Someday, I'll have my dream kitchen - with plenty of cupboards, a 6 burner gas stove, double ovens, large counter tops and a walk in pantry. Until then, my small apartment kitchen will have to suffice. One wall of "kitchen" containing all appliances & cupboards is NOT enough for someone who loves to bake (& loves to collect new gadgets - even if they are only used a few times a year!)
A few months ago, my husband called me from work to tell me that his lab was throwing out some nearly new glass front cabinets. Since they were going to end up in the trash soon, and are solid wood, we decided we'd take them home. While they provide lots of storage, I wasn't a fan of the honey oak color they were originally, so we spent lots of time (but not much money) refinishing these cabinets. They are now a deep brown color, close to much of the other shelves we've bought for our apartment.
BEFORE: (These are not the exact cabinets, but very similar ones from lab. Don't worry, the ones we have also only stored glassware!)
I LOVED they way they turned out - my only thought is that I may frost the glass in the doors. While I like the look of the glasses inside, there are a few scratches on the glass, and the perfectionist in me thinks that frosting the glass (with the spray paint frosting) may cover it up.
An overview of the technique I used.
1) Sand everything down! We thoroughly sanded these because we initially thought we were going to stain the wood. We sanded down to the bare wood. However, the shelves inside were veneered (while the outside is solid oak), and they didn't pick up the same quite the same as the exterior.
2) Glazing! Instead of staining, we decided to glaze the wood. The finish is actually very similar to most of the other products we've bought for our apartment, so we are quite happy with the results. We mixed 1 part paint (I can't help with the name of the color - I bought it off of the "Oops" rack at Home Depot for only $5 for a gallon - we have plenty left for more projects) with 4 parts of glaze. (I used Behr brand because that's what Home Depot carried).
Mix these well, and dry brush the glaze onto the cabinets. We used pretty good brushes, but nothing too expensive. Put very small amounts of paint onto the brush, and spread the glaze as far as it will go, so it's a sheer coating on the wood. Let dry & recoat 2-3 more times. (I did 3 coats total, letting them dry anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 day in between).
I was personally quite surprised at how much of the wood grain showed through the paint/glaze mixture - as well as the texture of the wood.
3) Seal - Since the glaze & paint were latex, I couldn't use the polyacrylic I had in my storage unit as it was oil based. I wanted something quick (we were getting very close to our deadline of hosting a BBQ, so we had to get these finished!), so I wanted a sprayable clear coat. The bargain shopper I try to be, I found Rustoleum Spray Lacquer (clear). Minwax also makes a spray-on lacquer, but costs twice as much per can as the Rustoleum option. If you want to go the Rustoleum route - it is by the spray paint - NOT by the stains & other woodworking finishes. I used 4 cans to coat the outsides & insides (& shelves) of two cabinets. It gave the perfect amount of shine as the glaze/paint mix was flat (I used a flat paint).
4) Finishing touches - Of course, we had to upgrade from the cheap plastic black handles on the original cabinets. We found these sleek handles on eBay for about $3 each with shipping (and in the odd size that we needed). Much more affordable than in stores!