Vintage Bar Cart Makeover


IMG_3695I am really excited to share my latest DIY project with you guys!

The basement of my house is petty much set up for entertaining.  There’s a bar area, a table and chairs for dining, a bathroom, and a sitting area with comfy seating and a TV.  Each time I hosted a party, however, I kept running in to the same problem: although there were plenty of places to sit down there, there was really nowhere for people to be able to be able to pour their drinks without getting in someone else’s way.  I used to  have a beat up old card table (which was disguised with a table cloth until my cats shredded it up) where I would set out things like 2 liters, cups, lemons, cherries, a bottle opener, etc.  It was functional, but it wasn’t pretty.

Then, I was driving home one day when I happened to pass a yard sale.  I found a couple of treasures that day, but the most exciting thing was this vintage bar cart, which I managed to score for just a couple bucks.

As you can see, it was pretty solid.  Not too beat up, but still in pretty rough shape.


My initial plan was to clean up the shelves and keep them as is, but give the rest of the cart a fresh coat of paint.  Upon removing the boards, however, I discovered that some of the spots wouldn’t come off, and the underneath part of them was kinda gross and mildewy.  So, I decided to replace them completely.

So, without further ado, here’s what I did to give this beat up cart new life.

Supplies Used:

  • Bar cart
  • Two wooden boards (I used poplar)
  • Paint stripper (I like Citrustrip because it does a really good job of getting the old paint off and it smells orangey)
  • Primer (I used Kilz)
  • Spray Paint
  • Sand Paper
  • Screw Driver
  • Tarp
  • Rag
  • Steel Wool
  • Something to set the shelf boards on
  • Mask and gloves (if ya wanna work safe!)


  1. First, I used a screwdriver to loosen the screws that were holding the shelf boards in place.  Then, I popped them out and set them aside.
  2. After measuring the size of the old shelf boards, I went to my local hardware store and picked out the type of wood I wanted to use.  Although it’s more expensive than other options, such as particle board or pine, I decided to use poplar because it’s pretty smooth (not splintery) and sturdy.  Once you’ve selected your wood, you can either ask an employee at the store to cut it for you, or you can take it home and do it yourself.  I don’t have a saw of my own yet and didn’t feel like walking over to my friend’s house to borrow one, so I just had someone cut it for me at the store.  (BONUS:  I had enough wood scraps left over that I can use them to make some pretty sweet bookshelves to hang in my office or bedroom.)
  3. Once the wood was cut to the correct size, I applied the paint stripper to the painted (metal) part of the cart and let it sit according to the instructions on the bottle.
  4. While the paint stripper was working its magic, I sanded the edges of the new shelves  and primed them.
  5. The most boring and tedious part of the project was getting all of the old gross paint off of the metal.  I put on my gloves and a face mask (I wasn’t sure how old the paint on there was, but I assumed it was probably old and most likely not good to breathe in chips of it) and began removing the paint by scrubbing the metal with steel wool and a rag.  The steel wool worked great for scrubbing stubborn areas, but the rag worked fine for the smoother parts.
  6. After the cart was completely stripped, put down some tarps and primed everything with some Kilz.
  7. Once the primer was completely dry, I began painting.  I did a thin but thorough coat of aqua blue on both shelf boards and allowed them to dry before flipping them to paint the other side.  I also put a coat of metallic gold on the metal cart.
  8. I ended up adding multiple coats of spray paint and letting each coat dry completely until I was satisfied with the coverage.
  9. When everything was dry, I popped the shelf boards back in, screwed in the screws, and my bar cart was complete!


I am actually really happy with how it turned out!

I haven’t had a chance to properly stock it yet, but my plan is to use it to store things like cups, mixers and garnishes, giving people a place to pour and mix their drinks while I’m entertaining.

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