From Salvaged Metal Cart To Swanky Bar Cart

A metal cart is so versatile — use it as a bar cart, a place to store supplies, a craft center, an electronics charging station… pretty much anything goes! Our guest today took a salvaged cart from the trash and cleaned it up to make it a swanky bar cart:

Turn an old metal cart into a bar cart | The Palette Muse featured on #barcart #salvaged #furniture

The Moroccan trellis quatrefoil lattice style pattern (can you tell I don’t know exactly what to call it? 🙂 ) that she used is a perfect pattern to dress something up to be both elegant and modern, and it’s easy to DIY! Keep reading to learn how Meredith created the pattern on her cart, and get inspired by similar patterns all around the house, from rugs:

quatrefoil painted rug, Sarah M Dorsey Designs featured on Remodelaholic
Sarah M Dorsey Designs featured on Remodelaholic 

to furniture

dining hutch makeover with quatrefoil backing, The Crafting Chicks featured on Remodelaholic
The Crafting Chicks featured on Remodelaholic

to lamps

moroccan quatrefoil stenciled lamp, Any Given Day Inspiration
Any Given Day Inspiration

and curtains

quatrefoil trelllis stenciled curtains, Home Stories A to Z
Home Stories A to Z

and full walls!

moroccan quatrefoil lattice stenciled wall, Centsational Girl
Centsational Girl

Now here’s our guest Meredith to show you all the details of her metal cart transformation:

 Salvaged Metal Cart to Swanky Bar Cart
by Meredith of The Palette Muse

Hi there Remodelaholics, I’m so happy to be here with you today! I’m Meredith from The Palette Muse, where I share all sorts of home decor, DIY, and arts & crafts projects, as well as color palettes. Most of the time I’m a wife, mom, and sometimes Interior Decorator. But often I just feel the need to get my hands dirty with something other than cleaning supplies and cooking ingredients, so I go thrift store shopping and find a piece of something that needs a little extra love. That’s my favorite kind of project, perhaps because I believe that there is always hope, even for something that seems to have no value of its own. 

Turn an old metal cart into a bar cart | The Palette Muse featured on #barcart #salvaged #furniture

Some people find inspiration in art, books, magazines, or music.  Others find it in the trash.  

bar cart before makeover, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

This was a chippy old lab or cafeteria cart that someone was getting rid of, and I couldn’t let it go to waste. It’s organizational capabilities alone were enough to convince me to bring it home and give it a makeover.  I knew that, with a little love and attention, it could become something beautiful and useful.

Here is the journey of my cart, “From Salvage to Swanky” and how to make over your own, if you’re lucky enough to find an old and decrepit piece of something that needs a little life breathed back into it.


Step One – Sanding and Cleaning

This is really the most important part of a rehab project.  If you skimp out on this one, you’ll regret it later, when all your hard work begins to flake off.  Plus, after sanding, you won’t need to go to the gym that day!

how to clean an old metal cart before painting, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

You’ll need:

  • Paint Scraper

  • Steel Wool

  • Sanding Block or Sandpaper

  • Dishsoap and a Rag

  • Gloves and a dust mask are a good idea too

clean an old metal cart before painting, The Palette Muse featured on RemodelaholicThe object is to get any flaking paint off, leaving a clean, even surface for the new paint.  First use your scraper to work on the places where the paint is already flaking to clean an old metal cart before repainting, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

Then, follow behind with the steel wool to sand down the edges between paint layers.

Finally, finish with the sanding block.  You should be able to run your fingers over the edges without feeling a ridge between paint layers.  You definitely should not be able to pick off any more paint with your fingernails. Continue sanding down the rest of the piece, so that all the surfaces are even, but not smooth, so the paint will adhere evenly.

clean an old metal cart before repainting, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

Jacket’s off.  The workout has begun!  Wax on, wax off.

Clean the whole piece well with soap and rag.  Let dry completely.


Step Two – Painting

Hang on to those gloves and dust mask.  Now you need to add the paint.  The best paint, hands down, for this kind of project is spray paint. It’s the easiest way to get an even coat, while getting into all the nooks and crannies where metal meets metal. I like Rustoleum because of its high quality, comfort grip trigger, and you can spray it at any angle.

rustoleum paint

Be sure you follow all the manufacturer instructions.  (It really does make a difference if the temperature is too hot or cold.)  I like to do this part of the project in a garage, or somewhere that can be well ventilated, but is protected from the wind.  I hate losing half my can of spray paint into the breeze.  Or into my face.

Cover your work area, if you haven’t already.  Also, for this cart, I wrapped the wheels in plastic, so they wouldn’t get glued by any paint overspray.

Aim for several light, even coats, to prevent drips or crackling.  This little cart took about one and a half cans of paint.  Do yourself a favor, and buy more than you think you’ll need.  It’s a lot easier to return an extra can later than it is to run out and buy another in the middle of painting.

