Monday, February 25, 2013

DIY Vintage Rustic Cabinet Doors

For our next phase of the laundry room/pantry makeover, John and I decided to install three cabinets above the washer and dryer. We figured we'd buy the same style of Ikea cabinetry that we have in our kitchen, and then beat them up a bit to get the vintage distressed look I was after.

The Akurum cabinets (in √Ądel Medium Brown) that we have in our kitchen

So, off to Ikea we went, where a helpful sales guy printed out our list of materials to bring to the check out.

We were about ten feet from the register when I looked down at the price list and lost my mind.

"Did you know it's over four hundred dollars just for the cabinet DOORS?!" I hissed at John. The total for everything was nearly six hundred, but that included the cabinet boxes, shelves, mounting hardware, and hinges. The five doors were the crazy expensive part.

So after a hasty discussion we bought everything BUT the doors, and then set out to make our own.

This post is going to be kind of long, so here's a sneak peek at the end product to keep you going:

The color ended up matching pretty well, don't you think?

John spent about $60 on the wood and stain, and then got to make use of all those fun power tools in his garage:

He had three big power saws out on our driveway - the testosterone was flying, y'all.

John ripped 1X6 pine boards in half lengthwise, and then routed the edges with a groove like you see here. Then he used the router to add tabs on the short sides of the boards, so they'd fit together like this:

 Here's the fitted edge, also known as a tongue-and-groove joint, for obvious reasons:
With this technique you can build a cabinet door without screws, staples, or nails. The only thing you need is a little wood glue!

We used pine for everything, which is a very soft wood, and plywood for the center panels. Hardly furniture-grade, but since we planned to beat it all up, it made sense to go with the cheap stuff.

Here's me stepping in with the palm sander. Love that thing.

Another look at the tongue-and-grooves as John assembles the doors.

All done and stacked overnight for the glue to dry.

Next came lots more sanding: after smoothing out all the sides and center panels, I also knocked off all the hard corners and edges to give the cabinets a soft, worn look.

Then came the fun part: beating them up! John always lets me do this part, possibly because the sight of his wife with a hammer in each hand gleefully whacking the bejeebers out of things is kind of terrifying.

The best tools for distressing cabinetry are a hammer and a long metal wood screw. Smack the wood with the edge of your hammer head to make subtle, half-moon indents, and then hammer the side of the screw into the wood to make an impression like this:

Also use the hammer claw to make small gouges, and then just get creative! Experiment with different tools and keep abusing the wood until it's beat up to your liking. It won't look like much on the raw wood, but all those areas will show up nicely once you get the wood stain on:


Here's John wiping on the Mahogany stain:

We were professional painters for about ten years, guys, and I'm telling you right now: there is nothing quite so terrifying as wood stain. It's completely unpredictable in terms of color and saturation, and it's nearly impossible to take off if you screw it up. So always - ALWAYS -  test it on scrap wood first. (Or in our case, about ten pieces of scrap wood, each with different colors, saturations, degrees of sanding, etc.)

It also helps to use a product called pre-stain. Pre-stain seals the wood slightly and prevents some of the blotchiness and uneven areas you get in crappier woods like our pine here. Our doors are still a little blotchy, but they'd have been much worse without the pre-stain.

Under our garage shop lights the stain tended to look reddish-purple, but once inside the color was revealed to be a nice, true brown.
Next I printed out some large numbers on cardstock:

...and cut those out with a craft knife to make stencils:

We marked both the stencils and the doors with center cross hairs (using chalk on the doors), and then matched up the lines to place the stencils in the exact center of each door.

Gettin' messy.

After this I went back and sanded down the numbers (yay more sanding) to age them.

We debated what kind of sealer or clear coat to use on the doors, and settled on this heavenly Feed N' Wax stuff, which is a combination of bees wax and orange oil:

I say "heavenly" because the wax smells like heaven. The orange scent is right out of Horizons - for any of you classic DizGeeks out there - so I stood next to John the whole time he was wiping the doors down just breathing deeply and making a bunch of indecent noises. MMMMM. I want to rub this stuff all over my entire house.

Ok, so, ready for the big reveal? (Keeping in mind that the laundry room itself is still not done yet?)

Ta-da! New cabinets!!

(Door number 2 doesn't look *quite* that light in person, but I'm still debating going back and sanding the others down a little more to match. Or maybe I'll just add more stain to door #2. Hmm...)

The handles are also from Ikea and cost about $4 each - but I first found them on ebay here for $16 each, plus shipping. SERIOUSLY. Comparison shopping, guys: it pays off.

The handles were a perfectly smooth satin black when we got them, so I hit them with a few blasts of matte black and oil-rubbed bronze spray paint to give them a slight texture. No can really see the difference but me, I'm sure, but now I think they look more like wrought iron.

