Making Cheap-y Cabinets Shabby Chic

Cabinets can be really expensive, especially if you have to replace an entire kitchen of cabinets. We don’t have the desire to fork out money for new cabinets, so I decided to test out a distressing technique on a Walmart cabinet in our bathroom. It turned out beautifully!


I decided to refinish this specific cabinet, because it had some serious damage from previous tenants. It had a large hole that needed to be patched, so I knew I would be painting it at some point. Why not today?

After taking the cabinet down, I saw that it was shockingly dirty! Note to self: clean the top of cabinets more often.


Sadly, this is the best “before” picture that I took. I got distracted by the sweet puppy in the picture!

If you are interested in buying this exact cabinet, you can find it here. Personally, I would not spend $119 on a cabinet that I am planning to refinish. If I were going to buy a cabinet, I would choose this one, which is only $46. This cabinet, however, has been in the house since the early 2000’s, so I spent nothing! We did switch out the knobs for something similar to this. We matched our knobs to our other cabinet pulls. If you like your original knobs, by all means, keep them!

We started off with these materials:

  • Valspar Satin Interior Paint in the color Granite Dust $35
  • Polycrylic Water Based Protective Finish $17
  • sponge brushes
  • 40 grit and 240 grit sandpaper
  • sander (optional)

I had originally planned to paint the cabinet gray to match our newly painted bathroom. Peep picture here…

I decided to go with a more rustic look, because I was afraid the heavy use would cause the paint to eventually chip. I didn’t have a concrete plan of action, so I just decided to go with it. First, I removed all the hardware and painted the cabinet gray. You will want to fill any holes or imperfections before this stage. I did not sand before this, because, by this point, I thought I might want to sand it off. Once the paint was dry, it looked like this:

We let it dry over night, and the next day, we started sanding. We sanded with 40 grit sandpaper to scrape off the majority of the gray paint. We, then, sanded lightly with 240 grit sandpaper to smooth the finish. By this point, particle board had started to peak through the original white finish. I was surprised by how good the finished product ending up looking, honestly. I have always felt so poorly about particle board furniture, but this made me reconsider!

This is the first cabinet door after sanding. Not bad!

We sanded the entire cabinet, and after 45 minutes, it was finally where we wanted it to be. I put two coats of polyurethane on each piece to protect the finish. It is important to allow each coat to completely dry before adding another coat; we waited about an hour.

I put the hardware back on the cabinets and reattached the doors. In only two days, the cabinet had been revitalized. It looks wonderful, and didn’t cost us any money out of pocket!

Next week, I’ll give you 7 tips to make your old house look and feel brand new!

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