1950 Admiral television cabinet makeover

If you have “liked” my facebook page, you may remember I posted a photo of a 1950s television cabinet a while back and said I was going to be repurposing it into a bar. I am happy to report I am done.

This post was made possible with help from Ryobi Power Tools. I use them nearly every day and love them. (and I buy them on my own too) I am grateful for their support and encouragement.

Here is the before picture:

Admiral cabinet before

Can’t you see the potential?! I was SO excited about it! I pulled it apart and it looked like this:

Admiral cabinet before2

I did some research to try to see what the piece used to look like. I found these awesome ads for Admiral Televisions of this exact model:

admiral cabinet pic
Admiral tv cabinet ad

The lady who hired me to do this mentioned there was a need for more storage so I knew I wanted to use the area under the tv to allow that. I just wasn’t exactly sure how to do it. I batted around some ideas and narrowed it down to two. I considered either building a “trap door” into the floor of the tv area or making a door out of the speaker cover.

I knew I wanted a wine rack on the bottom half of the right side and at least one shelf on the top right. Here’s the thing, while I know the theory behind a wine rack, I had never built one before. After scouring the web for DIY plans I ended up modifying them to fit what I needed. The “X” version would have been ideal, it just turns out there isn’t a lot of room in there and that version would have left a limited amount of room for wine… which kind of defeats the purpose if you ask me… so I went with a half “X” or “/” I guess you’d call it. It was way fun to build it three times, since I may or may not have cut a few pieces incorrectly and possibly assembled the whole thing to realize that it had to be assembled in place or it wouldn’t fit.

The cutting and assembling of this was SO much easier using my tools from RYOBI and 3M. We got these great safety glasses at Haven conference. They’re Jack proof- He likes to wear my glasses. This frame is super flexible so it won’t snap. I like the carry bag so the lenses don’t get scratched.

RYOBI 3M tools

The 5 ½ circular saw is SO awesome! I love being able to take it with me anywhere to cut things. I don’t have to stress about an extension cord or nearby outlet. Also I can run the space heater in the garage and cut at the same time since with the light plugged in there’s only one outlet left. I completely recommend the High Capacity battery with the saw so you have maximum power.

RYOBI laser

See that line? There is a built-in laser that makes it SO easy to cut a straight line!

I don’t think I could have assembled the wine rack properly or as easily without the 18V One+ Cordless Brad Nailer. I am seriously looking for more things to use this on- It’s that fun! The best part is I can use it at nap time without waking the babies because it doesn’t require a compressor and it’s really quiet. When you press the trigger you hear it pull air from the surroundings and then a “bang” of the nail leaving the gun. There is even a light so you can see in the corners exactly where the nail will go- I LOVE it!!

RYOBI Brad nailer

I painted most of the added wood before I put it in the cabinet to make it easier and then put all the pieces together. A new floor under the tv section, a shelf on top right, the wine rack, and the “floor” of the bar.

The “secret” compartment was a bit more complicated than I thought it was originally going to be though once I decided on hinges, it was a snap. I thought I would be able to hinge the entire framed part. Turns out the “frame” around the speaker was attached to the cabinet and not going anywhere. Plan B was born- I unscrewed the fabric plywood from the back of the cabinet and pulled it out. I re-cut a piece of wood that fit in the frame with a very small margin on all sides. I painted the wood black and then drilled out a space for free-swinging inset hinges. I attached those and stapled the old fabric to the outside of the front of the door. I toyed around with a few ways to hide the staples. Everything I tried added too much bulk to the edges and the door wouldn’t open anymore so the staples were left exposed (but you only see them if you open the door). I used a magnetic latch to help open and close the door so it could be a true “secret” if you don’t know about it.

I had mirrors custom cut for the area behind the tv frame to give it the illusion of a television screen. I cut some pieces of wood to bring the mirrors pieces out to line up together and then tried to figure out how to mount them. I could have just used a strong adhesive but my biggest concern is if one should break down the road, how do you get the mirrors out to replace them? In the end, I decided 3M indoor mounting tape and good old-fashioned screw-in mirror clips were the best option. I love 3M’s indoor mounting tape and if you don’t have some, I totally recommend you try it out. It holds all kinds of things together and is a great solution to a long list of problems. I used it in my “former life” selling jewelry when I went to trade shows. It held my 6-foot long banner to the tablecloth like a champ and never slipped or loosened. At the end of the show, I could just peel it off the back of the banner without even a touch of damage. They have an outdoor and permanent version too!

Here are some final shots (minus the stemware rack I decided to install later and then of course forgot to take a picture- forgive me please)

Admiral cabonet outside
Admiral cabinet interior2
Admiral cabinet interior

What do you think? I dropped it off a few days ago and she was thrilled! Hooray! I was pretty sad to see this one go… I feel in love with it a bit.

Don’t you just want to run out and try to find a tv cabinet of your own? I might be on the hunt for another….

While Ryobi did send me some of these products to use and review, all opinions are my own (and always will be).

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  • Reply
    Susan Allgaier
    February 1, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    Love the TV Cabinet makeover. We have found a similar cabinet. What type of wood was the cabinet? How much did the cabinet weigh?
    Look forward to hearing from you.

    • Reply
      February 2, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Thank you so much! Lucky you to have found a similar cabinet! I am on the lookout for one for myself. I didn’t actually weigh the cabinet. If I had to guess, It probably wasn’t more than 40-50 pounds before I started. However, most of the insides were gone and there was no television or turntable at all. Once finished, it was substantially heavier from the weight of the mirrors and additional wood for the shelves. It was still manageable by two people though so mate in the 80ish range (?). I am really not certain what kind of wood it was made out of. Possibly Maple, maybe Poplar. I didn’t do any stripping so I never actually saw the natural color of the wood itself. What are you planning on doing with your cabinet? I hope you’ll share pictures!

  • Reply
    Mitch Lingrell
    March 6, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Hi Scottie:
    I came across your page whilst I was researching an Admiral cabinet/entertainment system much like the one you repurposed into a bar. I have one, and not sure what I want to do with it. I’m an antique dealer and a repurposer myself (allthough not as accomplished as yourself). My Admiral has both the turn table and the tv still in the cabinet, and they both power on as of yet!
    So, while I was searching for inspiration on what to do with mine I hit your page, and proceeded to read your DIY article about it! I’m not sure where you hail from, I’m in Ohio and being that I have one, and you are looking for one I thought maybe you might be interested in it? I can get you pictures, it’s in my warehouse and I haven’t taken any yet.
    Thanks for the great article! And I look forward to talking to you as I have much more than this cabinet to work with! I also have two antique radio shelves that I was looking into turning into office trash cans or paper shredders due to the pull down opening in the front!

    • Reply
      March 6, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      Hi Mitch! Thanks so much for stopping by- I’m so happy you like what I did with it! I would love to see photos of your piece, I bet it’s gorgeous! I love your ideas for the repurposing of the other pieces as well! I hope you’ll share photos of those too when you’re done. I’m in Virginia so depending on where in Ohio, possibly not so far away.

  • Reply
    June 13, 2021 at 12:42 PM

    Sad that someone would gut it, but glad you were able to save the cabinet. Gutting and repurposing these is a hideous thing to do. The existing TV can be fed from an a to d converter, and a Bluetooth receiver can be fed into a rather good sounding amp. The original radio and record changer will also please. Those radios often sound far better than what’s produced today, particularly on AM, since AM was the primary medium back then. Once this sort of thing is refurbished back to new, people are always stunned seeing one in operation, and hearing the rich tone quality of the sound.

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