before and after

before & after: a tale of 2 cabinets

by Grace Bonney

today’s second before & after post is a tale of two different cabinet makeovers. first up? kristin and jacob anderson of atlanta georgia. jacob got this dresser/cabinet from a friend for $35 (!) and spruced it up with a coat of paint and by cleaning the handles with vinegar and salt. i love seeing how a little bit of love can really bring an older piece to work. thanks for sharing, kristin and jacob!

[have a before & after you’d like to share on d*s? just shoot me an email right here with your images!]


CLICK HERE for agnes’ french cabinet makeover (i love chicken wire in furniture) after the jump!

our second cabinet makeover comes from french blogger agnès. i love the way she changed this cabinet using paint and a little chicken wire. i’ve been sort of obsessed with adding chicken wire to something lately and this is such a great example. click here for more details from agnès.


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  • Beautiful transformations! Neutral color palettes contain as much variations and richness as fully saturated colors – these two are perfect examples of that.

  • I think it might be Silver Screen – I had my bedroom painted that color and in sunlight it has a slight lavender cast. In incandescent light it is a true light grey color.

  • Great makeovers. I’m sitting on a couple of treasures that need the same TLC. Especially love the credenza paint color paired with shiny brass.

  • These are both fantabulous makeovers…I am so inspired now to run home early from work and start re-doing my furniture! I love the color choices too–way awesome!

  • I think I will have to stop reading D*S before and afters. While I used to love them, there is just oo much being made of people painting wood and saying its a good thing. I think the wood in both of these before shots looks beautiful. of course, it is only a photograph, so i cant tell if it is in good condition, but i would just like people to check the condition of the wood before they paint. if it IS really beautiful wood, leave it alone! but hey, if its just cheap wood or in a really bad way that it can’t be restored, go for your life with the paint. it just makes me sad seeing beautiful wooden pieces painted over. while the end result in both of these is nice, i just wonder at what has been lost.

    • alison

      i understand your concern about wood- and we’re actually planning a project on educating people about the quality of found pieces. that said, i’ll try to make it clearer when speaking with readers if they knew the quality of wood in their pieces (and include that in the posts).

      but it’s good to remember that not every mid-century looking piece is solid wood, or even wood veneer worth keeping. i think sometimes people assume wood is sacred and shouldn’t’ be painted, but sometimes it’s veneer, or rotted, or poorly constructed.


  • Also keep in mind that this piece of furniture belongs to *someone else* — and they may not like the look of the natural wood! It’s a matter of taste, really, and if the owners want to paint it…well, they should!

  • hi Grace, thanks for the reply.
    Caroline, I totally understand that it’s their piece of furniture and they can do what they want with it. Maybe its just that i never see beautiful furniture like this for sale for cheap and that it pains me to see it all painted over instead of restored, or even an attempt at restoration. If they don’t like the look of the natural wood and it is good quality wood, then why buy it and ruin it? again, if its in a bad state – rotting, crap veneer, etc – then i agree with you, go for it, but if not, i dont really see the point in ruining its original integrity.
    thanks Grace, I hope people will take notice of your post about quality of found wood, maybe we will start to see B&A’s where people get inventive with natural wood rather than just painting over it :)

    • alison

      i agree- it’s lovely to see people work with natural wood that’s in good condition, or of a high quality.

      that said, much of the wood you see in our b&a’s is veneer, in poor quality and rotting- hence the major redos. i wouldn’t assume that all the wood on here is high quality and everyone’s decided to ruin it with a coat of paint.

      the b&a’s we run are the most “responsible” ones i come across- you’d be surprised to see how many i don’t post that involve much higher quality “found” items. those are the ones i don’t feel right posting because i agree that a high quality item has been muddled by paint, wallpaper, etc.

      in terms of finding furniture like this for a low price, check out estate sales, ebay, craigslist, yard sales, etc. most of the people sending in pieces like this aren’t in huge cities, so they’re working with a much more affordable furniture market. i found my cool looking, but relatively low quality (ie: all veneer, factory made) mid century credenza on ebay for $75 and drove to a warehouse outside of philly to pick it up. deals exist, they’re just easier to find outside of big cities.


