How to make a kick-ass (and baby proofed) DIY bar from an old media cabinet

Guest post by HeatherB

DIY bar

You may remember my home tour, and know that my hubby and I have a love repurposing and refinishing items to make them new, sparkly, and usable. Including turning an old buffet to a counter and a large media cabinet to a vanity.

When I got pregnant, we realized that our awesome built-in bar in the family room wasn’t going to work with baby since that corner of the room was also the best place for a play area. Also, Tile floors + ground level glass ware + crawling baby = potential disaster.


Our kitchen has limited storage, so we knew that we needed an alternate solution to use to store our extensive liquor and glassware collections. And so the repurposed media cabinet to bar was born. Here’s an outline of our process:

1. General plan

The first step is to have a basic plan. What are you trying to accomplish with this piece of furniture? Where is it going to go and how much space do you have for it? We started by picking a new place in our house for a bar cabinet to go, taking a general inventory of what needed to be stored, and looking at Pinterest and other blogs, to see if we could find someone who had done something similar.

diy bar before

2. Find base furniture

We went to the Habitat for Humanity Restore and found another media cabinet. It was low enough that the top could conceivably be used as a counter and, with some special finagling, we could see its potential as a bar. It cost about $35. Media cabinets are NOT in high demand anymore with everyone using flat screens that don’t require a whole giant piece of furniture so there are a lot of them at places like the Restore Store for cheap. From our general plan, we knew we wanted one that was low enough to use as a counter with space where the TV would have gone for liquor and a side area with shelves for glassware.

3. Refinishing

Refinishing wood to a natural color can be a pain in the ass with stripping and sanding etc. Our solution has been to do a light sand and then use a black polyurethane stain over the existing finish. This gives our furniture consistency and saves a lot of time and effort. And we like how it looks. You can also paint with regular paints and then finish with a couple layers of clear urethane to seal and water proof (I did this to a coffee table and it has held up for three years without the use of coasters).

So after acquiring your item, sand (I like sanding blocks better than paper), and then coat with polyurethane stain. Make sure to do this in a well-ventilated area! I apply the urethane with foam brushes that I dispose of after each use. After applying a coat, inspect the painted area for drips and lightly brush them away.

After the coat dries, lightly sand and wipe with a cloth before applying a second coat. Repeat until you’ve achieved full coverage (normally about 3-4 coats).

4. Finishing touches

We replaced the glass in the door with perforated metal sheeting. You can purchase it at home improvement stores, but we actually ordered ours from Home Depot’s website, because all the pieces in store were pretty beat up. Originally, we were considering putting a mini fridge in the bottom of the shelving area, and the perforated metal sheeting was partially to allow air flow for cooling purposes.

We also bought new stainless steel hardware for the exterior and installed under the counter wine glass holders and a mirror inside. My husband built a little shelf to make a few levels for liquor bottles to ensure that they’re all visible.

DIY bar from a media cabinet

We spent about $100 total to make our media cabinet bar, and it took us a few months of a couple of hours each weekend to complete. About half of the cost was on the new hardware and wine glass holders. Now that it’s done, we’re moving on to changing the old built-in bar in the family room to toy storage for the little guy.

Comments on How to make a kick-ass (and baby proofed) DIY bar from an old media cabinet

  1. Brilliant! I love the perforated metal as a replacement for the glass in the window. Definitely will keep this in mind for future projects!

    Side note: When you tackle the toy storage situation, I highly recommend baskets for your kid’s toys. (You probably already thought of this, I know…) While I find that it keeps them looking less cluttered (when we put them away, anyway), my daughter is also now in the stage where she LOVES taking things out of baskets and then putting them all back again. Storage containers = an extra toy. 🙂

    I actually just used some willow wicker baskets I already had and just removed their handles. (Who actually uses handled baskets around the house?) Those handles got soaked in hot water, then twisted into a wreath, because I figured, hey, why not, right? It didn’t quite turn out as intended, but I may still pull it out and decorate it for the holidays.

    • As a side note on that side note: Totally yes to the BASKETS! For my one-year-old, putting toys in different containers and out again is a game in itself.

      I’d always recommend soft ones, though. You and/or your child will probably throw toys in those containers numerous times a day. Wood, plastic, metal and similar boxes can get noisy, fabric or wicker baskets less so.

  2. Love it! Hubby and I have been remodeling our house for a few years now, and I’m quite looking forward to when the house stuff is done, so I can move on to furniture refurbishing projects! Love improving stuff.

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