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Amazing DIY China Cabinet Makeover (in White & French Blue!)

steps to update an old hutch

How to Repurpose an Old China Cabinet with Before and After Photos

Is a brand new china cabinet way out of your price range?   Doing your own china cabinet makeover allows you to incorporate your personal style while also saving you a ton of money!  Here are 7 steps to update an old hutch or china cabinet with a little encouragement along the way.

How to Update an Old China Cabinet

On the way home one night, I saw a very tall, almost ominous, object on the curb of a neighbor’s house.  In my rearview mirror, I realized it was a huge piece of furniture that would get picked up by the trash truck the next morning.  

It had been a long day…  I had been at the hospital with my mom who just had her second round of chemo.  We were almost home, but I knew I needed another look.

We circled around to find a dingy oak china cabinet.  Several of the doors were broken, it was dirty and even had water damage at the bottom.  Despite its orange stain, outdated molding, and horrible smell, I saw potential in that old piece.   It was just begging me to take it home and make it new again.

More than Just Repurposing a China Hutch

So, I did what any good Southern girl without a truck would do…I called my daddy!  I think he was relieved to have a mental break from my mom’s illness (she is now fine by the way!!!) and somehow my husband and dad wielded the six-foot monstrosity into our garage that night.

I was determined to save it from its ‘impending doom’ upon trash pickup the next morning.  Of course, everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to save it, but it already had a place in my home…and heart.

steps to update an old hutch

Let the China Cabinet Makeover Begin

So the process started…

I surveyed the damage, dusted it off, and cleaned it up.  I was even lucky enough to find an old mousetrap in the top (fortunately it was empty).  My dad rebuilt the broken doors at the bottom, I ripped off some of the molding to replace with new and I restored one of the shelves inside.

It had a musty odor which I was able to get rid of with some tips here: How to Destank Old Furniture

After some sanding, a layer of heavy-duty primer, a coat of paint, and a little caulk, it now sits in my dining room as a permanent fixture in our home.

After 12 years of marriage, I’ve never had a china cabinet before and I am so pleased with how it turned out.  Finally, I could unpack all of our wedding crystal and china.  It still brings me joy to think about its transformation.

Steps to Update an Old Hutch

Renovated Thinking:

More than a fun project, the china cabinet serves as a reminder of how far I have come. 

In the same way, God also saw me in the darkness.  He saw that I was dirty, broken, and in a state of disrepair.  But that didn’t stop Him.

God never needs to take a second glance at your brokenness because He has never taken His eyes off you since the beginning.

Through no effort of my own, He delivered me from my sin and certain destruction through Christ’s death and resurrection.  Upon accepting Christ as my Savior, my eternal status is secure with Him and I have a permanent place in His heart and home.

Now, He is “renovating” me to be more and more like Him every day.

God has had to clean me up, release me from my baggage, repair my brokenness and He continues sanding my rough edges to make them smooth.  Fortunately, God never leaves a project half-done…He continually works on each one of us, shaping us to be a useful tool for Him to use. 

That’s what the Christian life is.  It is a process of transformation that can only be done by His Hands.  We all have areas where we need work – whether it is anxiety, overeating, insecurity, or pride.  The world never gives our brokenness a second look.

However, God wants to renovate our hearts and minds by taking our brokenness and turning it into something beautiful.

god transforms brokenness

Sleek, new furniture pieces sit on the showroom floor to absorb the attention of potential buyers, but it’s the broken furniture on the side of the road that will never catch a second glance.  Fortunately, brokenness is not something God rejects but embraces so He can make us whole and new again.

What I had realized in this china cabinet transformation is how God uses our brokenness to do His very best work.

Most home improvement projects are messy and can take longer than we previously thought.  You might even uncover issues that you weren’t previously aware of and you may need to make several calls for help.   However, at the end of the project, the results are breath-taking and the struggle is behind you.  You have replaced this hang-up with new habits and the results are amazing. 

