Flea Market Flip: Secret Kitty Litter Station

Cats are elusive, so why shouldn't the litter box be?

It’s Flea Market Flip Theme Week on I Heart HGTV! All week, we’ll be sharing our best thrifting tips and makeovers. Come back every day for a new take on upcycling.

Photo by: Liz Gray

Liz Gray

It’s Flea Market Flip week, and I could not be more excited! When I found out I had free rein to turn a thrift store cabinet into ANYTHING I wanted, I knew exactly what I was going to do. But first, here’s a little back story.

I am not a cat person. First off, they freak me out with their hidey games and razor-sharp claws. Second, as soon as you think they like you, they totally ignore your desperate efforts for cuddles. (I’m not about that.) And lastly, the litter box. Having friends over right after work? Well, guess what. There’s a good chance your cat decided to use the litter box and not clean up after himself. Surprise, surprise. Now, the first thing your friends see (not to mention smell) is a stinky litter box. Not ideal. But despite these three reasons, exactly one year, two months and 22 days ago, I found this little guy in my parents’ barn. And I could not say no to that face.

So for my furniture flip, I decided to turn an old, unloved cabinet into a primo kitty litter station that both looks a lot nicer than an icky litter box pushed back beside the dryer and is easy to hide when guests come over. And I’m pretty sure my boy, Stitch, appreciates the privacy as well! Read on to see the full transformation.

The Before

Here we see the Stitch monster enjoying his new piece of furniture, pre-makeover.

Here we see the Stitch monster enjoying his new piece of furniture, pre-makeover.

After spending days searching for the right cabinet (and even passing this piece up entirely), I felt like I was never going to find the perfect piece to flip. It was only after a sales person mentioned they thought this old cabinet might make a cute window seat that I got to thinking. It certainly wasn’t the kind of cabinet I had been originally looking for, but it might just be better! From there, a new plan was put into motion.

With so many color choices, Stitch was the tie breaker. His choice: Sherwin-Williams SW7701 Cavern Clay

The Process

The cabinet was in decent shape for a $28 thrift store purchase, but before I could start painting, I definitely needed to lay some groundwork. After sanding the entire cabinet, my dad and I removed the top so that we could easily remove the thin piece of wood in front and replace it with a larger piece that would cover the top of the curtain I planned to install.

After we removed the first piece, we reattached the top and cut a thin piece of plywood to add as a back for the open cabinet. We attached it with staples every few inches.

You should know that while I love a good furniture project, I am not comfortable with most power tools. Thankfully, my dad is a total pro and helped me out along the way. We measured a new piece of wood for the front of the cabinet that would be four inches long and would totally cover the top of the curtains and tension rod. He used a router to mimic the soft curves of the existing cabinet and wood glue and staples to attach the new front.

From there, we moved the cabinet back inside in an effort to get out of the 100-degree weather and away from pesky bugs. Stitch was all too keen to check out our progress.

Before it was time for the real painting, I covered the entire cabinet in heavy-duty primer. Once the primer dried, I filled in any holes (this once contained removable shelves), cracks and staple indentions with wood filler. Using a 100-grit sanding block, I sanded over the entire cabinet one more time, and it was finally time to add some color!

First, I outlined the entire cabinet with a brush. I then used a small roller to finish the job. You’ll likely notice the top is pretty bumpy looking. We’ll get to that later. Reattaching the doors was actually a lot harder than I expected due to the old hardware that had obviously seen better days. For now, I made it work, but I’ve added “buy new hardware” to my to-do list.

Once the cabinet was painted, I attached a few hook screws to the new back to hold a litter scoop and small brush and dust pan. Basic screws hold a brand-new plastic bag dispenser. Since the back was so thin, my dad used the most awesome power tool of all (a right-angle grinder) to take off the excess part of the screws that went through the back. Note to self: I will one day be brave enough to use the grinder.

Since the basic tools looked kind of lame against the pretty new paint job, I decided to give them a bold new color as well! The plan: Keep all the necessities pretty and within reach to make regular scooping easy and an overall less painful chore. Plus, Stitch loves a little glamour, so it was a win-win for both of us.

The Budget Breakdown

Budget: $100

  • Cabinet: $28
  • Pillow Sham: $20
  • Curtains: $13
  • Pint of Paint: $15
  • Leather Cord: $10
  • Gold Spray Paint: $7
  • Paint Roller: $5
  • Tension Rod: $2
  • Hook Screws: $1

The After

The finished project features white curtains that are attached with a basic tension rod and pulled back with brown leather cord. Now, when guests come over, I can simply remove the cords and let the curtains do their job.

Photo by: Liz Gray

Liz Gray

I added a standard pillow covered in a washable sham to give Stitch a cozy place to hang out (though I imagine the couch will still be his favorite lounging spot).

