Repurpose an old wardrobe into a display unit

Project Overview

Past its use-by date, an antique wardrobe sheds its dusty old doors to be repurposed as a pretty and functional display unit.

Our love of built-ins makes an old freestanding wardrobe a bit redundant, but this solid timber piece had a charm worth preserving. By removing the doors and original hardware and installing shelves, it’s been transformed into a light and airy display cabinet, ideal for storing linens. 

The transformed unit is finished in velvety-smooth chalk paint – white on the outside, with a contrasting grey on the interior – which lightened the previously dark timber, giving it a beautifully touchable texture.

Photo credit: Natasha Dickins & Cath Muscat.

Continue to step-by-step instructions

Step by Step Instructions

1 Remove doors, hinges, drawers and rails
2 Sand surfaces, inside and out
3 A splash of paint
4 Fill and smoothen
5 Mark shelve spaces
6 Attach the brackets
7 Attach your new handles
  • Step 1. Remove doors, hinges, drawers and rails

    Use a small screwdriver to remove the doors and hinges, drawers and hardware such as the hanging rail. Check the structure of the wardrobe for stability – this wardrobe required a couple of nails to reattach some trim.
  • Step 2. Sand surfaces, inside and out

    Using a random orbital sander with 180-grit abrasive paper, sand all surfaces, inside and out. Use a sanding block for hard-to-reach areas.

    Tip: The paint we used has a built-in primer so the varnish doesn’t have to be removed completely. Simply sand all over to roughen the surfaces so paint adheres.

  • Step 3. A splash of paint

    Apply the first coat of paint with a mini roller, painting outside first and working down from the top to avoid drips. Use a different tray and roller for the contrasting colour, sealing the rollers with plastic wrap between coats.

    Tip: Applying the first coat of chalk paint makes scratches, dents and holes more visible so you can smooth over them with timber filler. Sand, then apply the second coat of paint.

  • Step 4. Fill and smoothen

    Use the supplied spatula to fill scratches, dents and screw holes with filler, leaving it to dry before sanding smooth with the sanding block. Apply a second and third coat of paint if needed, finishing with a protective top coat.
  • Step 5. Mark shelve spaces

    On the outsides from base up, measure and mark points 350mm apart, or divide space by four to have three evenly spaced shelves. For each, mark points 50mm and 240mm from back of robe to drill 30mm screws, so tips protrude inside by 2-3mm.
  • Step 6. Attach the brackets

    Inside the robe, mark 20mm down from each screw tip, then attach one pine bracket at a time. Position base of bracket on the marks and against the back of the robe then push it onto the tips and complete driving the screws from the outside.

    Tip: Measure the inside width of your robe, then subtract 10mm for the length of your shelves so there’s room to manoeuvre them onto the pine brackets. To install, move them into the robe diagonally, working down from the top.

  • Step 7. Attach your new handles

    Measure the width inside the robe and subtract 10mm to cut the hevea panels with a mitre or handsaw, then paint. Tap screw caps onto screws with hammer. Measure out the position of the new handles and attach with the supplied screws. 

    Safety tip: Attach L brackets to the back of the robe and secure to the wall with appropriate fasteners


Tools and Materials

Tools

  • Compound mitre saw or handsaw
  • Drill with driver bit
  • Framing square
  • Hammer
  • Measuring tape
  • Random orbital sander with 180-grit sanding disc
  • Small screwdrivers
  • Three microfibre mini rollers with trays

Materials

  • 1.8m length of 42mm x 19mm DAR pine, cut to six lengths to the depth of your cabinet
  • 30mm bugle-head screws
  • Interior small cracks filler, 330ml
  • Press-in screw caps in white
  • Rust-Oleum Chalked protective topcoat in Matt Clear
  • Rust-Oleum Chalked ultra matte paint in Aged Grey
  • Rust-Oleum Chalked ultra matte paint in Linen White
  • Safety equipment
  • Sanding block with 180-grit sandpaper
  • Small bullet-head nails
  • Three 1200mm x 300mm x 18mm hevea panels
  • Two knobs
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