In Search of: How to Update an Old Medicine Cabinet

I have a pet peeve when it comes to medicine cabinets. They’re often useful for storing things in hiding, but they also often have no style whatsoever. Especially the standard builders-grade medicine cabinets that so many homes come with (mostly from the 80’s and 90’s). My house was no different. The medicine cabinets were functional — they had mirrors and some handy storage behind those mirrors. But they were also pretty ugly, and there was no way of getting rid of them without a gaping hole left in the wall. I wasn’t in the mood to fill gaping holes. So I got on to finding a way to hide their hideousness. And find it, I did.

Here’s what I realized: a custom frame would fix those babies right up! In the master bathroom, I wanted to retain the usefulness of the mirror. So I simply framed the mirror, and left the mirror as-is. In the hall bathroom, I got a little more creative. Before framing the mirror, I sanded it down and painted it over with chalkboard paint (3 coats, to be exact). I love the outcome in both rooms. The cabinets look so much more polished. The frames really give them a finished look. And the chalkboard in my hall bath is a super-fun place for messages.

Here’s what you’ll need to do this yourself:

  1. Tape measure
  2. Miter box and hand saw
  3. Paint
  4. Wood (you can find great pieces at Lowe’s or your local home improvement store. I used leftover base board pieces to frame my mirrors. But you could also use trim wood, crown molding — or simply any other piece that fits your budget and style).
  5. Silicone (if your frames aren’t going to be white, be sure to buy the kind that can be painted)
  6. Premium construction adhesive

So you’ve got all your stuff together. Go measure your mirrors, and determine how long each piece should be. After you’ve measured twice (trust me, you would rather spend the extra time measuring again than having to re-cut the wood), cut your wood.


Once the wood is cut, slap a couple coats of paint on them. I used spray paint, but you can use any type you like. I would, however, recommend you use a semi-gloss finish. You want to be able to wipe down the frames when needed, and seeing as how they’re in the bathroom, you know it’s going to be needed on occasion. You only need to paint one side thoroughly, but be sure to paint about a 1/2 inch or so on the back side where the frame will meet the mirror. The mirror will reflect a small part of that back portion, and you don’t want it to reflect unfinished wood.


Once the paint has dried, you can get to securing the frames to the mirror. Run a bead of the construction adhesive along the back of your frame in a wave-like pattern. I started with the bottom piece first.


Now press it against the mirror where you would like it placed, and hold for about 30 seconds. The glue will start to set, but not totally. This stuff takes a good hour or so to actually dry (read the directions on your particular adhesive). So grab some painter’s tape and secure the frame to the mirror/medicine cabinet. Once you’ve done the first piece of frame, give it about 30 minutes to dry, then move to the next piece. This slow process is a bit more time consuming, but it does ensure your frames will stay in place as they dry. The last thing you want is a piece of the frame sliding down the mirror without your noticing. ‘Cause that construction adhesive is SUPER stuck once it’s dry. I left the painter’s tape on the mirrors until the next morning just to be safe.


In the morning, I peeled off the painter’s tape. You may find there are some small gaps between your frame pieces. Fill any gaps with silicone. And voila — custom-framed medicine cabinets!

Here’s what the cabinets looked like BEFORE:


And here’s what they look like AFTER:


Sometimes I leave the chalkboard cabinet almost blank (to let guests write messages on it), and sometimes I write favorite quotes on it. Super cute if you ask me!

I hope you found this helpful and got some inspiration for your own home! Enjoy.


This entry was posted in The House and tagged , .