We often find melamine furniture in the thrift store. Don’t get me wrong, melamine serves a purpose and they’re inexpensive, but they’re just sooooo bleh. But with a little bit of paint and a few other odds and ends those cheap old things can be changed into something special. Case in point this faux distressed metal cupboard we flipped from boring melamine to OMW for our holiday home.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

Don’t you just love it.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

She looks like she’s been through the wars backwards, and came out the other end a little worse for wear, but so full of character and charm.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

And I can display some of our found treasures and art work on her newly added top.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

This is what she looked like before we gave her a makeover.

The melamine cupboard/cabinet before it got a faux distressed metal makeover

Pretty boring when you compare the after right 😀

She’s also my contribution to this month’s IBC Furni Flip challenge.

What’s the IBC all about

The IBC, or International Blogger’s Club, is a group of bloggers from all over the world who challenge each other every month to make something using a common theme.  Our previous challenge was sweaters, aka, “Don’t sweater the small stuff” and we turned one of my son’s well-worn sweaters into a handbag. You can get the awesome tutorial here and you’ll be able to see all the other creative Furni Flips at the end of this post.

Okay, before I show you how to transform a boring melamine cabinet into a rusty, distressed metal cupboard, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll never miss a post!

What you need to make something similar

Besides a banged up, boring melamine cabinet or cupboard, you’ll also need:

Optional

  • New door handles
  • A piece of wood to make the top larger
  • 2 x Plastic Air Vents. I used the ones shown below.

Plastic air vents that will be used for the faux distressed metal makeover

How to give melamine a faux distressed metal look

Start by removing all the hinges, doorknobs, doors and shelves.

Remove the hinges, handles and shelf supports

The el-cheapo melamine cupboard I found at the thrift store had dings and dangs all over the place and the melamine had peeled off in certain spots too. I didn’t mind the damage on the doors, since I’d be using hiding it with paint later, but the top was a different story.

To make matters worse, the thing started falling apart when I removed the last brackets. See those ones in the back corner?

Remove the doors before painting

They were basically holding the whole cupboard together 😀 But there’s nothing that glue and some screws won’t fix. I used E6000. It works really well for sticking all kinds of stuff together.

Re-glue any bits that have come unstuck

Once the cupboard was stable again, she was ready for her faux distressed metal paint job.  

How to paint a melamine

Melamine or laminate needs to be well-prepped before painting. Unlike real wood, you can’t sand melamine down to a natural grain. There is none. It’s just a plastic-like coating over mushed-up bits of wood that have heat pressed and glued together. When painting wood, sanding exposes the grain, which opens the pores and lets any stain or paint absorb into the wood. That plastic melamine coating that covers the pressed wood is there to protect it from spills. Unfortunately, it also protects it from paint. So, it’s really important to prep the surface by hand sanding with 120 – 150 grit sandpaper. Go lightly, but thoroughly. You want to sand the whole thing down to a matt finish. If you overdo it, you run the risk of sanding through the melamine coating.

Once done, wipe the surface with some mineral spirits and a clean cloth to get rid of any oily residue and dust. Leave it to dry completely before applying a primer. I used a flat red primer from Rusto-leum.

Hand sand the melamine lightly with 120 grit sandpaper before painting

Once the primer was dry, I sprayed the inside of the cupboard with Rust-oleum multicolored texture paint. It gave it a lovely, almost rust-like appearance.

Paint the inside and outside a rusty brown color

Adding a top, prepping the vents, and supporting the shelf

Remember that badly damaged top? The one that had to be screwed on so the cupboard wouldn’t fall apart?

The melamine cupboard/cabinet before it got a faux distressed metal makeover

Yeah, that one 😊 Since there was no way I could fix that I needed to find a way to hide it instead, and a piece of wood cut a little bigger than the top did the trick.

Test fitting the new top for the melamine cabinet

Those original clunky white brackets that were holding up the shelf and keeping the cupboard together were so not going back inside my faux distressed metal cupboard. No Siree. Not going to happen. So I cut a 2 x 2 and screwed that to the sides for the shelf to rest on.

Use a 1 x 1 to make a shelf support

The last bit of prep work involved those air-con vents. They stuck out too much from the doors and I wanted them to look like they were built into the cupboard doors. Fortunately, I have a whole bunch of balsa wood that we use to make our fairy creations, so I cut a few strips and glued them around the vents.

Use balsa wood scraps to create a frame for the plastic air vents

Right, so that’s all the prep work done. Time to make pretty and give this baby her faux distressed metal makeover.

Giving the melamine cabinet a faux distressed metal makeover

For this makeover I used Unicorn SPiT, but you should be able to do the same thing with any craft paint. The colors I chose where:

  • Zia Teal – Light Teal
  • Navajo Jewel – Dark Turquoise or Teal
  • Dragon’s Belly – Vibrant green

I used Dragon's Belly, Zia Teal and Navajo Jewel Unicorn SPiT for the faux distressed metal cupboard

I started out by haphazardly painting on a layer of Teal.