  • Hi Grace,
    thanks for the reply.
    I don’t actually look at other B&A’s apart from ikea hacks, which doesnt really count hehe, so yes i appreciate that time is taken to assess good from back redo’s. as i said, just want people to think more about what they are doing with the wood.

    cheers for the info, but i dont live in the US, and mid-century furniture like the stuff you show on here, and indeed the sideboard in the first piece, i have found is either extremely expensive, or doesnt exist over here… ergo my being sad when something i cant even get my hands on is transformed. sigh.

    thanks again :) its nice to know the mods listen and take the time to reply!

    • alison

      are you in europe, australia or canada? if so i might be able to help you find some resources. i know ebay in the uk is great- one my favorite pieces like this was a piece abigail percy got for practically nothing on ebay uk.

      drop me an email and i’ll help as much as i can to find some local resources for you:)

      grace (designsponge at gmail dot com)

  • Really very sweet of you Grace to take your time to explain the basics of B/A. I am sure you are hoping that this will put an end to the complaining about painting wood. Furniture that was bought, found, inherited, looked at for many years can easily be painted and stripped or visa versa. These are fresh examples of giving life to neglected pieces! A simple really nice job goes a long way instead of the whoas me I know nothing of the condition and I can’t find anything to paint. Oh and Grace – Canada is the land of second hand stores and free signs on discarded furniture so no way can Alison be Canadian!

  • grace,
    After reading all the comments about to paint or not to paint, I am at a stand still. I have a curio cabinet that I bought at good will and I was thinking of painting it. But the more I inspect it the sadder I feel about painting it cause the wood looks like it might be good. SO, how can I tell? I know you said you were starting a section on that but I am curious cause I was just stepping out the door for paint when I read this.

  • @Lisa, no Alison is not Canadian… Australian. I don’t know whether Australia had so much mid century furniture here to begin with or what, but the places i know that actually sell it, plus ebay and other online sites, just seem to be really expensive. maybe i am just not looking in the right places… like a sideboard for approx $50 aud like that first one is awesome!

    thanks for the offer Grace. I am currently not in the market for more furniture, but I really appreciate the offer of help.

    @Mary – thankyou. this is exactly why i decided to voice my concerns despite knowing it might cause a few ruffled feathers. Just to think about it, and maybe inspect the furniture more, is all I can ask for. That is exactly the reason why I have become an un-painted wood fan – I bought a chair that i had planned to paint, but the owner told me it was walnut and when i looked closely at it, the pattern of the woodgrain was so lovely that I couldn’t do it.

    thanks again :)

  • Grace I’m also in Australia (Melbourne specifically) and like Alison am curious about local sources. I’ve always hoped that you would do a Melbourne city guide. Fingers crossed!

  • Sorry just noticed you have a Melbourne city guide — I guess just sources around here that don’t cost a fortune. I do love the Camberwell Market though :)

  • Again the discussion on before/after arrives at personal taste. It is a shame that “wood purists” would like to dissuade others from finding joy in the refurbishment of their belongings. I have no problem with painting an item even if it is made of good wood if it enhances the object. Obviously these examples have benefited from the change. Not only that but their owners have found a new love for these items. There is nothing more depressing than an old dark cabinet in which you cannot see the objects on display. Please, whatever your opinion lets not allow a “snobbery” or moral attitude about the painting of wood items ruin the fun! MORE PAINT!! If you don’t like before and afters then please stop reading, I feel Grace is very responsible in her choices and hate to see her have to defend these choices time and again… I look forward to each before and after segment, LOVE IT!

  • I think anyone should be able to buy anything, and do what they want to make it their taste. Who am I to say what someone could do with something they buy? Yes, good wood is beautiful. And, there is a place for it. But there is nothing like “redoing”, “refinishing”, “re-painting” a piece and making it your own. I love wood. But I also love paint. Am I doing the wood an injustice? I don’t think so. I’m loving it and isn’t that what really matters?

  • Grace, love your site! Gives me the itch to refurbish something! I have an old teacher’s desk I want to repaint blue (sorry Alison!!) and I would love to add brass pulls like pictured in this dresser. I’ve searched the internet but I’m having a hard time finding pulls like this. Any suggestions? (they are 3.5″ btw). thanks!!

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