Inglewood Craftsman Home

Restoring our 1906 home in Inglewood CA on a budget

Salvaged Medicine Cabinet

1 Comment

Cabinet_7main bath mirrorThis black bathroom mirror, present in the house when we moved in, appears to be just a heavy decor mirror hung on a picture hanger. I tried to open the mirror like a medicine cabinet several times before realizing that the hanger isn’t a hinge! It was hung over the many-times-painted original cabinet exterior.

IMG_0444I found this large mirror at an antique mall (check it out- buried under a staircase and in a pile of other mirrors- see right), and was able to convince the booth’s owner (via a store employee’s phone call) to lower the price a bit. This find had definitely lived previously as the door of something, since it had hinge indentations, a filled-in hole that would’ve contained a handle, and a spring closing mechanism in the site. I measured the mirror several times to make sure it would fit over the existing medicine cabinet’s opening, then went for it, despite the obviously faked shabby-chic exterior I’d need to remove. Here’s what it looked like just hung up as-is.


Oh- at this point I should probably mention the gross medicine cabinet interior. The black mirror had been too small for the cabinet, so the installers had added pieces of random wood to mount the mirror and a piece of random trim to disguise its empty space. All that wood blocked some of the view of glass shelves on adjustable metal shelf supports, and behind all that, CRAZY DISCO WALLPAPER. Yes, the inside of the medicine cabinet was wallpapered with this!

My trusty heat gun helped remove the offending wallpaper. Here it is partially dismantled already, but I absolutely had to get a picture of the weird wood constructions inside here.

IMG_0943 IMG_0944

Color was a tough decision, since I couldn’t tell if the mirror’s wood was nice under that finish. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to strip the whole thing and stain it, or if I’d be scraping and re-painting instead. Some test stripping revealed the wood was nice and looked similar to that in the guest bathroom cabinet, so stripping and staining seemed best!IMG_1411

The master bath mostly contains dark wood accessories, so I chose the same stain as used inIMG_1407 the hallway, fireplace, and most other common areas of the home. The stained and sealed mirror looked great! One minor setback involved filling the holes for the previous handle and closing mechanism (this had obviously already been a cabinet door of some kind in a previous life). Removing the spring-loaded closing mechanism damaged the side of the door a bit, but stainable wood filler did a great job disguising it. A few hand-mixed acrylic colors touched up the other nail holes I’d filled.

However, I thought the cabinet would really pop with the border wood matching the mirror’s wood. This, of course, involved much more invasive paint stripping, but probably worth it. Surprisingly quick and relatively mess-free, stripping and staining the trim turned out wonderful. The stain absorbed into the wood so deeply that hardly any wiped off, which actually was fine, since it turns out that the horizontal pieces are composed of a completely different wood than are the vertical ones! The extra-dark stain disguised this difference. Three coats of polyurethane matched the shine of the two coats on the door. I was happy to not have to strip, stain, or do much at all to the sides or edges of the cabinet, since they’re not visible from any angle.IMG_1458

Cabinet_8After installing the door with these unique hinges from eBay, we got some bad news (every project seems to have some bad news): part of the original interior stuck out too far, and the door wouldn’t close. For fear of breaking our cool hinges, we took the door off again. We debated lots of ways to remedy this- belt sander, router, or popping the original wood out and replacing it. The last option initially seemed to be damaging the wood I’d just stained and sealed, but Jon was able to eventually pop it out with minimal damage. That being done, we could totally rebuild the inside of the cabinet from new wood anyway- including permanent shelves.

Cabinet_4Initially, we discussed painting the inside white and adding a white luan back. However, the wood we had lying around was already partially stained (we’d bought some pine wood for the fireplace project and didn’t realize it wouldn’t take stain as well as we needed it to, so it wouldn’t be acceptable for the outside of the fireplace, but would be great for the inside of a medicine cabinet). Only a few more short pieces would complete the project. Ultimately, it seemed a white back would look great, and we found some dry-erase sheeting that could easily be cut down to fit the cabinet! Now we have a fun place to leave each other notes, too.

Cabinet_1Cabinet_2Cabinet_3Jon assembled the inside of the cabinet with shelves spaced an even 7″ apart. I can’t think of anything taller than 7″ we’d need to put in there, especially since right now we don’t have a medicine cabinet at all! We stained it together, and likely because we worked outside in direct sunlight, the pine absorbed far more stain than we’d predicted. It’s almost as dark as the exterior of the cabinet now.

Cabinet_5While the door was off, we decided to move the hinge placement to entirely inside (visible when the door is open, rather than only partially visible when it’s closed). This involved sawing off a thin portion of the hinge side, then re-staining and sealing.

With the perfectly mounted interior and changed hinge placement, the door shuts easily.

Some interesting choices arose for opening and closing the door. Initially, I’d wanted to use a very cool doorknob from our collection of old ones, but I later realized its silver tone would clash with the brass everywhere else. I have some extra cut glass handles that would match those on the bathroom cabinet, but Jon doesn’t prefer those, so we opted instead for a push closure and no handle at all.



And finally, Jon made some stained wood plugs to cover the screw holes! Next up: Nice new vanity fixture to match all the other brass in the room!











Author: Morgan | Culture | Meredith

Morgan Meredith writes about mental health, travel, and tech, based on her own experiences. Morgan left her job at a tech startup in 2017 to travel the world, and hasn’t stopped! She’s passionate about making travel as accessible for people with mental health challenges as it is for those who are nerotypical. She is also an outspoken advocate for destigmatizing mental health. Morgan received an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and a BFA and BA at Bradley University. Hire Morgan for your project or speaking engagement at

One thought on “Salvaged Medicine Cabinet

  1. Pingback: The Closet Reformation Begins: Shoes. | Inglewood Craftsman Home

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s