Diary of a Preloved Piece by Alex Stedman

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We’ve been on the hunt for a freestanding cabinet for our kitchen for a while now. We love our kitchen but with a growing family we were desperate for some extra storage! We set up alerts for a few different items – Welsh dresser, kitchen cabinet, shelving unit – I was looking for a fixer upper ideally, something with a bit of potential. After a few months we found the perfect piece and have written about its journey to our home via Gumtree.

The Search for a Good Find on Gumtree

21st June – Sitting scrolling through the Gumtree app as I do most nights, we were torn between two cabinets. One was a kitchen dresser unit but, like so many we’d seen previously, it was too deep. The second we had our eye on was a glass fronted stand alone cabinet, it was cream with wooden handles. I have always thought I’d paint anything we found to suit our style anyway but what caught my eye was that it was solid wood and in great condition. We were also after something quite narrow in depth, and not too overpowering and this cabinet would fit perfectly. We had budgeted and expected to pay around £150 but this was listed for £70! We messaged to see if it was still available and it was, so we decided to go for it.

22nd June – The cabinet was just outside London but wouldn’t fit inside our car, so my dad offered to collect it with his van! We liaised with the seller to pick it up the following evening, and the seller even said they could help to load it into the van (we would pay cash on arrival).

23rd June – Whilst the cabinet was being collected, I had a think about the colour I might paint it. Our kitchen is dark green and wanted a complementary colour, so opted for a light ‘Aquamarine’ green. I then called my sister to advise on handles (she’s a locksmith!) and we decided that black, as opposed to brass, would set off the colour really well. I am a strong believer that painting and changing handles can completely change the look of a cabinet, so it’s always worth just picking something for shape, size and rough style and then finding ways you can put your stamp on it.

24th June – My dad dropped off the cabinet to ours, it took both him and Chris to carry it into the kitchen, as it was solid wood it was deceptively heavy! There was a lot of pivoting. Once in its place, the cabinet was even nicer than in the pictures, it had panelled sides which added real character, tongue and groove detail on the back panels and so much storage. It was in excellent condition, barely any wear or tear (the seller said it had just been in their garage for years) and the drawers and doors all opened and closed smoothly.

The Upcycle Process

25th June – We went to pick up the paint from a local store, I had called ahead to order it in and then had a bit of a panic that the colour might look too ‘minty’ so I picked up a tester pot of a more sage green whist in the shop but when I tried both of them out (on the back of the cabinet), the aquamarine was a definite winner. I roughly sanded the cabinet, took out the drawer, removed the handles (luckily the doors could still open without the handles, but we left them open in case) and got to work! I painted the first primer coat in one evening and it was beginning to take shape. 

26th June – Day two of painting the cabinet, Chris took our 8 month old out for the day so I could get on without distractions. I watched the entire series of ‘Flight Attendant’ so I know it took me at least 8 hours! But that was with breaks and allowing for drying time between coats (the paint I used had a really quick drying time so by the time I had finished one coat it was pretty much time for the next). I thought it might look nice painting the inside of the cabinet dark, and had some leftover from the woodwork in our kitchen, so I tested it with one shelf. It was too dark, it didn’t ‘pop’ at all and just sucked any light that was bouncing around – oops!

27th June – Day three of painting (mainly because I had to go over the dark paint mistake!) and it just needed a last few touch ups. I finished the last coats late last night so I always like to evaluate my work the next day/in daylight/with fresh eyes/when I’m not so tired! It’s almost ready….I leave it for the whole day to dry and then we add the handles in the evening. The black handles really make a difference against the light paint and it looks like it was made for our home!

8th July – I walk downstairs in the morning and the cabinet already feels like it has lived here all along, we fill the cabinet up with plates and vases (it’ll make sure we only buy chic tableware from now on, which is a good thing in my book!) and we cleared so much room in our kitchen cupboards, our tinned food is no longer balanced on top of each other! We filled the bottom drawer up with loose baby items such as bibs and flannels and I’m sure the cabinet will evolve over time as our family and home does, too.

The epitome of a ‘Good Find’, this cabinet has made such a difference to our home and how we feel about this space. We were over the moon when we finished our kitchen last summer but honestly? it didn’t really feel finished until now.

Want to get started with upcycling? Take a look at our guide on the upcycling ideas you can try at home and for inspiration, 8 funky upcycling ideas for your living room.