Martha Washington Cabinet

Remember all of that fabric that was in my garage?  As I was cleaning all of that up I decided to do some other cleaning too.  I unearthed the Martha Washington cabinet that I bought a couple of months ago at the thrift store.  I told myself it was time to find a place in the house for it or move it on.

I didn’t know if I wanted to paint it, strip it, or what.  I decided the first thing I needed to do was to figure out where in the house I wanted to put it.

I ended carrying it in and put it here at the entry of the house at the front entrance near the staircase.


It sat there for a day or two…I tried to decide if I liked it there or not.

Then I figured out… that my cross stitch project bags fit in the side wonderfully.

The cabinet was growing more and more on me.


I have two projects on the left and two on the right.  I only want that many projects going on at once ever…so it’s perfect.


Previously I’ve not liked anything here as the heat register is here and I don’t want to cover that up.

I think this can work though.  The legs will allow the heat to still come out and flow…and the leg is big enough that the cabinet doesn’t fall in the holes and sits sturdily.


I am keeping my overdyed floss in the drawers.


I have decided I like the cabinet here…now I need to decide if I should leave it this color or what.  I would prefer it stripped down to the wood but I don’t know if feel that ambitious.  In my life when my husband was still alive, I would have stripped it.  He would have sanded it all down and refinished it.  I’m not really good at that part and honestly, don’t feel like I want to be.  So, it’s either paint it…or leave it.


I did consider roughing it up a little more so more of the white shows and then putting a dark wax on it.

Green isn’t a color I have a lot of in my house.  Hmmm.

I also need some decoration to go around it.  That part is a little hard as childcare kiddos can reach this and they aren’t the best at leaving things alone.  I set the tin piece on it.  If I leave that there, it needs some decorations.  I’m terrible at decorating so feel free to chime in and share some suggestions.  I’d love a little help.

At least for now, it’s getting some use…and it’s out of the garage.  One step at a time.

43 thoughts on “Martha Washington Cabinet

  1. Martha W

    Love the location! I agree that you should sand it some and then let it sit until spring and see if it grows on you. If not, then it will be nice out and you can refinish it. I think it needs one of your samplers hanging above it. For now how about putting small gourds and pumpkins in the tin and add some colorful leaves? I can vision a little Christmas tree on it for the holidays.

    Reply
  2. Paula Nordt

    What about putting some of your little cross-stitch pieces in the tin piece, like you make to put in your dough bowl?

    Reply
    1. Cinders

      See how you like the dough bowl there! Just a thought! I would strip this cute table down, sand it and see then it it would be reginisable with stain and a coat or two of urathane or paint it! In fact, I have two projects I am going to get started on, very inspiring!

      Reply
  3. Kate

    Hmmmmmm such a hard decision you have to make! I really like the cabinet and I probably would agree that going down to the wood is a good way, but certainly understand why you don’t want to do it. It’s been a long time since I refinished any furniture and it does take time and work, so maybe just roughing it up more will do the trick.

    Reply
  4. Sandy McCloud

    It looks perfect there! Definitely needs one of your pretty cross stitch samplers above it. Fill your metal container with pumpkins and gourds as someone mentioned. Change it out to match the seasons! I can see pine cones and pine for Christmas!
    Love it!

    Reply
  5. Elle

    Well, since it is now your cross stitch cabinet, I think some cross stitch items are in order. Little pillows in the tin tray and a nice piece on the wall behind it! Or if you prefer, multiple small framed pieces on the walls.

    Happy Friday Jo!

    Reply
  6. Cheryl Regan

    I have a Martha Washington cabinet too. I have a doily and a light on it. I used gray and white chalk paint in it. I love it

    Reply
    1. Carrie

      Thumbs up for chalk paint! Maybe a navy blue (I noticed some blue in the corner of.one of the.pics)

      Also, I would get.one of those plastic deflectors for the side of the register under the cabinet. We use. Them and they do not block the flow, but rather direct it. This way there is less chance of the heat affecting the cabinet or your projects.

      Reply
  7. Bonnie F in CY

    How about some seasonal decorations? Little gourds, pumpkins and some fall leaves and acorns the kids could help you find.

    Reply
  8. Karen Poquette

    I like the wooden piece on it better than the tin. Small pumpkin gourds would look nice. Closer to Christmas put pine cones with red covered styrofoam balls in it. I think sanding it in places would be interesting. It is a cute piece.

    Reply
  9. Karen P

    I’m not a green fan, but I think if you rough it up a bit and put some of the dark wax on it..perfection! I’m with some of the other ladies…small cross stitch pillows, pine cones, mini pumpkins, old fashioned ornaments at Christmas…just check out Stitching with the House Wives posts for inspiration.

    Reply
  10. JustGail

    Good for you getting that out of the garage. I have one and a warning – apparently the finish on some of that dark wood furniture in the 1920s doesn’t strip nicely. Or at least not without more work than the person who tried mine. Told to me by someone who did refinishing for a living. Blotchy uneven mess it was. I like using those end spaces for project bags – probably a better use than a hiding spot for chocolate.

    I like the tiered tray on it as well. It seems better balance in the space than the flat tray.

    Reply
  11. June

    Beautiful as is. My old home had the same heat registers. I also have an old phone stand in the same color. I’ve just left it the way I got it.

    Reply
  12. Robin Boggan

    I really like the color it is but I would probably wait until spring to decide if you want to paint it or not. It looks great where you put it and you will find what you need to add your special touch.

    Reply
  13. Carla

    You think you aren’t good at decorating?!!! That’s crazy talk! You have some decorating skills! Love the ideas from the other readers, especially hanging a piece above it! It seems a perfect spot to welcome people in with seasonal items. Keep us posted.

