prep - the most important step

Cabinets are usually laden with grease, caked on food, and sticky fingerprints that must be cleaned first.
  • Vacuum the interior of the cabinets and drawers and give them a scrub with warm soapy water. 
  • Clean the cabinet doors, trim, and end units with a liquid deglosser.
  • Protect the surrounding walls, ceiling, and backsplash with painters tape. 
  • Protect your countertops with plastic or an old sheet like I did mine, moving it along with me as I worked.
  • Remove the doors and shelves and label each with tape. You don't want to skip this step - ask me how I know.
  • Remove the hardware from each door and transfer the door number from the tape into the hardware cavity with a pencil. Make sure to label the hardware with tape also.
  • There is no need to strip the finish and sand to the bare wood. Instead, use a 100-grit sanding block and sand in the direction of the grain to scuff the finish.
  • Wipe the dust with a damp cloth and follow with a tack cloth.

Priming is where it's at for a long lasting finish

This is where you'll want to brew a pot of coffee because this step is tedious but should not be skipped.
  • Use a good quality primer that seals the wood and staining blocking.
  • You'll need a 1-inch brush for the recessed part of the doors, cabinet trim, and crown molding.
  • You can use a brush but I prefer a 6-inch high-density roller for the door fronts and sides, end cabinets, shelves and any other flat surfaces.
  • Roll in long even strokes with a wet edge.
  • Prime the interior of your cabinets if they are wood. Thankfully mine are white melamine so I got to skip this step.
Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Primed Trim

  • Lay the shelves and cabinet doors on the garage/workshop floor or work surface using these handy painter's pyramids. The more room you have, the faster this step will take. Unfortunately, I could only do 4-6 doors at a time. 
  • Once dry, flip them over and prime the opposite side.
  • Note: I only applied one coat of primer because I'll be using a paint with built-in primer. Just adds that extra coat of protection!

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Primed

Painting the cabinets white

  • We used two coats of Behr Premium Plus Latex Paint in a satin finish.
  • Before applying the first coat of paint, lightly sand the primed surfaces with a fine 220 grit sanding sponge and wipe the dust with a tack cloth.
  • Repeat the previous step between each coat of paint. 
  • Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours before applying the second coat.
  • Use a good quality 1-inch angled brush for the recessed parts of the doors, cabinet trim, and crown molding.
  • Use a 6-inch high-density roller for the door fronts and sides, end cabinets, shelves and any other flat surfaces.
  • Roll in long even strokes with a wet edge.
I started the upper cabinets from the tall pantry cabinet and worked my way to the right, painting 4-6 cabinet doors at a time.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Pantry Before

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Pantry After

Protect the cabinets

  • We used a clear polyacrylic to protect the paint. For low sheen use either a matte or satin finish.
  • Don't shake the can because you will get air bubbles. Stir it well before and during application.
  • Apply it with a foam brush in long even strokes with a wet edge. Even better, apply it with a paint sprayer for a factory looking finish.
  • Apply two coats and sand between each coat with a 220 grit sanding pad for a smooth finish.

When the new appliances arrived we needed to address the problem of one side of the slide-in-range being exposed (as pictured below).

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Range Before

We built end panels with oak plywood to conceal the sides of both the range and microwave and painted them the same color as the cabinets.

Painting Kitchen Oak Cabinets Range After

I'm not going to lie, it was a heck of a lot of work but so worth it in the end. What a HUGE improvement from before and the bulk of the cost was sweat equity.

I was so happy with the results that I did the same with our Built-In China Cabinet in the dining room and Custom Window Seat/Bookcase in the master bedroom.

You may have noticed there is a small island that wasn't there in the before photos. If you look closer at the before photos you can see a china cabinet on the left. Would you believe the new island used to be THAT china cabinet? You can see the transformation here in my post Repurposed China Cabinet Into Kitchen Island And Pantry.

I hope you found my painting kitchen oak cabinets white tips helpful and they inspire you to give your kitchen a budget-friendly makeover. If you have any questions or additional tips to share, please leave them in the comment section below.

Tips For Painting Kitchen Oak Cabiinets

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Basement Laundry Room On A $500 Budget

Do you have one of those scary laundry rooms in the bowels of the basement? The dark dreary spot by the furnace designated for laundry with spider webs and creepy sounds? The place you run down to throw in a load and run back upstairs as quick as you can. 

Yeah, that was our laundry room for well over a decade until we finally built a basement laundry room on a $500 budget. It took the 20-year-old appliances to break down before we finally did something about it. 

Basement Laundry Room Makeover On A $500 Budget

Basement Laundry Room On A $500 Budget

$500 Basement Laundry Room Makeover

This is what the room looked like before...

Basement Laundry Before

Basement Laundry Area Before

Big difference, right? 

How sad that our brand spanking new front loading washer and dryer looked against the cold concrete walls and floor. Unfortunately, after paying for those shiny red appliances, there wasn't much room left in the budget for a room makeover.
Determination is my middle name and stubborn is my third, and so Mr. Frugalista and I put our heads together to come up with a way we could build a new laundry room on a very tight budget.
Here is a breakdown of how we saved hundreds of dollars by using discontinued, discounted, salvaged products along with a lot of elbow grease, to build our basement laundry room from top to bottom for $500.

Laundry Room Cabinets

The carcasses were built with offcut pieces of melamine purchased at Home Depot for under $20. The cabinet doors were purchased at Habitat ReStore for $5 each.

Laundry Room Sink 

The biggest splurge was the deep stainless steel IKEA sink at a cost of $70.00 but we saved on the taps by buying them at Habitat ReStore.

Laundry Room Backsplash

The 6" x 8" subway tiles are called Twill White Field from Home Depot and cost $1.50 each.

Laundry Room Counter

We built the counter ourselves with a sheet of plywood leftover from another project and a sheet of stock laminate from Home Depot. It cost us less than $50.00 to make.

Laundry Room Flooring

The 12" x 12" porcelain floor tiles were leftover from our back landing and I think we paid $2.00 per tile on sale.

Laundry Room Ceiling Tiles

The 2' x 4' suspended ceiling tiles were being discontinued and so we got them for a fraction of the original cost.

Laundry Room Light Fixture

The light fixture was a clearance item for under $30.00.

Laundry Room Costs

Cabinets: $18
Cabinet Doors: $15
Laundry Sink: $70
Taps: $25
Backsplash : $27
Counter: $45
Flooring: $160
Ceiling Tiles: $60
Light Fixture: $28
Miscellaneous: $50
Approximate Room Makeover Costs = $498

After the room was finished my daughter's cheer team had a fundraiser and so I bought this vinyl decal for the wall.

Somebody has to support Mama's Starbucks addiction!

Instead of dreading laundry day and making a mad dash upstairs after each load, now I want to bring a good book and hang out 😁

Update: While we loved this room and proud of ourselves for doing it on such a tight budget, our focus at the time was primarily on the budget and not the functionality of this room. We have since tweaked the room a bit and now it functions much better. You can see the changes here in my post Tweaking The Laundry Room - 4 Problems With The Original Design.

Basement Laundry Room On A $500 Budget

$500 Basement Laundry Room Makeover

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