Open the doors, and there is plenty of storage for food, toys and litter. I bought a couple of plastic pitchers with large openings to make pouring fresh litter or food extra easy. Plus, an air-tight container keeps food super fresh!

What I Learned

Now that you’ve seen the final product, I’m ready to talk mistakes. Remember that weird bumpy top from earlier? Well, it turns out that heavy-duty primer was so heavy-duty that it started to lift the cheap veneer top from the rest of the cabinet. Unfortunatly, I didn’t notice that until after I painted it. So the cabinet went outside once again for a very serious, very long sanding job. And the sanding block wasn’t going to cut it for this job. It took several more coats of primer and paint to get a smooth, shiny finish, but it was totally worth it in the end.

Also, I learned that a cat who normally loves a good photo session is not necessarily going to be a pro model for strangers as noted by the big gray blur seen here. Oh well!

13 Tips for a Stylish + Pet-Friendly Space

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Splurge a bit for pet beds that both complement your room's design and provide a comfy place for dogs to rest their heads. Check out Etsy store Iron and Thread for custom beds and cushions.

Doggie Up the Front Door

While plastic retractable leashes can be considered eyesores, graphic traditional leashes are more decorative. Stash them near the door for a pop of pattern and to inspire you to head outdoors with your best friend.

Doggie Desserts

If human desserts look just as good as they taste, why shouldn't pet treats? Spoil your four-footed friend with treats from online bakeries like Two Tails Dog Bakery. Since the long-lasting goods don't usually require refrigeration, you can keep them out so they're easy to grab when your best friend needs a nibble.

Make a Statement With Mats

Instead of basic rubber mats designed only to protect the floor from splashes, opt for indoor/outdoor 2x3 patterned rugs. Many styles are made from recycled materials which breathe and are easy to clean with just a garden hose.

Couches for Canines

Sofas for dogs? Yep! For decades, furniture manufacturers have been offering everyday furniture scaled down to toddler scale, a size which is also ideal for small and medium breeds. So hit your local thrift store or consignment shop for an inexpensive, secondhand kids' sofa then have it reupholstered with pooch-friendly fabric.

Indoor-Outdoor Upholstery

When it comes to pet-proofing in style, indoor-outdoor products are always your best bet. This kid-sized sofa was reupholstered using a Trina Turk indoor-outdoor fabric from Schumacher. Made to resist moisture, UV rays and most stains, this sophisticated fabric turned a juvenile piece of furniture into a showstopping conversation-starter.

Pet-Proofed Fabric

Can't find an indoor-outdoor fabric that fits your style? No problem! Most cities have Teflon-treating facilities which coat lightweight or delicate fabrics with Teflon, a stain-repellant chemical. Shop around for the best deal; the average cost of the treatment is $8 per yard.

Go Zen for Your Best Friend

Buck traditional dog bowls for something more on-trend. Many pet supply manufacturers have created high-end lines for every type of product from blankets and bowls to collars and coats. Zen-inspired feeding bowls with simple, Asian lines are both sculptural and utilitarian. Sites like Pet Squared offer modern Zen and Asian styles sure to please both man's best friend and their master.

Same Old Food, New Tricks

Interior designers often choose furniture with metal legs for homes with teething puppies or scratch-obsessed kittens, but the same principle can also apply to their feeding station. Industrial dog bowls mix materials like natural wood with durable steel, aluminum and other metals -- all certain to stand up to even the most chewy of teething pets.

Squeaking With Style

Rubber squeaky toys are 100 percent fun for pets, but 50 percent eyesore and 50 percent annoying racket for pet owners. Instead, opt for fabric pet toys, made from natural materials like cotton, wool, linen, felt or hemp. They're machine washable and cute enough to hang out on the sofa instead of being hidden away in the toy box. Etsy favorite Wags and Wiggles is a great online source for affordable fabric pet toys.

Canine Canisters

Most everyday dog treats aren't much to look at. Instead of storing them in clear jars or stashing them away in boxes, store them in graphic ceramic canisters featuring colors and styles which complement your kitchen. The Newport Collection from Unleashed Life is an online favorite.

Banish the Bags

Banish those dog food bags from the home completely. Not only are dog food bags big, bulky and attractive to pests, dogs are likely to try to break into them if left within reach. Check out wag.com for oversized tin canisters for storing your dog's food in style.

Outdoor Toys Head Indoors

While Frisbees aren't exactly something you and your pet typically play with indoors, knit versions may change that. Many pet boutiques carry knit Frisbees for doggie roughhousing that won't break a window -- or the bank. These can be found online affordably through Pocket Disc, or learn how to make them yourself at Worth A Knit's blog.

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