We aged and stained both sides of all the doors. Those are the Ikea birch cabinet bases underneath, but you can only see the lighter interiors when you open the doors.

And here's that closeup again:

We saved about $400 making the doors ourselves, although we spent several days' worth of labor on them in return. We were planning on aging and distressing the store-bought doors anyway, though, and I always like something we've made ourselves better than store bought. It was fun! Plus now we have one more thing in our house that we can point to casually and be all, "Oh, that? Why, WE MADE IT, of course." And then we can chortle knowingly and remember why people hate us sometimes.

Oh, and we also installed a new light fixture, which gives the room a much warmer glow. It's hard to see when it's on...

...but it's this one:

It took forever to find a simple, vintage style globe that was a semi-flush mount, but I'm really happy with this one. The price on Amazon fluctuates almost daily, so I watched it go from $32 up to $53 and then back down to $29 before pouncing on it (and free shipping with Prime. Holla!) It's back up to $52 right now, but watch it for while if you want one.

K, that's all from the land of laundry room re-dos! Stay tuned for our next installment, where we'll be assembling wall shelves using industrial metal pipe. Woohoo!


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!


  1. I think you should leave door 2 the way it is. Adds more charm.

    1. I actually really agree, number 2 really just adds a lot of character. As a perfectionist it's probably going to bother you every day, but one of things you can do is maybe sand down and edge or two of the other cabinets, then it all won't be the same shade - there will be an awesome play of tones all over the place! You are very talented!

  2. Those are great! I just want to apprentice myself to you guys. People who decide things like, "You know, we could just make the doors/cabinets/counters/etc. ourselves" amaze me! I wouldn't have thought anything about cabinet 2; I think a bit of color variation adds to the overall distressed look. Fantastic!

  3. Damn. Can you guys come up here and use your magic on my cabinets? LOL kidding ;)
    seriously though, they look fabulous and so does the room, so far.
    My cabinets are this horrid pine veneer (that's peeling) from when we bought the house & *everything* was faux country. And I really hate faux country. My dad painted house during an unemployment phase and he's great with paint, paper, stain and the like but not a woodworker so we lack the tools needed.
    Love your tutorials - it might be easier for us find a way to rip out what we've got, if we even can and build new (crash a high-school shop class to use the saws). I so want a steampunk kitchen! I think the original ones are under the veneer (it was a really crappy job) and stuck to the walls with layers and layers of paint.
    Wish me luck ;)
    ~erin kristine

  4. As someone whose previous Christmas purchases for my hubby have included a table saw, a compound miter saw, a drill press, a biscuit groove cutter (and biscuits,) and a dovetail jig, I can't tell you how impressed I am that you guys just decided to make your own tongue and groove cabinet doors. To most of us, that's like saying, "But the doctor was out-of-network, so I decided it would be more cost-effective to perform my own splenectomy."

    The cabinet doors are great! They have so much more character than the store-bought ones. I can't wait for the rest of the reveal. Oh, and every time I see that ceiling I fall a little bit more in lust -- I'm already dropping hints to my hubby about our evil popcorn ceilings.

  5. "possibly because the sight of his wife with a hammer in each hand gleefully whacking the bejeebers out of things is kind of terrifying"

    Best line ever! Is it any wonder that it was internet love at first read? I think not.

    Love the look. Can't wait to actually own my own place so I can play too!

  6. wow they look great!! Good work guys ; )
    In my humble opinion,I like door #2's color. I go with the sanding to match.

  7. I don't think #2 is lighter than the others - I think it's the way the light is hitting it.

  8. You two are amazing. That is all.

    In other news, I'm off to buy some Feed n Wax now...

  9. You can use Camel to keep an eye on prices for Amazon products, it will tell you when it's cheap to buy:

  10. I have some cheapo Walmart shelf-y things that I've always wanted to put cabinet-style doors on. Back when I first bought them, I looked up prices and said WHAAAAAT and then just thumbtacked some fabric on the front to be a curtain. The 'curtains' do a terrible job of keeping the dust out, but thanks to this post, I am inspired to (eventually) make my own doors! Of course, I'll have to find someone with power tools first....

  11. Lookin' good so far. You'll have the snazziest laundry room on the block!

  12. Your doors are beautiful, and I totally agree, a DIY project is always more satisfying.

  13. My parents just visited for a week to help with some DIY stuff, and all was going smoothly until my dad nicked his finger with the circular saw. (No major damage, thank goodness.) We got the wardrobe installed, but I have to finish the doors by myself. Thanks for the inspiration, now I feel more confident that I can wrap it up in the near future.

  14. Comparison shopping is important, you're right! I have this fabulous Ikea floor lamp that was out of stock last I looked... I wanted a second one. I found it on Ebay for about three times it's original price. Crazy stuff!

