surveyor’s cabinet makeover

So I found this antique surveyor’s cabinet on craigslist. I’ve never seen a cabinet like it before.

I love all the different sized drawers. The top drawers are letter drawers with dividers in the middle. The middle drawers are regular file drawers. The bottom section is a map cabinet.

The pulls on this piece are fantastic. They are bronze and have such beautiful patina.

The feet are another favorite part. They are iron. So very cool.

I also love that the name of the cabinet company is on the front. I wanted to keep that if at all possible.

There was plenty that I liked about this piece. The only thing that I really didn’t like was the color.  The stain color was reminiscent of a 70’s picnic table. I had something else in mind for this beautiful cabinet.

The first step was to fix the 14 (yes, fourteen!) drawers that were in need of repair. Armed with Gorilla Wood Glue and some finishing nails and a hammer, I repaired them all.

The next step was sanding off all of the stain.  This part took forty forevers. Not gonna lie. It was a big ole pain in the butt!

After sanding and cleaning, I gave the whole piece a coat of Howard’s Feed ‘n Wax. I was hoping to use Howard’s Restor-a-Finish afterwards but the color wasn’t dark enough.

So I went with my go-to Minwax “Dark Walnut” stain. Perfect.

Then I put the hardware back on. All 28 pieces. 🙂

I love how the Dark Walnut gave the cabinet richness and warmth while still allowing the grain of the wood to show through.

I’m using this cabinet in my new studio (I’m converting the living area of our guest cottage into my new workspace) to store all of my stuff.

One more glance at the before and after…

Thanks for stopping by today!

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92 Responses to surveyor’s cabinet makeover

  1. whisperwoodcottage September 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    It looks amazing! It has such a warm tone to it now!

  2. Vanessa September 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    What a fantastic find and makeover! This is all your skill at one… put it at the curb with the blue side table! On my way! xo

  3. ReaderWoman September 13, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Beautiful! My husband says this is a surveyor’s cabinet – the bottom did indeed hold maps and the other drawers held equipment. What a wonderful find!

    • Maple & Magnolia September 13, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

      RW, thanks for clarifying that! It had been used in a lawyer’s office (some of their old papers were still in the drawers) but a surveyor’s cabinet makes more sense. I just changed it in my post. Tell your hubby thanks!

    • ReaderWoman September 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm #


  4. Katie @ Wildwood Creek September 13, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Beautiful, unique cabinet!

  5. karen September 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    That turned out so beautiful! I am impressed by all the sanding you did. (I hate to sand, but sometimes it’s just the only way to get to the beauty) I’m so glad you didn’t cover up the beautiful wood with paint. A lot of work, but the results are worth it! What a unique find.

  6. Stephanie@TheCozyOldFarmhouse September 13, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    So in love with this cabinet!! I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s truly an amazing piece and you did a great job with it!

  7. Deborah September 13, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    FABULOUS piece…so very VERY versatile…swoon…

  8. Charlene Austin September 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Whoa nelly…..that is some gorgeous work. You are so lucky to find pieces like this! Great job! I’m amazed.

  9. Jaime Klebig September 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    OhHHHHHHhhhhhh MY GOODNESS I am SO SO SO SO in love with this! Ohhhhh boy oh boy. You are officially my idol. And I know it isn’t nice to be jealous but I am so so so jealous :o) and happy for you all at the same time! What a beautiful piece!!!
    Jaime from Crafty scrappy happy

  10. Ellen September 13, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Saw the pic on FB and had to come here and see all of the progress pics… it truly turned out fabulous! I am so glad that you kept it stained rather than painted it and that you kept the lovely worn patina on all of the hardware…. just a beautiful piece! 🙂

  11. mar paulson September 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Beautiful job! loved the finish.

  12. Natasha @ 5 Minutes Just for Me September 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Oh my goodness, that is a stunning transformation! I can see that it would have been back-breaking work but it was so worth it! Well done!

    Best wishes,

  13. Sarah September 14, 2011 at 2:36 am #

    Wow, I LOVE this makeover! You did a great job. And I have to say, it’s refreshing to see a piece that’s been restained and not painted white- don’t get me wrong, I love the painted furniture trend and am following it myself, but I love a little diversity- especially when something has such AMAZING potential! 🙂

  14. Seams Inspired (@Seamsinspired) September 14, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    ♥♥♥♥I’m in total LOVE ♥♥♥♥♥
    I have no other words…except I want it. ☺

  15. Tori Nelson September 14, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Love the new stain. It looks so fresh & healthy!

  16. Susan J September 14, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    love it!

  17. June @ I will craft..... September 14, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Wow, what a great find. I envy your patience in all the work you did to fix and refinish this beauty.