Apply Zia Teal Unicorn SPiT with a brush or a roller

Don’t you just love that color. It’s one of my favs.

Apply Zia Teal Unicorn SPiT with a brush or a roller

Unicorn SPiT colors are super vibrant when the paint is wet and they dry to a dull flat color. Don’t worry, the vibrant colors pop again once the paint is sealed with a glossy coating. In this case, I just used glossy mod podge to seal the Zia Teal layer before adding Navajo Jewel on top.

Seal the Zia teal with clear mod podge to prevent the next color from merging

After another thick coat of glossy mod podge, I painted a layer of Dragon’s Belly on, while the mod podge was still wet to get a slight cracking effect.

Metal pipe fitting were used to make new legs for the melamine cabinet

You can just see some of the small cracks starting to form in the picture below, with a hint of the Teal and Jewel shining through.

I love watching the small cracks forming while the glue or mod podge dries

While waiting for the mod podge to dry I could experiment with this new stuff I found; Liquid Rust from Fired Earth. Now if you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know we love making our own rust paint using spiced up Unicorn SPiT. But I’m always game to try something new.

Be brave enough to be bad at something new. Click to Tweet

Any rust effect paint should do the trick. Modern Masters is a popular brand. To rustify something, paint the base coat on where you want the rust to appear and wait for it to get slightly tacky. About 5 – 10 minutes. Once tacky, spray the rusting agent on.

Apply the rust paint to the plastic vents

Within ½ hour you should see the oxidation start happening. It’s really cool. Not as dark as I would have liked it to be, but that’s fixable 😀

Apply the rust paint to the plastic vents

Just mix a warm brown paint with water and dab over the rust to darken it up.

Apply the rust paint to the plastic vents

The doors and sides of the cupboard got the same liquid rust treatment. Where possible I used a lot of the rust medium in the areas where the melamine had peeled of and exposed the pressed wood underneath.

Let the rust activator run down the doors to mimic real rust formation

Oh, and I screwed on some door handles too, which were also rustified 😉

The door handles before and after applying the rust effect

To stop the rust effect the whole cupboard got two coats of clear glossy varnish. To finish off I screwed the top on and added some legs.

Metal pipe fitting were used to make new legs for the melamine cabinet

The legs are galvanised pipe fittings and I love how they add a little quirkiness to the faux metal cupboard.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

If you look closely at the piccy above, you can see some of the pressed wood under all those paint and rust layers. Which is just perfect, since it has a similar texture to metal that’s rusted over time.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

And with her new top, she’s got more space for little knick-knacks on top.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

Not bad for something that started out as boring and bland 😀

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

And the air con vents add to the perception that this could have been a metal locker of some sort.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit
Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

If you like idea of giving melamine a faux distress metal makeover, don’t forget to pin it for later.

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

Sharing is caring 😉

Ever found a cheap melamine cupboard at the thrift store that was just to “bleh” to fit into your décor style? This tutorial will show you how to give it an easy faux distressed metal makeover that won’t break the bank. #melaminmakeover #paintingmelamine #acraftymix #fauxmetal #UnicornSpit

And don’t forget to go have a looksee at all the beautiful Furni Flips from the other IBC members.

IBC Challenge April 2021
  1. Gorgeous mid-century modern nursery bookcase makeover by one of the best furniture flippers I know.
  2. Faux metal cabinet by yours truly.
  3. A stunning Marilyn Monroe-inspired redo from the very talented Anita.
  4. Sara took a boring little footstool and gave it an eye-catching Union Jack makeover.
  5. An IKEA Marius stool never looked this good until Meegan flipped it into the cutest side table.

Oh and if you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered Disclosure: Clicking on the links below, means we may receive a commission from Amazon. But don’t worry it won’t come out of your pocket, and it helps us make more amazing crafts to share with you 😉

Unicorn SPiT Gel Stain and Paint New Color Fall 2017 Complete Collection - Squirrel, Navajo Jewel, Weathered Daydream, and Rustic Reality 4 oz Bottles
ClosetMaid 8925 2-Door Stackable Laminate Organizer, Espresso
Modern Masters Metal Effects Iron Paint & Rust Activator Kit (4-Ounce)

And if you prefer to buy rather than DIY, then maybe these beauties will appeal.

Sale Allspace 3 Door Steel Storage Wardrobe Locker With Dark Weathered Finish, Vintage, Industrial, for Clothing,Home, Office, School, Dorm, Teen, Shop, Vented, Lockable, Durable Powdercoat - 450112E
Sale Powell Furniture 990-332 Parcel 2-Door 2-Drawer Console, White 30' L x 13.75' W x 25.5' H
Sale Sauder Steel River File Pedestal, L: 20.87' x W: 23.86' x H: 26.58', Carbon Oak Finish

And as always, wishing you a wonderful, crafty week filled with lots of love. Thank you for popping in for a visit.

Made with love by a Crafty Mix