And like most renovation projects, you might even ask yourself “Why didn’t I tackle this sooner?”

For this reason, I have entitled the blog Renovated Faith…

The Lord wants to help you take off your old self and put on your new self.

You take off the lies and put on the truth.

You take off your cultural perspective and put on a biblical perspective.

You might take off what you learned growing up and put on what the Bible says about your situation.

Once you come to know Christ as your Savior, that is just the beginning.  You have a whole new life ahead of you.  God still has a lot of refinishing work to do on me and I invite you to join me on this journey as He gives us a makeover from the inside out.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19

steps to update an old hutch

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How to Refinish a Hutch or China Cabinet

Now that I’ve shared a little bit about what this china cabinet means to me and what it symbolizes, I want to share with you the process so you can enjoy your own furniture transformation.  I shopped around and the china cabinets I saw were over $1000 but I spent well under $50 for this makeover!

China Cabinet Decorating Ideas – Color Inspiration

First, you need a game plan!  The beauty of refinishing a china cabinet yourself is that you can pick any style or colors you want!  To get some ideas on colors and hardware combinations, I recommend checking out some of these sites:

Supplies Needed: DIY China Cabinet Makeover

Mouse Sander (Read my Reviews on the Best Sanders including an option for one under $18.00)

Behr Premium Plus ULTRA Paint in Satin in your color of choice! – For this project, I used Behr Pure White and Behr Sonata

Zinnser Bullseye 123 Primer – If your paint is light or white, don’t tint the primer.  If it is dark, tint the primer the same color.  Just ask them to help you at the paint counter.  It doesn’t have to be an exact match – just darker than white to give you better coverage.  I opt for a shade a little lighter than my final coat.  This tip will save you from having to add an additional coat in many cases.

Paint Brushes – I love these!

Caulk – Optional

General Finishes Top Coat  – If your piece will undergo a LOT of use (i.e. if you have small children), you might opt for a coat of topcoat for extra protection.

7 Steps to Update An Old Hutch

Step 1: Painted China Cabinet Makeover Prep Work

Stop! Before you do anything…take a before pic.  When you are done, post the before and after pics here, so I can see the amazing work you’ve done! ❤️

Dust off with a damp rag and remove all hardware.  Replace any molding that is out of date.  If your furniture piece smells musty check out some of my tips here: How to Remove Smells from Old Furniture Pieces

Start sanding. If you don’t have a palm sander, it is well worth your money.  I have used it on countless projects and it’s my favorite tool!   (You can read my best sander reviews for 2019 if you are unsure of which is best for you.)

How to Sand Furniture in Less Than 5 Minutes – This post explains how you are not sanding to take off the old stain or paint.  You are just merely roughing up the old surface so the new paint sticks.

Step 2: China Cabinet Redo – Time for Primer!

I’ve used several of Zinsser’s primers and decided on the Zinsser Bullseye 123 Water-based Primer.  It has great adhesion, cleans up easily, low odor, and settles well into cracks, which is great for old oak furniture.  Also, it takes only an hour to dry before your next coat of paint.  See my tips in the supplies list on saving time when painting with darker paint colors.

Step 3: How to Paint a China Cabinet

I used Behr Premium Plus Pure White in Satin. It might take you two coats depending on the piece. (You can check out my BEST time-saving furniture painting tips through this link: Must-Have Painting Tips.)

I painted the inside back in Behr Sonata in Satin to give my white china plates some nice contrast.  This is the same blue that I used for my blue pumpkins here.


Step 4: Repurposed China Cabinet Hinges

I spray painted the hinges using Rustoleum’s Universal Metallic in Oil-Rubbed Bronze. It is the best oil-rubbed bronze spray paint on the market and so durable that I just used it to spray paint my metal shower frame.

