Bathroom Cabinets Makeover – My First “Grown-Up” DIY Project

bathroom cabinets makeover

This blogging thing is really getting to me! In a GOOD way, of course. :-) After over a year of blogging and researching and surfing and pinning….I finally succumbed to the DIY bug and decided to tackle a somewhat significant project in my house. I must have been a bit mental when I saw this tutorial by Monica at Monica Wants It and thought…that looks easy! I can do that!

Well, it wasn’t what I would call EASY…but I’m sure that’s due more to the fact that I’m a complete DIY newbie (or newb…as my boys would say)! Although…it really wasn’t HARD either. I’m sorry, I’m making NO sense. lol. I guess I am just GIDDY over how well it turned out!

About two weeks ago, with the help my daughter Britta, I decided to dive head first into my first ever “grown up” DIY project….refinishing the cabinets in the “boys bathroom”. (I figured I’d use their bathroom as the guinea pig project and if it wasn’t a colossal fail I would try it in MY bathroom.)

I must send out major props to Monica at Monica Wants It. When I saw her tutorial on Staining Oak Cabinets An Espresso Color I was immediately intrigued, because MY bathroom looked SO similar to hers in the BEFORE photos.  I was hopeful I could make them look like her AFTER pictures as well!  I won’t even TRY and replicate what’s she’s done because she has laid it all out in a detailed step-by-step tutorial.

Since I am such a neophyte at DIY projects…I pretty much followed her instructions to the T…but I did end up doing a few things differently. I assume this is typical because no two projects are alike. Am I right? I’m just guessing here. :-)

So here are my TIPS for accomplishing this project in your own bathroom….for what their worth. :-)  Just remember they are coming from a first timer.

  • When you are removing the old hardware from the doors and drawers…put everything in a bag or a box and HOLD ONTO IT until the project is finished. You will obviously be needing the inside hinges to reattach the doors, but the screws that came with the new handles I bought for the drawers turned out to be too short….so it was a VERY good things I kept ALL the original hardware. FYI…the replacement pulls and knobs I used are from the Martha Stewart Collection at Home Depot.
  • If you are like me and are put off by any project that involves SANDING…don’t let that stop you from trying this. The sanding component is minimal and using one of the sanding blocks that she suggests buying for the project is a BIG HELP. I definitely recommend getting one.
  • Not a fan of The Sock Method. The tutorial suggests using a men’s athletic sock (over a vinyl glove) to apply the stain. I tried this and it just didn’t work for me. I much preferred using the foam brushes. And make things easy on yourself…buy several foam brushes in several sizes and just throw them away when they dry out. They are super cheap and I HATE cleaning brushes. 
  • Speaking of stain…Monica INSISTS that General Finishes Java Gel Stain is the BEST stain for the job. While I’m just a beginner…I would have to agree. I absolutely LOVE how the color came out in the end. And while I bought the quart sized can…you could EASILY get by with the 1/2 pint size for a bathroom. I hardly put a DENT in the amount of stain in the can. A little goes a LONG way!
  • Before I applied the polyacrylic topcoat I went over any little areas that the stain hadn’t quite covered entirely and filled it in with a Black Sharpie. (A little trick from the hubster!) If I didn’t know where I’d used the Sharpie…I would never be able to tell.
  • I was very good about following Monica’s suggestion about LOTS OF DRYING TIME  in between coats. I think this is pretty important in the overall success of this project. However, I became impatient at the END of the project and did 3 coats of the polyacrylic topcoat in pretty close succession with no problems. It dries surprisingly fast! Just make sure each coat is even and not too thick.

That’s pretty much all I got folks! I hope you will check out Monica’s blog and tutorial. She obviously put a LOT of work into the tutorial and I am just SO pleased with the results I was able to achieve by following it.

bathroom cabinet makeover

Miss Britta got the project ball rolling by taking off the doors and sanding. Thanks sweetie! :-)

bathroom cabinet makeover

Looking better……..

bathroom cabinet makeover

 TaDa! Was I right??? Third coat did the trick!

And here are the BEFORE and AFTER photos:

bathroom cabinet makeover


bathroom cabinet makeover


Looking at those pictures….I almost can’t believe I did that!  

Final thoughts and impressions: SO pleased with how it turned out and would recommend the project to anyone! I think  it’s a good project for “first timers” like myself. A definite confidence booster. I learned a lot and can’t wait to start on MY bathroom next. I certainly have enough leftover stain to do it.


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  1. Landon says

    Wow! What an elegant look, Jillee! It’s amazing what a difference just changing the hardware makes, but that color if absolutely beautiful. I’d love to try this in my kitchen to update my look.

  2. says

    Jillie! This looks so fantastic! I know how exactly what you are talking about with regards to your DIY bug. I don’t know if it is the increased presence of ideas on pinterest and that numerous DIY blogs out there but I am itching to buy our first home in the next two years to get my DIY on. In the meantime, I’ve been toying with the idea of repainting my IKEA desk made of that cheap-o pressboard. DIYers claim that it can be done but I am so worried to “take the leap.” What boosted your confidence to jump in? Any recommendations?

    • says

      Sarah….my recommendation is GO FOR IT! I have no idea what made me finally get brave enough to try it….but I’m so glad I did. I’d say the desk is a good place to start. Let us know how it goes! :-)

    • Linda says

      Sarah,I know it’s been a bit but just wanted to check and see if you finished your IKEA desk with the dark gel stain!! I have an old oak coffee table and although it’s a huge old round thing, it could use a facelift. I know I should just DO IT!

  3. Blaine says

    This looks great, what a terrific job! My bathroom vanity has the same old hardware, except the white ceramic parts are starting to fall off! I see that the long vertical handles on the sides were replaced with a single pull knob; did you have to fill a hole in the doors to do that? If so, how did you do that? Again, great job!

    • says

      You’re right Blaine, we had to fill one of the holes with wood putty. I’d almost forgotten about that because my daughter did it when she did the sanding. And she’s even more of a “newb” than me! :-)
      When we went to put the doors back on the hubster couldn’t even tell where the other hole had been, so I guess it was successful. :-)

      • Blaine says

        Thank you Jillee! I’m really planning on doing this myself soon. I’ll post a link to pics when I do.

  4. says

    Wow!! It really does look so much better! Love it! Great job for being a newb, actually it looks like you have been doing this for years can hardly believe it is your first try. My kitchen cabinets also need a serious makeover, but need to be lighter me thinks (they are very dark now). What an inspiration!


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