Falling in love with a Vintage Apothecary Cabinet

Have you ever fell in love with a piece of furniture?  You know that feeling, you can’t stop thinking about it or have that warm fuzzy feeling of how it would look in your home.  I have and I fell hard for this one and let me tell you the lessons I learned from this vintage apothecary cabinet.  

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In the fall of 2014, I had a fun vintage market trip planned with my friend Karen, Somewhat Quirky Designs.  We attended the Springfield Ohio flea market on a Friday.  We shopped, we ate, we laughed and we got rained out, so we decided to go to the indoor antique store right around the corner to wait out the rain, and that’s when I saw her, I stopped in my tracks, we made contact and I rushed right over. 

I had to touch her and pull open some of her drawers.  I was in awe of this aging beauty with all of her flaws.  I took a few pictures and looked at her price tag and I walked away.  I was in love with this beauty and I wanted her badly, but I am pretty frugal and could not see spending that much on an old piece of furniture. 

It’s a curse to repurpose furniture because I am always wanting a bargain so I can invest my time to make her beautiful again and also make a profit for my time and talents, so the frugal side comes out whenever I make a second-hand purchase.  

The next day we attended the country living fair.  We shopped, we ate, and we laughed and this time we did not get rained out.  I could not shake all the thoughts about this apothecary cabinet, I even talked about it endlessly to a few of my other friends.  They all told me if you love it that much, spend the money and go get it. 

I texted Mr. DD and told him what I found.  He gave me his blessings and also stated, “it’s coming out of your budget so you better sell a few more items at the shop.”  I called the antique store to make sure it was still there and away Karen and I drove to go get my apothecary cabinet, it was a 45-minute drive in the opposite direction of home. 


Have you ever purchased an item and then had buyers remorse?  You know, that feeling of regret that builds in your stomach, you know you can’t return the item and get a refund, so you question if you made a good buying decision or a foolish one.  Well, I never had that feeling with this cabinet.  I brought her home, unloaded her and cleaned her up and never once regretted my decision to go back and get her. 

So the first lesson I learned, is to wait and don’t buy the item on the spot.  Give yourself some time to make a rational decision and not an impulse buy.  

Once I started to clean the cabinet I discovered some very interesting things.  She is an old cabinet, I can tell this by the aged drawer fronts.  The drawer fronts have that old bumpy aged varnish, I think that is the technical term.  I removed all the drawers to give them a good cleaning and was placing them back and discovered some drawers are slightly bigger than others.  Now some of the mysteries started to reveal themselves.   The 5 drawers on the right are the ones that are slightly smaller.

I also noticed the smooth finished wood on the left inside compartment of the far right drawers.  The others were unfinished.  

The back of the apothecary cabinet has an addition of backing, so this leads me to believe that is was originally built with 4 rows across.  You can also see where to original foot base was and the other side does not have this extra foot base.  The last row was probably added right away because all the drawer fronts have the same aged finish. 

Whoever added the row must have built a new base and top because they are one complete piece of wood.  I would love to know the story on this cabinet and why the addition of the last row, was it because it looked better with 5 rows or was it because of function and they needed more drawers?  The mystery will never be known but I love imagining my own story for this piece of old furniture. 

The second lesson I learned,  don’t jump the gun and refinish a piece of furniture right away.  Let it sit in its space and let it speak to you, listen for its purpose and the look that will work for the furniture and the surroundings.  I let this cabinet sit for 3 years before doing a small makeover.  I am glad because it would have looked different if I had done the makeover 3 years ago.  My original makeover idea was not this one and I think I would have regretted the first idea.  

I finally decided how I wanted the cabinet.  I wanted to keep a lot of the cabinet original with a lot of its natural features.  I kept the top and bottom wood pieces untouched,  I love wood tones on my furniture pieces, I think it keeps the original character and also gives it warmth. I painted the base of the cabinet with chalk paint, using One Step paint in black by Amy Howard

I loved the aged look on the drawers fronts so I wanted to enhance that look.  I used clear wax and applied the dust of ages by Amy Howard to give an even more aged look.  The dust of ages worked perfectly on the drawers since they were not a smooth surface.  All that dust clung to the bumps. 



The hardware was a hard decision to keep as is or paint to make them uniform.  As you can see, I kept the hardware original.  After I cooked my hardware (I will tell you all about that in a few) to remove the years of grim, I discovered that they had a copper plating on the hardware and some of that plating was wearing off and exposing the metal.  I polished them up and left them as they were. 

I went back to the second lesson of not being too quick to paint them and make them uniform.  I decided to keep them as is and live with it for awhile and see if I change my mind.  

Cooking hardware you ask?  I learned this trick from watching Rehab Addict.  On one of the episodes, Nicole placed her hardware in an old crockpot and left them to cook overnight.  This will remove layers of paint, grease, and grim off the hardware.  I tried it on some old door hinges in my house that had paint on them and it worked.   The layers of paint bubble up and make it easy to remove.  I have been using this method ever since and will always recommend it to others.  

The other very interesting thing about the cabinet drawers, someone does not know how to count!  The drawers were numbered on the back and its missing 6 through 10, they also numbered right to left.  I don’t know about you but I would start my numbers on the left side.  

I love my antique apothecary cabinet and she will be staying with me for a very long time.  No regrets for spending the extra money and going back to get her.  So remember the 2 lessons ~ Don’t make large purchases on impulse and wait to refinish a piece of furniture. 

What is your favorite piece of furniture or have you ever regretted buying a certain piece of furniture and why?  Leave me your comments below!  

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