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  • Writer's pictureGina Gaurisas-Wilson

Transforming a Japanese vintage tea cabinet

Japanese vintage tea cabinet restyled
Japanese tea cabinet restyled | Photo: Gina Gaurisas-Wilson

This 90+year old Japanese tea cabinet was my signature piece when I started my furniture restyling business years ago. Made of solid mahogany and held together with fine wooden dowels, this very weathered piece had seen better times. The beautiful textured glass doors panels with metal inset pulls caught my attention. The little cabinet had potential to be something grand.

Japanese vintage tea cabinet before transformation
Japanese tea cabinet before | Photo: Gina Gaurisas-Wilson

As in the Japanese style, this piece had to be delicate and functional. Preserving the simple contemporary East Asian style was important. As small as this cabinet was, it offered multiple uses with its removable shelves. Japanese hang it on the wall or place it on the floor to store tea and tea accessories.  

Drawings of Japanese vintage tea cabinet makeover
Initial sketch and final drawing of restyling idea | Gina Gaurisas-Wilson

To me, it needed to stand on its own legs, getting some height and visual balance. I designed and fabricated the legs and moldings in solid mahogany for a close match. Blending old and new is important to give the restyled piece a coherent appearance—like a good addition to a house that looks like it’s always been there.

Old Japanese tea cabinet with new parts assembled together
Old and new put together | Photo: Gina Gaurisas-Wilson

After stripping and repairing was done, the top and the bottom were reinforced to install the crown molding and the legs. Custom moldings between the cabinet and the legs tie it all together visually. A mahogany stain unified the new and old wood giving it a rich tone.

Japanese vintage tea cabinet after transformation
Japanese tea cabinet finished | Photo: Gina Gaurisas-Wilson

And there it was. The little Japanese tea cabinet that could be grand.

Thanks for reading.

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