Restoring Wood Finish & Hiding The Cable Box With A Remote

When we last left off with our little media cabinet we had cleaned all of the grime off (with a Magic Eraser of all things) as well as removing the musty smell from the drawers with vinegar, but we mentioned that we still wanted to hide the cable box in one of the drawers somehow, and also had to seal the wood with something to lock in the color and shine. Well, we finally got ‘er done thanks to some technology and some good old fashioned elbow grease. So here’s how we went about getting that cable box off the ground.

We drilled a bunch of large holes in the back of the top middle drawer (and the back of the unit) with a large drill bit (it was a 1 3/4″ bit). Sorry about the bad lighting here, we needed a flashlight shining into the drawer to illuminate things, and it photographed really oddly.

Here’s an idea of how it looked when we had finished one side of Project Ventilation. Not to be confused with Project Runway, which is a lot more exciting, and usually involves at least seven kids from my Alma Mater (FIT – represent!). Anyway, so we did the same thing on the left side of the back of the piece (made four more holes) and then made the same type of holes in the back of the drawer itself (which was also open on the top, so any heat could easily escape).

Then we just hooked up the box, slid it into the drawer, and shut it. It’s nice that we can pull it out (if we ever want to access it) but we don’t have to keep the drawer open whenever it’s in use in order for the cable box to get a signal. Why don’t we? Why, because we got an IR extender. And it’s dreamy.

Wait, you can’t see it? Allow me to point it out. See this little black dome that’s about an inch wide?

Well, that’s an IR extender. We got it from Amazon (here’s the one we bought) and for $15.99, with tons of great reviews, it’s a deal that saved us from having to ditch/hack up/attempt to hinge a drawer front. The way it works is that you place the small round receiver (the black dome-looking thing) somewhere discreet on the front of your TV, and that picks up the signal whenever you use your remote from the couch. Then you just plug it into your cable box (there’s a wire that snakes around back).

In a word: it’s genius. It has been just as reliable as pointing the remote at the cable box itself, and thanks to ventilating that drawer we haven’t had any overheating issues (even if we leave the drawer closed for a week and then open it, it’s not steamy in there).

But now onto what we did to restore some color and shine to the media cabinet itself. Because it looks pretty good in the two photos above – but those were taken after we put a little effort into it. So let’s go back in time for a second. Since it had already been scrubbed down and de-grimed we needed to work on restoring some luster and sealing it all in for long-lasting protection. Step 1: pull out the drawers and roll back the rug.

Step 2: Bring those drawers into the sunroom (where I had more space to tackle them) and grab some Restor A Finish and Howard Feed-N-Wax (we found it at Home Depot) since I’ve pretty much heard only the most amazing things about both products, especially when they’re used in cahoots.

Here’s how the drawers were looking before any luster-restoration or sealing. See how the wood looked a little dry and had small dings and scratches in the finish?

Step 3: Rub Restore-A-Finish onto each drawer as well as the frame of the cabinet with a rag according to the directions on the back (which are pretty much “rub it on and wait 30 minutes”). Look at the difference! In person, it was like seeing a crusty old foot in one of those lotion ads that gets some much-needed cream and transforms into a gorgeous and smooth beach-ready model-foot. Seriously, our drawers went from crusty to modelesque.

After the Restore-A-Finish application, there were still a few more heavy duty chips that weren’t quite solved (it was great for the small dings and scratches as well as moisturizing all of the wood though).

So that brings us to step 4: raid Clara’s art drawer. Ah yes, a brown magic marker will do.

Step 5: rub the brown magic marker into those bigger chips and immediately blend with your finger. Might as well rename it Chip-Be-Gone. Or at least Chip-Be-Way-Less-Obvious.

Then after the wait time on the can of Restore-A-Finish (30 mins) it was time to move on to our little bottle of Howard Feed-N-Wax to seal everything in. I was fresh out of clean rags, so I used an old white sock. Worked like a charm.

Step 6: Apply the wax to the wood drawers and frame of the cabinet, let it sit and soak in for 30 minutes, and then buff away any remaining wax with another clean rag (or sock in my case).

“Bling bling. Everytime I come into the sunroom bling bling.” That’s what I was singing with these flossy & glossy babies in front of me. Just call me Lil Wayne.

Once I slid the drawers back into place, our media cabinet was all “Can’t nobody take my pride. Can’t nobody hold me down. Oh no. I got to show those movies” a la Puff & Mace.

It was like a bonafide hip-hop throwback concert at my house. With slightly altered home-related lyrics.

