Vintage Medicine Cabinet

After finding and holding onto this vintage medicine cabinet for a few years, I was pretty happy to get a sweet place for it in the lower level guest bathroom. It was in need of some restoration help though. Although I’m not an expert, I’m not afraid to tackle a project like this and figure it out as I go along.

(shopping links for products I used in this project are at the end of this post)

This charming vintage medicine cabinet has some sort of small, thin tiles covering the face of it, creating a lovely design. I actually can’t tell what they’re made of… plastic? porcelain?

Whatever they are, unfortunately a few of them were missing when I snagged this cabinet up.

I’m not a hoarder… I don’t think… but I have been known to buy a vintage item here and there without an immediate plan for said item. If I get it for a decent price, I figure I can always re-sell it if I don’t come up with a plan for it. The thing is, unique pieces like this vintage medicine cabinet just aren’t readily available, so sometimes you have to strike when the iron is hot… and come up with a plan later.

When we were nearing the end of our whole house renovation, it came time to finish this lower level bathroom. The suddenly obvious plan for this piece appeared right before my very eyes. This treasured, (by me at least) vintage medicine cabinet was the perfect petite size for this space. It was also the perfect style! I hadn’t had time to work on the medicine cabinet ahead of the carpenter installing it so it went into the spot as is. I was hopeful that when the renovation dust settled, I would have more time to fix it up a bit.

It did have a few issues indeed. There was missing paint around the mirror edge.

The vintage metal interior was a little worse for the wear…

Icky, rusty and more missing tile on the front edge.

I admit, it’s been installed for a while, (going on 2 years now, whoops!) but honestly, this bathroom is rarely used and there have been so many projects ahead of it on the list!

Finally, I ‘scheduled’ it in this last week. Yay! This was a fun project. Not having it finished didn’t feel like a burden, until now that it’s done, I realize it really was nagging at me before. I’m so happy to have it checked off my list now and tickled with how it turned out.

Here’s what I did:

I started by scraping all the loose and peeling bits off.

To paint over loose and flaking paint is not going to last long, so I wanted to be sure to get down to a good solid base.

Scrubbing with a toothbrush worked wonders to get into the little grooves and around the hinges.

When it was time to tackle the missing tile,

I taped off the area with good painter’s tape.

I debated on what to fill the gap with, creating replacement tiles. I finally decided that I already had paintable caulk which is waterproof, good for a bathroom area, so that’s what I went with. Ok, so I guess not a lot of debating! I didn’t really have anything else on hand except sheetrock patch fill. That would have been easier to work with, but would have been too easily compromised with water and not last.

Caulk isn’t super easy to shape like clay would be. Caulk is sticky and that was a little challenging, but I managed okay for the few pieces on this medicine cabinet

The razor knife worked great to get the individual tile cuts in the mostly dry caulk. (I tried cutting it when the caulk was still wet, Remember when I said caulk is sticky?! That didn’t work at all! The caulk clung to the knife blade and just made a mess)

Matching the exact color of the existing tile on the vintage medicine cabinet wasn’t all that difficult.

Working with acrylic paints, I mixed some white, tan/gold and grey. Using an artist paint brush, I simply painted the now dry caulk replacement tiles with this custom mixed paint. (After that tile color was dry, I went back with watered down grey and lightly painted in the cracks to give it a similar look of depth between the individual tiles.)

I also painted the edge by the mirror with the custom matched paint. No worry if some of the paint got on the glass.

Once it was dry, I simply used the razor knife to scrape the paint from the glass.

The final treatment for the tile and trim touch up paint was to seal it with a couple thin coats of water based poly. I chose a satin finish to best match the existing vintage tile.

Now to do some restoration on the interior of the vintage medicine cabinet.

I primed the entire interior with a bonding primer. I also sealed over all the rusty spots to prevent bleeding through. Lastly, it got 2 coats of white latex paint in a satin finish.

I could have stopped there, but I thought a little pizazz inside the medicine cabinet would be fun.

I measured and cut some pretty wrapping paper that coordinated nicely with the outside of the cabinet.

Next the inside of the door, and the back wall of the vintage medicine cabinet got a liberal coat of Mod Podge..

After carefully placing the paper on the Mod Podge inside the cabinet door and back wall,

I painted another liberal coat of Mod Podge over the top of the paper. I let that dry overnight, and re-painted one more coat of Mod Podge over the top of that to give it all a good seal.

The Mod Podge wrapping paper treatment dried to a durable finish. I love the opportunity of unique creativity Mod Podge gives me!

I’m super happy with the finished vintage medicine cabinet. It’s by no means perfect, but it is fun and has a clean fresh feel.

The replacement tiles that I made from caulk aren’t perfect either, but they do blend in pretty darn good!

I think if you didn’t know where they were, you’d have a hard time picking them out.

The vintage medicine cabinet finally has a happy spot, nestled between 2 vintage wall sconces in our lower level bathroom.

This bathroom has the original vintage pink bathtub in it… Saving that is a whole other story…

Shopping Links:

Did you know that I am an interior (and some exterior) decorator? Frame and Frills I do e-decorating consultation, via online from my office to your home!

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Here are more projects on this whole house renovation:

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  1. Lynnie says

    “…..I thought alittle pizazz inside the medicine cabinet would be fun…!”……..of course you did !!! 😜🤗

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