Step 5: Update China Cabinet Hardware With Spray Paint

I took the opportunity to use completely replace the knobs with these here.  For a good price on more options on furniture knobs, see this link: Inexpensive Furniture Knobs and Handles

You also have the option of spray painting your existing hardware as the Rustoleum spray paint I mentioned above comes in a number of metallic finishes.

My Best Tips for Spray Painting 

For my favorite tips and tricks on getting  a flawless finish every time with spray paint, click here for your free checklist:  Best Tips & Tricks for Spray Painting Anything

Step 6: China Cabinet Restoration: Finishing Touches

Caulk any cracks or gaps. (I like Dap caulk).  Caulking any seams can really give your piece a more finished, high-end look.  This is one of those times the details make all the difference!  (Caulking Tip: When the caulk dries, paint over those areas so the caulk doesn’t attract dirt later on.)

Step 7: Add LED Lighting to A Refurbished China Cabinet

Add some LED lighting so your china really pops.  Here is the link for what I used (LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights) and you can see more LED options by clicking here: China Cabinet Lighting Options (LED)Several options stick on the surface and some are even wireless, which means no drilling holes for wiring.


Now that you are done, I’d love to see how it turned out!  Post your before and after photos here!

steps to update an old hutch

Other Possible Additions to Your Hutch Update:

steps to update an old hutch

Hutch Makeover, Before and After

steps to update an old hutch

FAQ’s: Refinishing an Old Hutch, China Cabinet, or Curio

Repurposed China Cabinet Ideas

There are several options to give you new uses for old hutches.  Some include fancy bathroom storage, craft room organization and I’ve even seen someone put led lighting for house plants inside each shelf to use it as a huge terrarium.

Most of all I like the idea of using china cabinets to beautifully display decor items.  People don’t register for china and crystal-like they used to, but that doesn’t mean you can display some beautiful pieces in your china cabinet.  Here’s a fabulous post by Kim at Savy Southern Style with lots of ideas on other uses for china cabinets instead of just dishes

Dining Room Display Ideas for China Cabinets

So you have just finished your china cabinet and now it’s time to put all that wedding china and crystal in it.  But what is the best way to arrange it???

There are two things I would keep in mind when arranging dishes in a china cabinet.  For one, symmetry is your best friend and two, don’t overdo it.  In other words, don’t try to fit every single piece of china you own inside of it or it will look cluttered and dated instead of fresh and classy. 

Take inventory of what you have and start by putting some plates in the back.  Go for symmetry which makes this process MUCH easier. 

Now, put in some of your larger or more important pieces in, and then use coffee cups and glasses as filler on the sides.  I promise it is easy once you get started.  For more inspiration, here are some great china cabinet display ideas with pictures!

Can a Hutch Without Glass Still Be Refinished?

I’ve had a couple of readers tell me they found a china cabinet with broken glass but didn’t know if it was still viable for refinishing.  Absolutely it is!    

You have a couple of different options here:  

Replace China Cabinet Glass – If your glass panels are not curved, you can easily get a quote from a local glass dealer to see how much it would cost to replace the panels and then use the china cabinet retainer clips I mentioned to keep them in place.  Plexiglass would be a cheaper option, but scratching can be a real issue.

Leave the Glass Out – I’ve seen some really pretty china cabinets that did not have the glass.  Also, if you are going for a more casual look, you can use chicken wire over your openings like Denise at Salvaged Inspirations in her post Replace Glass with Chicken Wire the Safe Way!

steps to update an old hutch

What about China Cabinet Makeovers with Chalk Paint?

Would I ever chalk paint a china cabinet?  Nope.  I have nothing against chalk paint but as I wrote in my post about a better, cheaper, and more durable alternative to chalk paint, I would probably opt for this painting process instead of chalk painting any furniture piece.  It’s just my personal preference and what works best for me and my budget!

But if you are a fan of chalk paint here is a video that will help!

