How to Modernise a Rattan Cabinet

DIY specialist and professional furniture maker Natasha Dickins from Little Red Industries is here to show you how to breathe new life to an outdated rattan cabinet.

‘There are many pieces of furniture that have handy DIYers stumped as to how to make them fit into a modern home,’ says Natasha Dickins, DIY specialist at Little Red Industries.

‘While there’s nothing wrong with this cabinet of rattan boxes, there’s nothing about it that catches the eye to make it interesting or give it 
a designer edge.’

So what’s the trick? 

‘I have a three-step rule that works for any makeover,’ 
she says. ‘Watch how it works…’

  1. Change the one thing that’s most dated.
    In this case, the rattan is beyond cleaning so I’m going to paint it, dust and all, and add a shiny finish.
  2. Add an element to make it more modern.
    Attaching metal midcentury-style 
legs changes the footprint, making it appear more lightweight. I found these white hairpins online at
  3. Improve the experience.
    Sanding back the dark timber means I can finish it with a lovely oil to highlight the woodgrain, making it feel textured and hand finished.



  • sander and sanding block with 80, 180 and 240-grit 
abrasive paper
  • painter’s tape
  • white paint (wall or ceiling paint, or any acrylic paint)
  • paintbrush
  • mini paint roller, with two covers
  • Monocel Clear Wood Varnish spray in Ultra Gloss
  • Monocel Bench Top Oil
  • clean cloth
  • handsaw 
  • hammer
  • timber offcuts for the base
  • screws to attach the timber and legs
  • hairpin legs

STEP 1: Clean up the boxes

Remove the varnish from the timber section of boxes by sanding with 80 then 180-grit abrasive paper, rounding over the edges slightly to remove any dents.

NATASHA’S TIP: It doesn’t compromise the end result by sanding only the outside timber, so you can paint the entire inside white.

STEP 2: Protect the raw timber

Use painter’s tape to mask around the top of the boxes, leaving it on while painting and applying the varnish.

STEP 3: Paint the boxes

Use a roller and brush to paint the boxes inside and out, rolling and brushing from different angles to saturate the rattan.

NATASHA’S TIP: A light coat is enough to freshen up the insides, but apply two on the outside and an extra third coat on the fronts.

STEP 4: Add a glossy finish

Use Monocel Clear Wood Varnish spray in Ultra Gloss to coat the outside of the boxes for a modern, shiny finish that compliments the glossy hairpin legs.

NATASHA’S TIP: Hold the can about 250mm from the surface to lightly spray a couple of coats, leaving to dry between each.

STEP 5: Finish the boxes

Use a cloth to apply Monocel Bench Top Oil around the top of the boxes, applying liberally then wiping away excess.

NATASHA’S TIP: The oil soaks into raw timber, enhancing the timber grain and giving a beautiful matt finish. 

STEP 6: Remove the legs

Mark out the best position to cut the legs, making sure the cabinet remains structurally solid. Cut the legs using an electric or handsaw, removing remaining nails with a claw hammer.

NATASHA’S TIP: I like using a little Japanese handsaw as it cuts with a pulling motion, which is more natural cutting action and opposite to Western saws. 

STEP 7: Add a base for the legs

If your cabinet needs a base for the hairpin legs, add timber either side, making sure it fits in with the base of the cabinet.

NATASHA’S TIP: Countersink the screws to ensure they’re below the surface so the hairpin leg plates sit flush.

STEP 8: Remove the old varnish

Clean up the frame by removing varnish using an electric sander if you have one. Begin with 80 grit abrasive paper, then tidy up with 180, and finish the top with 240.

NATASHA’S TIP: Use a hand-sanding block to remove dents and smooth over the edges and corners to round them over. This softens the profile of the cabinet and compliments the more natural timber finish.

STEP 9: Finish the frame

Apply Monocel Bench Top Oil using a roller, starting at the top, working around the edges and down the frame, covering all raw timber, even if it’s not visible later. Then begin along the top to wipe away any excess and leave to dry thoroughly. 

STEP 10: Attach the legs

Turn the cabinet upside down on a clean mat to attach the hairpin legs, making sure the screws are short enough not to protrude through the base.

NATASHA’S TIP: Position the legs so the back of the cabinet can be pushed against a wall.

And that’s it! That old, dated cabinet is now a beautiful modern piece of furniture.

If you modernise your own rattan cabinet, we want to see it! Be sure to hashtag #bondall on Instagram and Facebook, and tag  to share the love for her gorgeous design!

Bondall has been leading the building industry for over 50 years. With products that are environmentally and user-friendly we’re focused on extending the life of your finished projects and building materials.

For more information on the Bondall Monocel products used in Natasha’s rattan cabinet, contact us today!