Monday, September 9, 2013

A New Home for My Granny's China

The china cabinet. This has easily been one of my favorite projects we have ever done. Not only because the outcome came out much better than I could have imagined, but because this cabinet holds one of my most special possessions- my Granny's china.

I was only two when my great grandmother passed away, so I don't have any memories of her, but I've heard countless stories from my mom and have looked through several photo albums growing up so in a sense I feel like I know her in some way... or at least I like to imagine what it would have been like to know her...

Granny with her 1960s style

I believe my Granny received her china when she got married in the 20s. My grandma then held on to it for some years and eventually passed it down to Aunt Teri, my Godmother, when I was a girl. We traveled every year to visit my aunt and uncle in Georgia, and my Aunt Teri would mention several times that I would be the next to have that china in my own home one day. It was displayed in her dining room and I always thought they were the most beautiful dishes I had ever seen. It was so fun to imagine myself using it for all of those 'grown up' dinner parties and family holidays once I was married and a mom of my own. However, I always assumed I would be getting this china when I was much older. So, it was definitely a huge surprise when my aunt called me during those months of wedding planning to see if we would like to have it now. It was- without a doubt- one of the best gifts I have ever received.

Now, if anyone knows me well, you're probably aware that I have a love for anything gold. I always have. I may be a bit partial, but had I seen this china anywhere else, it would have been the first thing I would have chosen. I like to think my Granny and I must have had the same taste... or maybe that is wishful thinking.  I think it's perfect...  and I also think it deserves to be shown. Even though I had no china cabinet to display it in (and there were still wedding presents lined up waiting to be unpacked), there was no way this china was going to be boxed up and put in storage.  Once the wedding stuff died down, Nathan and I took a weekend trip down to Georgia to pick everything up and haul it back to Louisville (very carefully).  So, before we even got in the car to head south, I was already browsing countless Craigslist ads looking for the perfect piece to makeover. As I've said before, budget is always priority. Who has time for full price?

It took some searching by the both of us, but Nathan finally came across a potential piece on Craigslist. It was exactly what I was looking for. He had some doubt when we went to see it in person, but I knew right away that it was the perfect size, had plenty of character, and showed a ton of potential. So 24 hours after we got back from Georgia, we purchased it for about $90.00. (I think it was originally $100, but Nathan was able to negotiate. I am never in charge of negotiating... knowing me I would have somehow paid more than what it was listed. World's worst.) I made the mistake of not taking any of my own before pictures of the cabinet. I must have been too excited to get the project started that it just slipped my mind. The only picture I have is the one from the ad that I thankfully saved on my phone. Even though it's an awful quality, I think you can get the idea....

Please blame the Craigslist seller for this awful picture...
OK I blame myself for not taking one.

We have limited wall space on our first floor due to an open floor plan, so size was definitely a factor when searching for a cabinet. I was actually looking for more of a curio style instead of a larger standard china cabinet so it could fit a small wall in our dining area. I knew I wouldn't be able to display all of the pieces, but as long as I could have room to provide a nice mix, I would be happy. I was also looking for a cabinet with lower closed storage so the piece felt a bit more substantial. I think an all glass cabinet would make me too nervous and tend to look too fragile in the space. The cabinet we found was a very dark (and cheaper) wood. It wasn't the highest quality, so I didn't feel bad at all with my plan of painting it (white of course). It originally had wood shelving and an old yellow light bulb at the top that lit the inside. The wood shelving didn't allow any of the light to shine through the cabinet, so we knew we would be switching those out for glass. One of my favorite features was the curved glass doors- it was definitely an added bonus and gave us more room to display the china inside.

The first thing we did was unscrew the doors and carefully remove the curved glass from the frames. We also took off the old hardware that was a little too 60s for what I was going for (However, I did keep all of it because you never know where you can use that stuff next.) We then wiped it down with soap and water... not surprisingly my least favorite part. Ughh grossness! (I'm weird about things... Don't get me started on bathrooms.) We were then ready to break out the primer. We had a can of Zinser primer on hand, so there was no need to get any extra supplies that night. We did 2 coats of primer and then (im)patiently waited to start painting the next day.

Primed and ready to go! And now we wait.....
The next day we went to Lowe's so I could search for a 'clean white' paint. After looking for more than what Nathan thought was normal (poor guy), I found the right white. Low and behold it was called Clean White by Valspar. Meant to be! I feel like there are so many whites to choose from and they can all look different in so many spaces, but this one seems to stay consistent and I plan to use it for some more projects. Basically, it's not too warm and not too cool. We ended up applying 3 coats of the paint- I wanted to stop at two because of my project impatience, but Nathan convinced me it needed another. That third coat definitely gave it a finished look. He's usually right....
'Clean White' by Valspar.

I had been wanting to try out some stenciling for a while and thought this could be a perfect opportunity to test it out... especially since it was in a small dose. If we didn't like it, we could just paint over it and all would be fine. I had been looking at stencils online here, but I didn't want to spend that much money on something I wasn't sure would work out. While I was at Hobby Lobby (I'm there a lot), I came across the exact stencil I had in mind for a much lower price. The scaling was also perfect for the back of the cabinet. I picked it up along with some gold craft paint and a stencil roller and got to work.

