Wednesday, June 5, 2013

DIY bar cart renovation!

I have been so excited to share this post - WE FOUND A BAR CART! Okay, now that I got that out there let me regain my composure and start at the beginning... After endless hours scouring Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist, and a tons of other websites it became obvious that finding a new, or mint condition vintage, bar cart at a reasonable price wasn't going to be in the cards. Maybe if I were more patient and wanted to spend weeks and months trying to wait it out, but even then I'm not sure.

It seems like any good deal gets scouted out by someone else every time. A lovely gold metal and rosewood cart I found on Ebay for $10 had a $60 shipping charge, but I was excited nonetheless. I started bidding with that info in mind and someone swooped in and outbid me over and over again to the point that I had to give up. The cart -in only okay condition- ended up selling for $300! I gave up way before it got that intense, I mean, the whole point was to avoid spending an absurd amount of money, especially on something that needed work.

So my next move was to hit up a local indoor flea market. I went early one morning and returned home empty handed. I tried to scour the web once more, see if I could find anything else, locally or otherwise. I visited to two local thrift stores later in the day, still nothing. Then Jason said he wanted to go back to the flea market the next morning since he didn't go with me on my initial trip. I figured it couldn't hurt, maybe I would see something I missed before... after all there were people adding things to their booths when I was leaving.

So glad he wanted to go back, because we found a cart! Rather than share a photo of the ugliness it was before we fixed it up, I would rather you have a good first impression, so here's a glimpse of our end result:

We were searching for decanters when a brass rail caught my eye. I told Jason I thought I found something and walked around the corner into a booth to find one of the most hideous things I've ever seen - in all of its worn 1980's brass glory, a "tea" cart for $35. I told Jason this was it, we had to buy this one. He was a little hesitant at first, I don't blame him one bit - it was bad. I told him that a coat of gold paint would help and he suggested removing the curved bars (you'll see those below.) We left it behind for the moment and continued browsing for decanters and glassware to outfit the cart, after all we doubted anyone else was interested. When we came back for the cart we discovered a marked down $25 price tag taped to the glass - even better!

Jason found several vintage decanters and at another booth he ran across matching glasses for one of them. I found a set of eight beautiful, brand new, silver-rimmed champagne glasses and two teal wine glasses that I had to have. We found a lot of great glassware, much of which didn't appear to have ever been used. We would have loved to bring home, but we didn't want to overcrowd our cart or our cabinets.

On the way back to the apartment we stopped to get metal primer, spray paint, spackle, tack cloth, and sandpaper. We had a little work ahead of us. Here is what the cart looked like when we first brought it home, sans glass shelves:

Hideous, right?
Not good. I hated having it in the house looking like this. I got to work immediately removing the bars as J suggested, wiping the metal down with a tack cloth, and finally filling the holes where those curved bars resided with nail hole spackle. Jason set to work cleaning the decanters and glassware he purchased.

Note the un-helpful assistant in the background

Once that had set I took a sandpaper block to the spackle, slowly removing the excess until it was even with the metal. In some places, mainly the side rails where the bars popped into place, the holes were much larger and had to be filled and re-touched. This was the longest part of the process - filling, sanding, re-filling, and sanding some more. (I'm sure there is a more appropriate spackle for metal, but this was what we found and it worked. If you know of something more appropriate for metal work please let me know! It may come in handy for future projects or if this cart ever needs retouching.) Once that was finally squared away we cleaned the metal again and took it outside to be primed and painted.

While we were at Lowe's it was suggested that clean, non-rusted metal should be primed with Rust-Oleum's clean metal primer so we grabbed a can. (If you are working with rusted metal there is a primer for that too.) I really wanted a gold-tone paint for the cart, but we couldn't find any that wasn't a bright, shiny metallic - much like the brass tone we were trying to rid ourselves of. Valspar was my go-to spray paint, and they have a huge selection, so when we found the rich bronze tone we decided to give it a shot - fingers crossed it wouldn't be too dark.

Primer coat
Waiting for the paint to dry!
When I first started spraying the bronze coat it looked very dark and glittery, which kind of freaked me out for a minute. But as I walked around in circles coating each bar it started to look more and more perfect. I actually love this color more than the gold I had originally envisioned. One can of paint and several coats later it was finished! We couldn't leave it outdoors overnight so we had to wait out the drying process all afternoon and evening.

We were able to bring the cart in that night just as Mad Men came on. It looked great! We stocked the cart just to see what it would look like and the next morning we put the casters back on. I then used a bronze acrylic paint that I had on hand to paint them. It turned out even better than I think either of us expected and we are thrilled that we pulled off this project without spending a small fortune! Check out our end result below:


As an added bonus, we also put a fresh coat of navy paint on a mirror I've had for the past year or so and hung it at the bottom of the stairwell, right above our new cart. The navy and bronze look great together and we've not only eliminated the extra empty space at the bottom of the stairs and cleared off part of our kitchen counter, but we also filled a previously unoccupied wall space.

Again, I am so excited that we found a cart to renovate and that it turned out so well! We may want to upgrade to something better later on, but for now this works perfectly for us. I love that we took something really ugly and transformed it into something awesome by ourselves. We have a nice little collection of decanters and glassware (not everything made it on the cart) and I'm on the hunt for some more colored glass pieces, primarily decanters, to give it a little more personality.  We've already had a few people tell us that they love it and they found the before photos even more surprising, ha!

I definitely plan to keep a lookout for similar carts in the future that we could fix up because it was so much fun to do this one. If you're on the hunt yourself I urge you to step away from the computer - it seems like most online sellers are trying to rip people off as most carts are in poor condition. Not to mention many of the carts are heavy or do not disassemble so shipping can get crazy high. Scour local thrift shops, flea markets, estate sales, and even yard sales - you never know what you may find.

Have you ever considered a bar cart for your home, or scored a great "project" cart that you re-vamped?


  1. LOVE IT!!! It worked out so perfect.

    Do you find it hard to clean though? That's what I'm worried about if I get a new one, that it'll be harder to dust with the glasses and decanters and such? Or maybe it's just my place and my dog that gets things that dusty!

  2. Beautiful! I am kinda jealous! This makes me want to work extra hard to find one for our house! <3 I love the bombay with those blue glasses, it looks just perfect!

  3. Oh my gosh!!! I'm completely obsessed!!!

  4. It turned out amazing Ashley! It doesn't even resemble what it originally looked like. It's so classy looking :)


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