Once the paint is evenly coated all over, allow it to cure completely, for at least 24 hours.


Step Three – Decorating

Now, onto the fun part!  You’ll need:

  • Cork Contact Paper (Mine came from Lowe’s, at about $9 a roll.  One roll covered two shelves.) [Remodelaholic note: you can also find the cork shelf liner here on Amazon]
  • A Lattice Stencil (You can find these online or at craft stores, or you can use mine.  It’s just a line drawing that you can resize as needed.  Then print out, trace onto cardstock, and cut out.)
    moroccan trellis quatrefoil lattice template stencil, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie or Permanent Marker
  • Roll of Jute String (about $5 from a craft store)
  • Hot Glue Gun
First, measure the size of the shelf that you’ll be covering with the cork.  I did this by laying a piece of newspaper on top, and tracing around the inside edge.  Then I cut the paper down to the right size and traced that onto the cork.

Next, trace your stencil onto the cork with pencil, making sure to center it so the edges are even all the way around.

how to stencil on cork contact paper, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

Once the whole piece of cork has been penciled, go over the pencil marks with Sharpie.  I used a wide tip, to get a slightly calligraphic style.

Carefully peel the backing from the cork, center it on the shelf, and lightly lay it down.  You can gently pull it up and reorient it, if you find it’s not lining up quite right.  Once it’s in the right place, carefully smooth it out all over, starting in the center and working out to the edges.

Repeat for the second shelf.


Finally it’s time to wrap the handles with jute string.  I chose jute because I wanted the handles to have a touch of something interesting, and I knew they’d need to be protected from scratches and chipping paint. Starting at one end, tie the string in a simple knot around the handle.  Then hold the short end of the string under the bottom of the handle and start wrapping the Jute tightly.  Apply a dot of hot glue to the bottom of each cycle of the jute. 

wrap cart handles with jute, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

Let me know if you figure out how to do this without getting glue strings everywhere!

tips for wrapping cart handles with twine, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

Be sure to tighten the string each time you go around, before gluing.  This part is a bit time consuming, but so worth it in the end.  When you get to the last few cycles, stop gluing as you go.  We’ll come back to the glue in a minute.  Finish wrapping, then cut the string to be about 8 inches longer than you need.  Tie another simple knot at the end.  Then loosen up the last few unglued cycles just enough to thread the end back through underneath the handle.  Tighten each cycle up again, after placing a glue dot inside it. If the end of the string is sticking out, trim closely and finish with another dot of glue. Finishing off the wrapping was by far the trickiest part of the whole project!


Now you have a completely reinvented cart, ready for organizing crafting supplies, using as extra storage, or in my case, partying as a bar cart.

fully stocked bar cart from a salvaged metal cart, The Palette Muse featured on Remodelaholic

Actually, we don’t have too many parties, or at least the kind that require a bar cart.  Shortly after finishing this project, I was admiring my handiwork when my husband strolled by and commented, “That’s just what I need to organize all my guitar equipment.”  I think he has the best looking roadie cart in band history.  Oh well, it’s better than where this cart was headed before I rescued it!


Great transformation, Meredith! I’m sure your husband appreciates all the work you put into his swanky guitar cart!

Visit Meredith at The Palette Muse for more inspiration (like her weekly paint color palettes) and DIYs (like this fabulous and easy large-scale woven art). 

Check out our archives for more great furniture restorations, makeovers, and building plans

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Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

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  1. Thanks, Remodelaholic, for having me today! I love the collection of quatrefoil designs – there are just so many beautiful ways to use that pattern. I’m honored to have a small place among them. 🙂

  2. Wow! I wish I had thought of this for the condo building where I used to live in FL. I paid way too much money for a swanky cart to haul food and drinks down to the pool! This would have been cheaper and waaaayyyy cooler!

    Very nicely done…tell hubby to get his own cart 🙂

  3. Wow. I can envision the old rusty blue cart in my mom’s basement as I read this. Such a great idea. I have rustic pine furniture that I’m thinking about painting to look shabby chic. It makes no sense to buy new wood furniture when I can make what I have look totally different with a bit of creativity and patience. You come up with such great ideas 🙂

    1. Thank! I totally agree – I’d rather refurbish something than buy new. (And not just because I’m super-cheap!) It’s just so gratifying to breathe new life into something, instead of just getting rid of it.

  4. I love stuff like this. To me it’s always fun to to convert something a person would throw away to a treasure. My favorite thing of late is the use of chalkboard paint to add a bit more utility to jar lids and such for my storage jars. Who know, you may see a few in my upcoming food posts. 🙂

  5. This turned out fab Meridith I love that lattice design too. I would not have thought to rope the handles!! It’s such a nice touch. Lovely job:-)

  6. Love everything about it! Good for you seeing the potential in the old metal cart and giving it new life. Now you’ve gone and made me want a bar cart of my own! My husband thanks you!