    Reply
  14. Colleen Misner

    I think a little color there looks great! It definitely needs a crosstitch display above it. I also like the wooden tray on top filled with seasonal items idea. What fun!

    Reply
  15. Angela J Short

    What about painting or drawing a couple little pictures on it, to look like cross stitch pictures? I think that would be pretty. Have a good day!

    Reply
  16. Sally

    I like the green. Green is one of those colors that goes with everything. I wouldn’t rough it up any more. It already has a genuinely worn patina. I would go ahead and add the dark wax. It’s a nice piece, Jo!

    Reply
  17. Christi

    I like green, it’s an earthy color. I keep thinking of you and a truck load of boxes to open. What a job, a fun one, but still a job to sort and decide what to keep and what to give away.

    Reply
  18. Lynn Walker

    It’s lovely as it is. It makes a focal point. Maybe sanded a bit but not stripped and darkened as it wouldn’t stand out so well amongst all the wood.
    The colour has history. Perhaps her hubby painted it as a surprise and she loved it, who knows. Love from England

    Reply
  19. Dorothy

    A wood cabinet on a heat register?? Screams wood dry out to me, along with drying out your floss and cross stitch fabrics

    Reply
  20. Mary

    I really like the piece, plus you gave it a purpose. I would put one of your samplers above it, and a wool small table topper on top, which would pull your eye to the wool work. Can’t wait to see what you decide.

    Reply
  21. Judy

    I don’t care for the green. It screams 70’s to me. I had a table at the bottom of my stairs in another house that I had antiqued that green. I would either paint it a color you like or strip it down. I know that is a lot of work, but it would be worth it. I like the idea of your cross stitch projects in it and to decorate it for the seasons.

    Reply
  22. JustGail

    I have one of these and use it to store sewing and needlework things next to my chair. I don’t use the side bins though – the current stitching project, rulers, hoop, magnifier are all piled on top of it. At least I haven’t yet stuffed the chocolate in those bins. I like the tiered tray on it – it seems better balanced size wise in that little nook.

    A heads-up if you do strip it – a prior owner tried to strip mine and it came out a blotchy mess. A person who refinishes and restores antiques told me there’s something about the finishes and woods used in the 1920s that makes it hard to get a nice result. True? An excuse? I have no idea. But this cabinet was definitely beyond what the person who stripped it could do with it.

    Apologies if this is a duplicate – I tried to comment from my phone last night and it seems the comment disappeared somewhere

    Reply
  23. RuthW in MD

    Dorothy has a strong point, Jo. That is a large heat register, and there is probably quite a bit of hot air that comes up out of it. This will definitely dry out the wood cabinet standing on top of it. I don’t know what hot air does to cross stitch fabric and floss. But of course, it is your home and you have to be happy with it!

    Reply
  24. Arrowhead Gramma

    I am concerned with the placement of the cabinet on the furnace grate. If there is a pilot light and/or the furnace is used constantly during the winter, over time this could be a problem with the legs becoming hot and getting singed. I have a back up floor furnace and it gets too warm to stand on when it is running JMHO and thinking of safety for you and your home.

    Reply
  25. Wendy

    Love your MW cabinet! I have one from my mom. It is a beautiful dark wood with inlays and an applied wood design on the front. I keep all my hand stitching books and patterns in it along with some special sewing items that belonged to her. Enjoy yours!

    Reply
  26. Laurie

    It sounds like we all like the gourds and pumpkins look! I’ve never seen a Martha Washington before, so I have enjoyed this. But I had a worrying thought. Could that paint on it be a lead paint?

    Reply
  27. beth A Jadwisiak

    I also have a Martha Washington cabinet. I use mine as an end table in my living room. Someone mentioned lead paint – I don’t think so – most were stained.

    Reply
  28. Carol

    Retired interior decorator here.
    1. Green is a nature color. Every home needs a bit of green. As you hang cross stitch pieces over it, the green threads will shine. The cabinet green will pull the color.
    2. Try angling the cabinet. I’m thinking it won’t work but try it. Pull out the right side and place the back angle against he wall and pull the cabinet on that side until it meets door jamb. This creates a space behind it but a tall goose lamp there would work. Probably no outlet there. I don’t think this will work but you never know until you try.
    3. Can this cabinet go next to your chair as an end table? Why not keep it handy where you stitch. Makes perfect sense. Back of cabinet next to chair. Drawers facing to the side.
    4. Just try it. You never know until you try.
    5. If you sent me a video or photos of you LR I could give you suggestions. I still have my skills.

    Reply
  29. Carolyn

    Just curious, was your house built in the 20’s? I have that identical register in the hallway of my 1927 bungalow that we downsized to two years ago. It was one of the selling points for me!

    Reply
  30. Debra

    I love that green! I would put it on my porch, pull up the side “lids” and fill with potted ferns…or some kind of draping plant. (If in the house, maybe philodendron.) A colorful plant on top, i.e. a flowering begonia, or a beautiful poinsettia for Christmas, especially a variegated pink with that shade of green. Pull the drawers out in staggered fashion and grow your herbs in them mixed with small succulents in interesting glass or pottery containers.

    Reply
  31. Anne

    I love Martha Washington tables. All the women in my family have one, as I pick them up at auctions as well. There are slight variations which of fun to find. Zippers also fit great in those side bins… zippers used to always be in cardboard sleeves so my Mana had her zippers there.
    Another idea is just to strip the top. You could stain it to match your brown wood.
    Enjoy. You have a sweet treasure there.

    Reply
  32. Margaret in North Texas

    I was wondering if you could angle it almost across that corner and get it off the register. Otherwise I like it there.

    Reply

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