How to Give Melamine a Faux Distressed Metal Makeover
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.
Don’t you just love it.
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.
And I can display some of our found treasures and art work on her newly added top.
This is what she looked like before we gave her a 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:
- Craft paint and paintbrushes
- Mod Podge (Satin or Gloss)
- Rusting Agent or you can make your own using this tutorial
- New door handles
- A piece of wood to make the top larger
- 2 x Plastic Air Vents. I used the ones shown below.
How to give melamine a faux distressed metal look
Start by removing all the hinges, doorknobs, doors and shelves.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 started out by haphazardly painting on a layer of Teal.
Don’t you just love that color. It’s one of my favs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😀
Just mix a warm brown paint with water and dab over the rust to darken it up.
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.
Oh, and I screwed on some door handles too, which were also rustified ?
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.
The legs are galvanised pipe fittings and I love how they add a little quirkiness to the faux metal cupboard.
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.
And with her new top, she’s got more space for little knick-knacks on top.
Not bad for something that started out as boring and bland 😀
And the air con vents add to the perception that this could have been a metal locker of some sort.
If you like idea of giving melamine a faux distress metal makeover, don’t forget to pin it for later.
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And don’t forget to go have a looksee at all the beautiful Furni Flips from the other IBC members.
- Gorgeous mid-century modern nursery bookcase makeover by one of the best furniture flippers I know.
- Faux metal cabinet by yours truly.
- A stunning Marilyn Monroe-inspired redo from the very talented Anita.
- Sara took a boring little footstool and gave it an eye-catching Union Jack makeover.
- 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 😉
And if you prefer to buy rather than DIY, then maybe these beauties will appeal.
And as always, wishing you a wonderful, crafty week filled with lots of love. Thank you for popping in for a visit.
16 thoughts on “How to Give Melamine a Faux Distressed Metal Makeover”
Looks fabulous! How did you attach the feee?
Thank you, Ivana. They’ve been glued on with Pratley Steel Putty.
That’s a crazy makeover! It’s absolutely stunning. The color is outstanding and I’d never guess it was melamine.
Crazy is probably the best description 😉 but I’m so happy with how it turned out and that the whole thing only costs a few bucks. Melamine watch out 😀
Wow! Lots of work and it paid off. I like it.
Thank you, Linda. I enjoyed every second of dreaming up this makeover
That is absolutely amazing! I love the color and the vents, and those pipe fitting legs are so cool.
I love this color combination. Green and rusty browns are a match made in color heaven 😉
You know I am a big fan of unicorn spit but I have never seen such a cool makeover. I always learn something new from you and this month it is how to rustify which I will be using soon. Amazing project.
Unicorn SPiT is the best when it comes to vibrant colors and I’m so happy I could show you a rustification trick, Anita 😉
I could never even imagined how this could become a rustic cupboard would look this incredible! Your repairs are perfection and the “vents” are SO cool! I love visiting your blog, Michelle.
Thank you so much, Meegan. I really, really appreciate that ❣
I’m so impressed by this melamine cupboard transformation, Michelle. I’m seriously lost for words. This is beyond furniture painting – this is furniture ART!
Awwwwwww, Marie. Thank you. That means a lot coming from you. You are the best at turning boring, bland pieces of furniture into something special.
Wow Michelle – it’s unbelievable that it used to be melamine! It’s anything but boring now. I want to paint all my melamine now!
Me too ?