How to Chalk Paint a Hutch or China Cabinet

steps to update an old hutch

Another China Hutch Makeover

china cabinet transformation

To see another china hutch transformation, check out this post: How to Paint Furniture White (Easy China Hutch Makeover)

More Posts Related to my China Cabinet Restoration:

Final Thoughts on How to Update a Traditional China Cabinet

Buying a brand new china cabinet can cost you well over $1000 but you can spend less than $100 by refinishing a china cabinet or hutch yourself.  Plus, you get to add your own specific style!  Now, head out to your local used furniture store or check Facebook Marketplace for a piece that has serious potential.  And as you are looking, remember God sees the same potential in you, loving you not for what you will one day become but how you are right now!

If you want to save this post for later, pin it here:

steps to update an old hutch

What are your thoughts, my friend?  Do you think the makeover was worth it?  Can you relate to what it feels like to be broken?  I love to hear your thoughts!  Scroll down to leave a comment and I WILL reply! ❤️



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7 Steps to Update an Old Hutch


  1. I am about to paint a china cabinet white with a darker blue interior. I read on the general finishes top coat page to not use a clear topcoat on bright white paint because it can cause yellowing. Do I need to worry about that? I intend to use the same Behr paint in pure white as you did and the same top coat that is suggested in this article. Like mentioned, I have 2 small children, so I’m trying to be proactive in keeping things clean, but I sure don’t want a dingy yellow cabinet after all of my hard work!

  2. I love your intro- I must have needed to hear that message! Thank you.

    I inherited my mother’s china cabinet which looks exactly lime yours. However- hers is not hard wood. more pressed wood or something. I am not sure about sanding it as it seem it will be to particle board or some other substance. This cabinet was my mother’s pride and joy. she showed every visitor in her home her “treasures”. She had a hard life and this was her first new piece and housed her precious items so I can’t do this wrong. do you think liquid sandpaper then zinser primer?

    1. Thank you so much Deborah! When you sand with the sander, you should be ok. You are just very lightly sanding to take the shine off the surface so I feel pretty confident it wouldn’t take off the surface. Please let me know if you have any other questions and thank you so much for your kinds words. Your encouragement is much appreciated, Deborah!

  3. Karin,

    What a beautiful china hutch. I love how you explain all the process and I have a hutch that I want to paint but it is shiny and slick. Do you have suggestions on what I need to do first. It is solid wood but the finish is shiny and slick. I love your blog site and enjoy your relating our life to how God can change a person to a new being inside and out. I’m going back to your blog the other week about the Bible study. I know I kept it and I want to start doing that. You have such a beautiful way of relating life and I enjoy all your blog posts. Keep up the good work. If you have time, maybe you can get back to me about the china hutch i have and what to do first. Thanks so much,
    your new blog friend,

    1. Hey Jean! Thank you for your very kind words and I’m so glad you find the blog encouraging. I really appreciate it. As far as your shiny finish, use the same process I used ins post: A Better Alternative to Chalk Paint You will find the whole process there but feel free to ask me any questions along the way! Thank you again Jean!

  4. I love this cabinet makeover. I am looking for a smaller China cabinet like this. I like your article about chalk paint. Now I have a big question.. I bought a wood pine cabinand painted it with fusion mineral paint. Now I want to remove this paint and white wash the wood. What’s the best approach to get all of the paint off and out of the crevices so I can get this whitewash pine look I want?

  5. I am a pastor’s wife and we often save furniture from the trash heap or people offer it to us before they put it there themselves!! We live in Hong Kong, where EVERYTHING is expensive, so I’m glad we can be the recipients of used furniture. I would LOVE to transform our second-hand china cabinet, but I am so intimidated by the project. Your cabinet looks so beautiful and I really appreciate how you wove the gospel into your post. So good. Thank you!!

  6. Love how you weaved these together; the broken cabinet and the broken human! The transformation turned out great with the cabinet and we know the transformation of broken people will turn out perfect in Heaven too! Visiting from #BHG Facebook group

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