So here comes a minor design disaster... Right away, I broke out all of the supplies and got moving. The template fit perfectly inside the cabinet (although it's easily cuttable with a scissors if you need a custom size.) I then started rolling the paint on to the stencil that I placed on top of the back panel. (Note- to avoid stenciling vertically, we laid the cabinet on its back on the floor. This made things much easier.) I didn't read ANY directions and didn't take time to check out any tutorials.... so when I pulled up the stencil, my lack of experience definitely showed. It was a globby (is that a word?) mess and the paint was so light that it wasn't even close to the contrast I was looking for. I knew that the paint I selected wasn't going to work, so I didn't even bother to read directions and try again. I wiped up the globs... which led to another coat of primer and then another coat of the white paint.... Not fun at all. I also didn't have any desire to take pictures of the mess because I was so frustrated. Next time I plan to take pictures in my project failed rage.... don't worry.

About to give it a go... About to unknowingly fail!

Not wanting to wait any longer, the next day I picked up some gold spray paint and figured we would give it a go. I don't think the stencil packaging recommended spray painting at all, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try. (Spray paint. Fixes. Everything.) While it definitely required the two of us, we taped down the stencil and then covered the rest of the cabinet with paper and plastic to prevent the paint from getting anywhere.

No looking back now!

Nathan- and his patience- slowly sprayed the paint on the stencil and after about 30 seconds we pulled it up to reveal exactly what I had in mind. The spray paint was the perfect solution and I was able to get the contrast that I was looking for. It also dried right away and didn't leave the goopy mess that the craft paint did. We have a winner, folks!


We then moved it down and repeated the steps to finish the back panel. This was a much easier and better result than my original plan, but if you end up spray painting remember that more than one person is probably needed. We also made the mistake of spray painting in our back room... We may or may not have been a little lightheaded after 20 minutes.... Next time we will take it outside!

Tape... Paint... Repeat

Once everything was dry, we inserted the glass back into the painted door frames and attached them back onto the cabinet. We did the same with the bottom storage door.

The glass was just held in like a picture frame so it was easy to reinsert.

I was able to pick up some small clear knobs from Hobby Lobby for about a dollar a piece. The new hardware is a welcome difference from what was originally on the piece....

Hobby Lobby also never fails.
Finally, we already had some glass leftover from the old kitchen, so Nathan cut the shelves to size with a glass cutter... Have you ever used one of those things before? It's the simplest tool, and you can get great results. I guess I've been living under a rock! Anticipating the glass shelves to be the hardest part, I was shocked at how easy they were to cut. If we hadn't had any glass already available, we planned on just picking some up at Lowe's. (Or Home Depot... or local... whatever your preference!)

We installed some wood on the sides 
before painting so the glass could easily rest.
Once the glass was in place, we got a new light bulb to insert into the top of the existing fixture. Surprisingly, all of the wiring was in good shape and there was no need to do any fixing. Nathan also wanted the cabinet to be secure since we walk by it so often, so he anchored it to the wall with a screw and some metal wiring. It's good to have an engineering brain at work....

And here it is ready to house the china....

Ready to go in all of its 'clean white' glory...
There were a few areas that were blurry from the spray paint,
so I just went back in with white paint and touched up with a small paint brush.


I spy our neighbor's siding....

And now the best part... displaying the china! Things like this really excite me. I had so much fun styling it in different ways, but I ended up thinking less was more. I was also able to include some wedding gifts we received including a beautiful bowl and some of our new wine glasses. It's a small space, but this tiny cabinet holds a meaningful collection of items that I will always love. I think in our next house, I will have to makeover a larger cabinet so it can all be on display. More projects! Wooo!

Finished product.

I feel like I want to host Thanksgiving now...or maybe not.
I'm so happy and eternally thankful that I have these pieces in our home.... It's so cool to think about the different generations in my family that have used this throughout the years. But just thinking about all of the many holiday dinners and (traditional Christmas breakfasts) that they'll eventually be a part of is an even greater feeling. I hope when I pass this china down the female line one day, it will be appreciated and cared for with as much love as I've already come to have for it.... but God willing they like gold ;)
Hope my Granny would be proud!




  1. The china set is GORGEOUS! The work you did with the cabinet is amazing, I love it! Your grandma will be so proud of you!

  2. It's a beautiful china set! Love the gold. And I love the cabinet that you fixed up! It's perfect to house the china! Great job!

  3. I LOVE your Granny's china, and you did a beautiful job on the cabinet!

    1. Thank you! It's one of my favorite projects we've done. Now I just need to cook a good meal so I can use the china :)

  4. The China is beautiful! And the, it's stunning!!! I love the gold stencil you chose. It compliments so nicely. Thank you for talking about the fail....I never would have thought of the spray paint, and I love the high contrast. Well done!!

  5. Did you know you can shorten your urls with AdFly and get $$$ from every visit to your short links.