    Your cabinets look outstanding! Makes me want to tear this place apart and pretty it up but, alas, it's a rental. D:

  15. Wow! Those are just beautiful -- they look better than store-bought! I'm especially impressed by the stain, whenever I (or my fiance) do it, it screams DIY project from a mile away... Haha I think it is usually with the finish -- its hard to get that nice, satin finish!

  16. That looks fabulous! You always inspire me to think I could totally do that stuff . . . and then I remember that we have no power tools like that, and between my husband and me, I'm the handy one. Which is not a good thing. So I'll admire the stuff you and John do, and do some daydreaming.

  17. I'm so glad you mentioned Feed N' Wax. That stuff is great. I recently acquired my grandma's solid oak dining table and she has always used that to keep it in good condition. It's a little hard to find (so far, I've only found it on the internet), but it is so much better than the other conditioners you can get at a generic store. And yes, it smells heavenly.

  18. You guys rock. Those doors are wonderful.

  19. RAD!!!! You guys are inspiring on so many levels!!!

  20. You, m'dear, need You can see the history of the price of any Amazon item just by copy-pasting the url, and you can set it to email you when the price drops below a certain point. Much easier than checking in repeatedly yourself, and nice to know if you've just found something if it's a good time to buy! The room is looking great!

  21. You both are so lucky to have the tools and a flat open space to use them! I really like what you did with the cabinets, and that they turned out the way you had pictured them.

  22. "Gauge", or "gouge"?

    1. Ah, good catch, thanks. Just fixed it now!

    2. WOW!!!! Now, I just glimpsed at your other projects. You two are incredibly creative and talented. I came to this site by accident and now I'm addicted. I have to get on here officially but am now sure how because I'm only on aol. Anyway.... I tried sending a reply to you on the page I was led to originally (your penny table.) I don't know if you'll get it. I will try here, as well. I'm sorry if you get this as a re-run post but: ---------- ----from earlier--------------------------- ---------------------------------OMG- This is awesome!!!! ------------------------- I was just browsing on-line because I have a question about two-part epoxy envirotex. I came upon this site and will now be coming back often. I'd love to see the other projects that are mentioned on this page. Since, I am here and haven't found my answer elsewhere, I might as well ask all of you my question. I have been doing image transfer mixed media images. I have layers and layers of images. They have been adhered mainly with Golden Acrylic Medium. Towards the end, I started using Liquid Fusion Glue (a thin great transparent permanent glue.) Now, I'm letting everything dry. I then attach my canvas board to "Wedi Board" for support and with four pieces of wood build a frame for my "collage." It's approximately 18" x 24" and after heavy duty glueing my image board to the strong Wedi board will be a thickness of about an inch. My wood frame will be about one and half inches high so there is room to fill in epoxy. Finally, my question- Is it safe to add envirotex to a picture that has other substances on it? I've used envirotex before but have always made a point of keeping a very clean surface. This time there are some "dirty- gluey" areas that if rubbed could be rolled off. I don't want to try to pull off these little pieces, though because they either tear or stretch out the area around them, distorting or removing a part of the image, when disturbed or cut off. I want to go ahead and finish up with my favorite step- the envirotex finish coating but am sooo worried that it will turn into a disaster because there are "gooey" spots around. I've spend so much time working on this project (I'm too embarrassed to even say) but am now scared to actually finish it because of this "messy factor." Also, in addition to the layers of images, I have used tiny wire strands for hair, fuzzy textured paper pieces to blend portions and a couple other items for the first time in this newest image. Has anyone had any experience with this type of situation. Does envirotex still hold everything in place and get that amazing perfect surface? I've tried other final finishes and envirotex is the best by far. I was considering buying a spray to first coat my picture with and then wait a day or so and then apply the envirotex, Would the envirotex still adhere? Any ideas? Stella p.s. That table is so incredible!

  23. My husband and I are huge steampunk fans. He demands you steampunk-ize your washer and dryer in some way that requires you to wear goggles and crank something. the thought of it made me laugh out loud (for realz)and I thought you'd appreciate a mental image:-)

    Thanks for your blog. I love it!

  24. Eat Well Drink WineMarch 1, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    This is gorgeous! You and John are doing a great job. I think this makeover also belongs over at Lindsay's BetterAfter ( site. ;)

  25. Can I borrow your husband for a few projects? I promise to pay him in dead cow (because that's what the friend who put in my kitchen floor requested as payment) and baked goods (because that's what I'm good at.

  26. What font did you use on the numbers? It wasn't mentioned & I love the way the number 2, 4 & 5 look.

    1. Eek, good question! I'm afraid I don't remember; I'm sorry! If I find it again later I'll be sure to update here and on the post, though.

  27. What is the brand/color of the stain? Thanks!


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