  18. Rachel@worncotton September 14, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    This turned out so beautifully! I am completely envious! 🙂

  19. Cynthia September 14, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    What an amazing piece. What wonderful storage it will make!

  20. Heidi September 14, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Lisa of Fern Creek Cottage sent me by ~ and am I glad she did! Amazing transformation! So much work, but totally worth it! Can’t wait to read more posts.

  21. lenka September 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    Wow ! I just love how all the architectural details popped out after you allowed the wood grain to be seen. I agree that you needed just a bit of the dark to come through.
    Another great project: gold star !
    PS. What kind of monster sander were you using? I see a big ole yellow something there in your photos?

  22. Jim Haskins September 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    I love it almost as much as I love the designer!

  23. Sammy ~ Renew Redo September 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Ohhh, I love this! And, I’m so glad you didn’t paint it, for your redo. lol, It looks amazing now!
    Visiting from Savvy Southern Style link party.

  24. Pamela Manes September 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    Wow….such a beautiful, beautiful piece. Your fantastic restoration is to be admired!

  25. cassie September 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    oh my goodness…. i am having a gut reaction to that piece. i LOVE it. it is awesome and the new rustic finish you gave it is perfection!

  26. benita fox September 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    What a great piece! Great job on the refinish also.

  27. Jen @ Little Miss Penny Wenny September 15, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    Absolutely gorgeous! I can totally empathize with you for the amount of time you spent sanding! It can be so exhausting. Great job… I am so envious. What an amazing and unique piece you found!

  28. cheltenhamroad September 15, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    I can’t believe how patient you are to sand all of those drawers. But it was totally worth it! The piece is beautiful and it will be awesome to have in your new workroom!

  29. Sandi September 15, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    It looks absolutely beautiful…you did a great job!!!

  30. Courtney September 15, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    What a unique piece, love it! Also love the styling, the industrial light sits perfectly on the top! It was well worth all your hard work!

  31. Dana September 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    Absolutely in LOVE with this piece!


  32. savvycityfarmer September 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    you nailed it!!!
    I want it

    did you know we’re neighbors?

  33. Rachel September 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    Wow! It’s gorgeous now! You did a great job! Quite the reward for all you hard work. 🙂 ~Rachel

  34. Lindsay September 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    Great job with this! It looks amazing! I’ve never seen a cabinet like that, either…so cool!

  35. Rosemary September 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    I love this piece, and you gave it the perfect touch. Great finish.

  36. pamelaroberge September 16, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    I am sooo jealous! I love that cabinet and you did an amazing job!!! 🙂

  37. Under a Pile of Scrap! September 16, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    Found your link over at Miss Mustard Seed and had to check this out. Never seen one of these, but it is so cool! Definitely a labor of love, but so worth it!

  38. Erin September 16, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    I’m so in love – you’ve done a beautiful job refinishing it. I love furniture with lots of drawers…I’m desparately in search of an old bean and seed counter to use as our kitchen island…but all the ones I’ve found so far are way too $$ for my budget. I did get an old work bench with drawers at an auction for $75, but I haven’t had a chance to refinish it lived in a barn for decades and needs some serious love. thank you so much for sharing this – definite inspiration material!

  39. Revi September 16, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    What a wonderful piece! And you made it beautiful. Love it!

  40. The Virginia House September 16, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    LOVE it!! You did it right!

  41. Karena September 16, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    I love this! I am a huge sucker for antiques. Beautiful job. Thanks for sharing. I would love for you to share it on my link party at

  42. Jen September 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    This is FANTASTIC! I wish I could come across something this great (that is in my budget). Thanks for sharing! I’m going to feature it today!
    Scissors & Spatulas

  43. Jen September 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    One more thing. Where did you get the lamp? Is it from PB? I’m looking for one exactly like it for my craft table. So far PB is the only one I’ve found and I’m too frugal (sounds better than cheap) to spend that much. Have a great weekend!
    Scissors & Spatulas

    • Maple & Magnolia September 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Jen, it is the one from PB…but it was on final sale because they had too many or something? That’s the only reason I got it. I have seen some really similar ones at HomeGoods though! Thanks for the feature. Have a wonderful weekend.

  44. Leigh Anne September 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    Just lovely!

  45. September 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    WOW! If I was a Pottery Barn person-in-charge I’d be all over this design and get it into production! You did a beautiful job, way to push through the hard work! If I were a bettin’ woman I’d put my $ on this catchin MMS’s eye as a FAVORITE (said in falsetto;) !!!!

    Love. It.

  46. west furniture revival September 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm #


  47. Donna Gelineau September 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    This looks to be about 80 to 100 years old. Google the cabinet company, that should give you more info.

    • Donna Gelineau September 16, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

      I looked around a bit. This looks like it is a document cabinet. Does it come apart in sections?

  48. Allison September 17, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    Love the way this turned out! Saw it on MMS and loved it. Great work.

