Create Pretty Art Studio Storage from an Upcycled Vintage Bin

Although our oldest child has left the nest and our youngest is old enough to get her driver's license, I still tool around town in a minivan.

art studio organization vintage shelving
Upcycled art studio shelving unit.
Project and photo by Susan Borgen.

Why? Mainly because it's paid for and it still runs great. But also, because I have a tendency to pick up junk left by the side of the road. My kids say I need a bumper sticker that says, "I break for old chairs." My husband is not amused. Probably because everything I bring home needs some work.

A few years back I picked up a vintage metal shelving/cabinet at a yard sale. I love the glass doors and the fact that I can post notes to myself on it with magnets. Hubby dutifully hung it on my art studio wall and it stored fabrics and supplies for a couple of years.

Now that I've moved my home studio to another room, I'm thinking about taking the cabinet down and hanging it in the kitchen. Hubby will do that, but says I have to paint it.

I've been putting off that task because I wasn't sure how to go about it. Then I saw how Susan Borgen turned an old storage bin into an adorable cabinet/shelving unit in the Fall 2012 issue of Studios magazine.

The bin "before."
Photo by Susan Borgen.

Although this metal produce bin had seen better days, Susan transformed it into useful home studio storage, using a little spray paint, an inexpensive vinyl picnic tablecloth, magnets, and tin cans.  

Its lid has become a bulletin board by adding handmade magnets. The shelves in the door hold magazines and fabric-embellished metal cans that corral markers, colored pencils, and paintbrushes. Vintage planters and tins filled with rubber stamps, tubes of paint, paper, scissors, and more, reside on three tiers lined with a pretty floral vinyl tablecloth.

Here's how she did it:


  • 1 can spray paint
  • Sandpaper
  • Fine steel wool
  • High-filtration face mask
  • Patterned vinyl tablecloth
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Cotton swabs
  • Spray-mount adhesive
  • Ruler
  • Scissors


Warning: Wear a high-filtration mask when sanding any vintage piece.

1. Use sandpaper to remove any loose paint on the exterior and interior, being careful not to disturb the vintage decal.

2. Lightly rub the surface with fine sandpaper and wipe with a damp rag to remove any remaining dust.

3. With a cotton swab, apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly over the decal.

4. In a well-ventilated area, apply two coats of spray paint in short, even strokes. When the paint is dry, use a damp paper towel to wipe off the petroleum jelly and reveal the decal.

5. Measure the back and sides of each shelf and cut out pieces of the patterned vinyl tablecloth to fit.

6. Lightly coat the back of each piece with spray glue and apply them to the cabinet's interior, being sure to smooth out any wrinkles. 

art studio organization shelving
My studio cabinet, in need of a facelift.

Now that I've seen how easy it is to refurbish a vintage cabinet, I'm going to take on my own project. Won't hubby be surprised!

You can see more creative shelving solutions for your art and craft studio in the Fall 2012 issue of Studios magazine. Plus, get Susan's how-tos for making flower magnets and turning a vinyl tablecloth into an apron.

P.S. What have you upcycled in your studio? Do you have any clever ideas to share? I bet you do! Leave a comment below.


Art Business, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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