From Family Antique to Display Cabinet

See how I turned my family’s antique bookcases into awesome display shelving for this farmer’s glassware.

These gorgeous bookshelves made by Ethan Allen have been in my family since the ’70s. We had four of them. When my parents divorced, Mom got two and, somehow, I got the other two. Since being in my possession from the early ’90s, I have been thoughtfully craving to do something to make them more of a reflection of my style and personality, but I was a little frightened.

“Why?” you ask.

Well, for one, my mother had the other two bookshelves, so I was secretly worried that these two would look drastically different from hers if they should ever be reunited. Secondly, I was worried about what my mom would think. More on that later.

Now that I’m a little older, I can finally throw some caution to the wind and just go for it. So I did.

Being a small farm owner and a beekeeper and someone who also likes to entertain, I needed a place to keep my glassware for honey, jams and jellies, and glass serving pieces.

One thing to keep in mind about displaying glassware is that you can use a gorgeous wall covering that coordinates with your room on the back of a bookshelf and enjoy the entire beauty of it. And, it doesn’t seem to matter how many pieces of glass you have or even if they match in size and shape because glass is clear. Perfect for me. I collect glassware from many sources, and rarely does any of it match.

To start this project I needed to repair the bookshelves. This seems to be a running theme with my furniture makeovers; I always need to repair something, and this project was just another prime example.

At some point in my non-committal past attempts to make these bookshelves work in my eclectic home, I had taken the backs off. The backs were made of flimsy pressboard that had mildewed in journeys from house to house and the moves my husband and I made in our life together, not to mention the numerous moves they made when I was a child.

These bookshelves earned new backs.

I measured the openings and went to the DIY store and had the fine helpers cut the wood for me. I settled on 1/4-inch furniture backing board.

Here’s a tip. If you’re working on a similar project and using wall covering it’s best to go ahead and apply it before you install the back on your piece. To do this, you can temporarily install the backing with a couple of nails. Just flip the back around, tap in a few nails, and then apply the paper. Be sure to check that the paper is level. After the paper is applied remove the temporary nails and turn the backing around so that it’s facing the correct way. Voila!

Next, I painted the piece with Restore’s Chroma color in white. It took three coats, but I decided I wanted to leave some of the stained wood that was original as an homage to my childhood. I figured that if they were ever reunited with their original, brown-stain sisters they wouldn’t look so out of place. I did, however, change the drawer and door pulls by cleaning them up and applying white spray paint to match the painted wood but also to give the pieces that sense of POP.

I used a little olive oil on a soft rag to clean up the drawers and doors and make them shine.

I am now in love with these two pieces that used to be relegated to the basement of just about every house we’ve owned. They get a ton of compliments. My mom likes them too. In fact, I think I heard her say she wants to paint hers as well. 😉

If you want to know more about the products I use from paint to paintbrushes, check out the end tables I refinished for my mother-in-law!

And for more inspiring projects, visit the DIY page here.

3 responses to “From Family Antique to Display Cabinet”

  1. You are funny! And you do good work…much more patience than I have!! ❤️

    1. Thank you! My momma taught me well. 😉

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