Ok, I’m satisfied with the amount of hip-hop references that I worked into this post. Although I gotta say, it would make my life to someday drop this little ditty: “I’m sorry momma. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant to make you cry, but tonight I’m cleaning out my armoire.”

And now, let’s take a moment to appreciate how far this baby has come. Best $59 we ever spent. And the crazy part to us is that this cabinet sat at the thrift store long enough to get marked down by $20 (which means it was probably there for at least a month). Nobody saw the beauty.

Also, on the subject of hip hop, dude why isn’t the magical pairing of Adam Levine, 50 Cent, and Eminem getting more radio play (warning, this isn’t the clean version, it’s the official video)? I first heard it last fall but it’s still not on the radio. What the heck, DJs of America? Help a sister out.

What are you guys up to when it comes to furniture upgrades. Any wax-on-wax-off-ing going on? Any other RF remote (or IR extender) lovers out there? It’s a pretty sweet piece of machinery, I gotta say.


  1. Katie says

    “Chip-be-way-less-obvious” HA! You guys never fail to give me “laugh so hard my morning coffee comes out my nose” moments. Amazing results on the vintage media maven!

  2. says

    Ha! I love the marker trick. I use it all over my house. I chipped tile, chipped furniture, trim, etc. You name it I’ve done it and it works like a cheap charm! Way to go!

  3. says

    Looks so pretty! I have actually been trying to clean my grandmother’s rock maple dining room set. It’s from the 1950’s, but was used until the 90’s. But the grime that has accumulated is horrendous. I have been cleaning it with Murphy’s oil soap, but I think after the cleaning, I will try those products you mentioned. It is definitely dull and dry after so many years of sitting in storage. I’m sure I am not the only one who says this, bu I really rely on you guys for good product advice because I am really lazy about researching. My husband is a great product researcher also, but when I decide I need something, I need it pronto. LOL So, I simply buy what you buy. I went out and bought the nail gun you used for the board and batten (which I wish I had when we did ours) for the all the mouldings we are planning to replace. Maybe you guys have a future with Consumer Reports? :)

  4. Katie J says

    Just an FYI…there have been several house fires caused by people putting these boxes in drawers or stacking them on top of eachother! They get very hot!!

  5. says

    Oh man, that is so what we’re looking for when it comes to our tv cabinet! We just need to scour our thrift shops more. Craigslist has not been our friend.

  6. Jaclyn says

    Hey guys,
    Have you ever considered having a “question” area where first time DIY-ers can ask questions about projects you have completed? I think your posts are super elaborate and really help with the pictures but in case an extra question pops up it would be nice to ask it there! Unless…. That is, it’s okay to ask random questions here in the “comment” section exactly like what I am doing!
    Trying but nervous DIY-er :)

    • says

      Oh yes, we’d love to start forums where folks can ask questions and help each other out! We are trying to get them up sometime this year (they were part of our 2013 resolutions this year :)


  7. Gwen says

    Wow, looks great!

    Just a few days ago I used Restor-a-finish and Feed-n-wax on an old dresser. That stuff is amazing!! Can not recommend it enough.

  8. mommydale says

    I have serious dresser envy AND I am shopping for a remote for my box this weekend. I had NO idea that you could do that and I hate our cable box sitting out (but the toddler loves to bang on it!).

    On a random side note – I still feel lousy that the cross stitch I gave you in ATL was wrinkly (annoying perfectionism streak) so I was wondering if t ironed out ok (if you’ve had time). I hope so!

  9. Cara D says

    Thanks for the link. I am planning on getting a control like that but the ones I was looking at were much more expensive! I hadn’t thought about ventilation for the media cabinet either. Mine will be attached to the wall so I may have to put some holes on the bottom or something.

  10. says

    OMG love the marker tip! I have a few black/brown Ikea furniture items, and every time I get a scratch in one of them (from a cat!), I use a Sharpie to cover it up. My mom told me that tip a few years ago and it works like a charm!

  11. Sarah says

    Love the fact that you are a “ghetto superstar” (as my husband would say) like me! I had to comment not only because I liked the changed lyrics, and the updated cabinet, but that I TOTALLY agree with you on the no radio love for that amazing song. I loved it when they did it on the voice and have been waiting for it to blow up!

  12. says

    Very cool tips on how to bring a wood piece to life! I’m a big fan of the IDEA of using vintage wood pieces, but was always afraid of what I’d have to do to clean them. This makes it sound a lot easier than I thought!

    Oh, and thanks for the tip on the remote – I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I look for a new TV stand. We now have an open glass one (yeah…it’s a bit 80s looking…which is why my husband is now banned from buying furniture), and it’d be nice to get something like what you guys have to keep everything hidden away!

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