  49. Pam September 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    You are my hero. I love that you did not just slap paint on it. I love the warmth of that piece. Gorgeous!

  50. Michelle September 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    Your cabinet is absolutely beautiful! Love it! Can’t wait to read more of your blog posts.

  51. Sarah @ Redhead in Ruffled Flats September 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    You did such an amazing job transforming it without ruining the beauty of its age. I’m obsessed with any piece of furniture that has multiple little drawers, but this one is beyond gorgeous! I’m new to your blog – I’m going to have a great time looking around. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful before and after!

  52. robin September 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    What a cool cabinet! I would have snapped that one up too; love it!

  53. Kaitlin Saenz September 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    This is so great! I love it! Thanks for sharing it with {Re}creation Into Something New Wednesdays at Not So Simple Housewife! Hope to see more from you this upcoming Wednesday!

    Kaitlin-The Not So Simple Housewife

  54. karen September 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Its just gorgeous! I dream of owning a piece like this! karen…

  55. Ticking and Toile September 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    very amazing!!! love it!!!

  56. Candela September 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    its like magic!!! You really give me ideas.
    Hey, just a suggestion, could you write an explanation about wood finishing?? Like when should we use wax, when to use paint, etc, and the example result for different finishing. I think you’re the expert on it 🙂

  57. Kristin @ Chi-Chi Studio September 20, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Gorgeous!!! I definitely appreciate how much effort went into this piece–sanding and finishing is hard, tedious work!

    Thanks for sharing!

  58. Karen September 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Amazing! What a great find and great work!

  59. klberg September 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Wow, I am ahhhed and amazed. I have never seen anything like it before either! What an amazing find on Craig’s list. You did such a beautiful job restoring it. It is just heavenly to look at, it is so beautiful! Great work. -K (visiting from Restore Interiors)

  60. Julia @ 551 East Design September 21, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    This is STUNNING! I’m blown away.

  61. poindextr September 21, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    this is a beautiful, well crafted piece of old furniture and it has thrived under your loving care. It seems like whenever I happen to pop in over here at your blog I find something new and utterly thrilling! Wonderful job, and the result seems to be worth the forty forevers. 🙂

  62. jandjhome September 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Wow! This is gorgeous. I love it and everything on it. I once saw one of these at Salvation Army with a sold tag. They were asking about $300.

  63. Tracy September 22, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    This is the prettiest piece of furniture I have ever seen. It is sooo cool and you did the best job ever giving it new life.

  64. Debbie September 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    You did an amazing job! That piece is just beautiful, love the darker stain on it. Your vingette on the top looks wonderful also. I just found your blog and love it!

  65. Karen B September 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Awesome cabinet and makeover! You did a fantastic job!

  66. MARY EGUIA September 23, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Completely JEALOUS!!!!!!!!!!! I WANT ONE.

  67. Jennifer Davenport September 23, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    I am completely AMAZED at the transformation. You really really did a fantastic job!

  68. Starla September 23, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Crazy amazing! Found you on MMS – you did an incredible job! Enjoy the fruit of your serious labor! 🙂

  69. afairexchange September 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Wow! Magnificent!

  70. jane September 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    That cabinet is absolutely GORGEOUS!!! I’ve never seen one like that before!! You did a GREAT JOB!

  71. Sandy Dailey September 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Boy am I jealous… I know that’s not nice but can’t help myself. I want one.

  72. Jacqueline September 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    Is outstanding! Congratulations

  73. judi September 24, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    WOW! this is absolutely GORGeous! nice work on the refinishing and choosing the perfect finish. LOVE the iron feet, how cool is that?!
    does stain work overtop a wax as you mentioned you used feed n wax first?
    i’m following…you have some great projects and a farmhouse…girl after my own heart

    • Maple & Magnolia September 24, 2011 at 8:47 am #

      Hi Judi, yes stain goes right over the feed n wax. Usually, though, if I KNOW I’m going to be staining a piece…I use Minwax pre-stain conditioner. I’m off to check out your blog! 🙂

  74. Kristen September 25, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    That piece looks AMAZING! So jealous of your find.

  75. Kara September 25, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    I love this piece! What a great job you did! I’m impressed! Found your blog from MMS. I’m a new follower!

  76. Kim @ Cheap Chic Home September 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    What a beautiful transformation. Your hard work certainly paid off. You have staged it so beautifully, it looks like it’s right from the pages of a magazine. I’m so glad you put the before and after photos at the end. I kept scrolling up and down to try to compare. Blessings, Kim

  77. Tina September 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Absolutely the best makeover I’ve ever seen! Hard work I bet, but wow…what a pay off. It’s gorgeous!

  78. kat January 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Wow! I am so envious of your find!! found you via pinterest


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