China Cabinet Makeover Plans & Poll

Recently I bought a china cabinet off of Craigslist, and I am now trying to decide the direction I want to go to restore it to it’s mid-century glory (possibly with a modern twist).

I’m so glad to have gotten this cabinet with very little hassle, and only a little bit of stress. I didn’t even have to drive far to pick it up either, which was a huge bonus.

She’s in pretty good shape, and I like her the way she is, but I feel like with a little elbow grease she could be totally fabulous for her age. Before I get into my plans (and you share your thoughts), let me show you the details.


First off this is a cabinet made by Stanley furniture or, as the label says, “Distinctive Furniture by Stanley”. I found a lot of other cabinets by them online which weren’t selling for a ton of money, but I didn’t find very many exact models as mine online that included prices. I did find a listing on ebay for around $600!! I think that seller might have been insane. I bought mine for $75. Maybe people just aren’t selling this cabinet.


There are two doors on the sides and three drawers in the middle. You can also see in this picture that the color is a little faded and not even. I love the lines in the doors, and the drawer knobs but they could use a little sparkle.

image image

Here is a close up of the hardware and the faded coloring of the door.

In the first drawer is this nice separator for silverware. The other two are just plain old drawers.


The cabinet on the left has this shelf, and the right cabinet does not have a shelf.


The back of the whole cabinet is a sheet of fake wood veneer 😦


One of the shelves has this deep scratch which I will probably fill in


And the top has quite a few water ring stains.

The Plans

I know for sure I want to stain the piece using a gel stain by General Finishes. I’m not quite sure which color I want to use yet, but I’m leaning towards Java (a super popular color), Brown Mahogany, or Antique Walnut.

China Cabinet Plans and Poll
Photo Credit: The Weathered Door

This is an example of the java stain on a mid century credenza.

Brown Mahogony Brown Mahogany

Here are two examples of the Brown Mahogany stain. These examples also show you how much of a difference there can be between pieces depending on the wood and the amount of stain used. I’m assuming they only used one coat on the piece on the right, and two coats on the left. One of the reasons I’m having such a hard time deciding is because of the variation in all of the pieces I’ve seen.

This is an example of the antique Walnut from Niagara Furniture Painting.

All of these colors are pretty similar, so I’m not sure if it even matters which one I pick. I don’t want to stray too far from the original finish of the cabinet, and I don’t want it to be too dark. I do like the red tint that the cabinet already has in it, but I wouldn’t want much more. I would also like it if the grain was emphasized more than it is right now.

Now, the next decision I have to make is if I want to paint the back or not. Since the backing is a fake wood veneer I’m not sure how well it will take stain, or if it will end up looking too different than the rest of the cabinet since the grain is obviously different. I think painting the back a light gray would make the glass pop out more. I was thinking General Finishes seagull gray milk paint.

Seagull Gray Dresser
Photo Credit: Mary Beth’s Place

Seagull Gray

Last but not least I want to update the hardware with Rub N Buff Antique Gold

Antique Gold
Photo Credit: The Painted Chandelier

I think it will really make the hardware pop and show off that mid-century modern style especially if I achieve a distressed look and let some of the darker parts of the pulls show through.

Your Turn

so let me know what you think:

#1: The Stain

  • Java
  • Brown Mahogany
  • Antique Walnut
  • Another color?

#2 To Paint or Nah

  • Yes, paint the back
  • No, don’t
  • Yes, but paint it a different color

#3 Rub N’ Buff

  • Yes, use Antique Gold
  • No, don’t use it at all
  • Yes, but use a different color

Feel free to add any additional thoughts or give me other suggestions that I haven’t already mentioned.

See You Around!

Lauren ❤

10 thoughts on “China Cabinet Makeover Plans & Poll

    • Thanks for your feedback, Patricia! I’ve tried Restor-A-Finish on other projects (antique chair and a dresser redo) and I love it . I’m thinking staining will be a better route for this project. I just feel like it will last longer and be sturdier. I also just really want to try out General Finishes products 🙂 I don’t know if I will have to sand it down first as it doesn’t appear to have a top coat on it, but I will look into it before I start.


  1. I like the java stain with the rub-n-buff gold. I would stain the back the same color then, if not crazy about it, cover temporary board (even foam core would work) with paint, wallpaper, or fabric to fill in the area. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Rub ‘n Buff would be kind of a temporary solution that would eventually rub off. And if these are brass, you’re better off shining up the real metal than faux finishing it. I like them the way they are but if you want them shinier, consider stripping the lacquer and just polishing them periodically with Brasso.

    As for the wood finish, I really like mid-century furniture in medium wood tones like what you already have and wouldn’t want to see a lot of contrasting colors added to it. But there’s no harm in going to a deeper color if that’s what you prefer. 20th Century lacquer finishes are not usually restorable like true antiques are, so you’re not hurting the piece to strip and refinish it. And another thought for the back: can you pull the fake wood off? I have a piece of walnut veneered particle board that I’d give you if you were closer. It’s not doing me much good right now.

    I’d just avoid being too trendy because in 20 years you’re going to rather have a piece that looks circa 1965 than circa 2015. (And you can tell my parents didn’t raise me to replace furniture, ever)


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