How to transform an antique radio cabinet into the perfect storage piece by removing the radio and replacing it with shelves. Then, paint the cabinet for a total makeover.
I know ya’ll remember this vintage radio cabinet. It was at a local flea market shop and I passed on it because of the condition and the price. The price was $60 and the cabinet was in terrible condition. I was really torn about passing on it.
Several of you suggested offering less money for the cabinet. The comments were running close to 50/50 leaning slightly toward buying, but at a lower price.
How To Transform An Antique Radio Cabinet Into A Storage Piece
I went back to the shop and was glad to see the cabinet was still there. It was a mess but it was still calling my name. I was planning to offer $40 for the cabinet. But guess what?? There was a 30% off sign on the vendor’s booth. The sale price of the radio was $42……sold.
There was a lot of missing veneer and the top was a disaster plus the base and legs were falling apart. The JTS and I will have to take the radio out and do a major overhaul if this piece is going to look like anything.
Make any Necessary Repairs to the Radio Cabinet
We hauled the cabinet home and the first thing the JTS (aka Junktion Technical Specialist, aka Hubby) started to work. The first thing he did was remove the base and start gluing the legs and joints back together.
The top of the base was coming apart as was the bottom, and the legs were all wobbly. I’m surprised the cabinet didn’t fall over. That’s how bad it was.
Hubby used a lot of glue and clamps and straps to hold all of the pieces together. He's good at this stuff and I have no patience for it. I hate the gluing part because it slows me down. I just want to start painting but can't always do that right away although sometimes I try.
Remove the Radio from the Cabinet
Next, we started removing all of the insides. Finding the screws and bolts holding everything in place and figuring out how to proceed was half the battle.
Even though I've painted several of the radio cabinets this is the first one I purchased with the radio still inside. Don’t worry, I’m saving the good parts of the radio. Who knows what I might do with them?
Removing that shelf was the hardest part. We used crowbars and hammers and took turns working on it. The shelf was tightly wedged into the slots on the walls of the cabinet.
I'm surprised we didn't tear the whole cabinet apart between all the hammering and prying with the crowbars.
The never-ending story of removing the radio parts continues. I'm ready to get on with the most important part.....the painting.
Once the cabinet was empty and the glue was dry on the base we put the two pieces back together.
Clean the Wood Cabinet
The cabinet was really really dirty and the clean up has to be done before painting can start. The JTS is awesome. Have you guys noticed that? I should be nicer to him.
The original back was missing so the JTS cut a new back for the piece from a sheet of luan. Then he attached the back using a nail gun.
Seems like the repairs are never-ending. One of the doors was coming apart so out came the wood glue and clamps again. See my feet….I was there….taking photos.
Add Shelves to Antique Radio Cabinet
As you can see the cabinet now has shelves. I didn't get photos of the JTS cutting the shelves and installing them. Sorry. He put the shelves in before attaching the new back.
The radio cabinet is actually pretty now compared to what it looked like before. All of the carved details make it beautiful!
Now it's time to move on to the painting after a few more repairs....
Paint the Inside of the Cabinet
There was a lot of missing and loose veneer. Instead of stripping all the veneer I glued the loose pieces and didn’t worry about the missing pieces. The areas with the chipped veneer will look great painted and distressed.
The top had no veneer at all and big gouges in the wood. The JTS filled the worst parts with wood filler. Now the cabinet was finally ready to paint. I used Off-White Beyond Paint on the shelves and interior walls.
I didn’t notice the loose and gaping veneer pieces on the front of the doors until I was painting the inside of the cabinet. I used wood glue and clamps to take care of the worst areas.
Use Painter's Tape Where Needed
Before painting the outside of the cabinet I used FrogTape to protect the white paint inside. Didn’t want gray on the white. My first plan was to paint the doors white and the rest of the piece gray.
Paint The Cabinet
The paint I chose for the makeover is Benjamin Moore and the color is Gray, yes it's simply called Gray. It's a beautiful color and the paint covers well.
I used FrogTape around the outer edges of the doors too to keep from getting white paint on the gray paint. I painted the doors with off-white Beyond Paint like the inside.
Next, I dry-brushed off-white paint onto the gray. All it takes is a dab of paint for dry brushing.
I dipped the brush bristles into the paint and then wiped most of the paint off the brush with a paper towel. Then I ran the brush over the raised details. This is how you dry brush paint onto anything.
Once all the paint was dry I distressed the whole cabinet by hand using 100-grit sandpaper.
This is what the radio cabinet looked like after all the painting and the distressing. I kept looking at the piece and kept having doubts about the look. I showed the above photo to Sara at the shop and she said the white looked like a tombstone. That did it for me.
So, I started painting again.
I painted the gray color over the white and then painted gray over some of the dry-brushed white areas because there was too much white. Then I distressed the whole cabinet again.
When I was trying to decide on the paper for the interior I noticed how the white paint on the front edges of the shelves popped out at me. So I painted the edges gray then I covered the shelves with an old calendar. You can use anything as shelf paper.
The cabinet now has a lot of storage space for everything from linens to dishes or leave the cabinet doors open and display a few of your favorite things.
That's the whole story, Ladies and Gentlemen. What do you think of the finished look?
Sometimes my first plan, second plan, and sometimes third plans don’t work. So, let me tell you....... when working on a project don't hesitate to change plans if you don't like what's happening or if you come up with a better idea! As always thanks for being here, Kathy
Author: Kathy Owen (Petticoat Junktion)
Kathy is the founder of PetticoatJunktion.com, a home décor blog focused on repurposing and upcycling furniture, old hardware, rusty stuff, and thrifty finds into unique home décor. Kathy’s projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Read more about Kathy here.