How I Made A Cocktail Cabinet…

transform vintage cupboard into cocktail cabinet

I’m giving myself a little artistic license here because I didn’t actually “make” a cocktail cabinet, rather I transformed a vintage dresser into the perfect place for glassware and bottles.

For as long as I’ve been a homeowner, I’ve enjoyed upcycling furniture.  There’s something immensely satisfying about giving a tired cupboard or a battered chair a makeover. It results in a unique, bespoke item that is, absolutely, fit for purpose.

This dresser belonged to my brother and sister-in-law. They bought it at an antiques market and planned to repaint it. However, life, (and a move to New Zealand), got in the way so I offered to rehome it. I’d always loved it and I knew it would make THE perfect cocktail cabinet.

transform vintage cupboard into cocktail cabinet

transform a dresser into a cocktail cabinet

Might Contain Lead

The dresser was structurally sound so the transformation is only skin-deep. I removed the doors and drawers and sanded it down. An important point to bear in mind is that lead-based paint was only banned for household use in 1978. Anything painted before that might contain lead. A quick search online suggests that it is safe to paint over lead-based paint so long as it isn’t chipped, damaged or bubbling.

The paint was intact so I knew it would be safe to paint over. However, it was glossy and the new paint (an eggshell finish), just sat on the surface. I decided to give it a very gentle sanding. I used an electric sander, (because my dad, a man of many gadgets, had a spare one that he donated to me). To minimise the chance of inhaling any dust, I did it outside and wore a mask. The electric sander was much quicker than a manual method and a lot more fun. But more importantly, it enabled me to do it at arms’ length. I’d have had to get much closer to it if I’d done it by hand.

The varnish on the drawer and door handles was darker than the rest of the wood in my kitchen, so I ran the electric sander over to see what lay beneath. The handles’ natural colour was perfect, but if it hadn’t been, I’d have painted or sprayed them to suit.

I chose the paint to tone in with other furniture and accents in the kitchen. (It’s a Dulux colour, Sea Urchin 2, but I got it mixed at B&Q simply because I had the swatch with me and the Dulux wasn’t available). sea green paintI painted it outdoors too, left it overnight to dry and gave it a second coat a day later.

creating a cocktail cabinet

I decided not to replace the glass doors because I like open shelving. Not only that, I wanted to make a feature of the monstera wallpaper. To finish, I cleaned the metalware with Brasso then put it all back together.

Cocktail cabinet makeover with monstera wallpaper

transform vintage cupboard into cocktail cabinet

transform vintage cupboard into cocktail cabinet

Does Contain Alcohol

I have acquired a small collection of gin over the last year or so. Gin bottles are often very aesthetically pleasing and I enjoy looking at them. This doesn’t mean I sit staring at bottles of alcohol, (although I can’t deny that completely. It has been known). What I mean is that the visual aspect is an important part of the experience. I wanted the inside of my cocktail cabinet to be as appealing as the outside.

transform vintage cupboard into cocktail cabinet

transform vintage cupboard into cocktail cabinet

I’m thrilled with the end result. It took around eight hours in total and, (fortunately, because I don’t possess any), it required no artistic skills.  The whole makeover cost less than £50 and I now have a piece of furniture that is stylish, unique and functional.

make a cocktail cabinet from a mid-century piece of furniture

I’m sorry that the photographs aren’t top quality; I didn’t plan to write a blog post about my cocktail cabinet or I’d have used my camera and ensured the lighting was better. I was taking photos along the way with my phone to show my brother and sister-in-law on our family chat. However, I’m so happy with the outcome that I decided to share.

Have a lovely May Bank Holiday weekend. More DIY for me. I’m giving my bedroom and dressing room a makeover with a coat of paint and a few pieces of new furniture. Enjoy whatever you’re doing.



  1. Rosemary
    May 5, 2019 / 4:15 pm

    Great to see the whole cabinet Liz … I was wondering what it looked like. You’ve made this seem so easy! I definitely think you have DIY talents!! As I said on IG, chic yet practical! 😃 it’s amazing what can be achieved with upcycling! Over 30 years ago I painted a child’s wardrobe for my daughter that was already almost 20 years old Now my son in law is in the process of re painting it pale grey with Annie Sloan paint, replacing handles etc, for their daughter!!

    • elizabeth
      May 15, 2019 / 11:54 am

      Thank you so much Rosemary. I do enjoy upcycling and I like the fact that it doesn’t matter too much if it isn’t pristine! And how lovely you have had that wardrobe in the family for so long. As much as I enjoy flat-pack furniture, it’s lovely to transform a much-loved piece xxx

  2. May 10, 2019 / 8:51 pm

    Gosh I’m totally in awe of what you did here Liz. Really impressive transformation, from the colour choice to wallpaper backing and the decision to not replace the glass. All incredibly stylish and clever, 10 out of 10 babe xx

    • elizabeth
      May 15, 2019 / 11:49 am

      Oh thank you Michelle. I’m so pleased with it. It’s something different and it makes me smile. It’s useful too and has freed up some other cupboard space xxx

  3. May 24, 2019 / 11:06 am

    I’m dying over how much gin you have, LOL!!!!!! They’ve been housed in a VERY stylish cabinet – what a transformation! I love a good household item upcycle, and you’ve done the 1950s(?) proud with how beautifully you’ve brought this back to life. Funny, we had a cabinet which I reckon was identical in the cottage I lived in when I was a student – it was pale yellow as many of them were and our only worktop in the whole kitchen was the pull down front. Good times, sort of!

    Well done Mrs Clever Clogs, I love it!

    Catherine x

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