How to Up-cycle a Cart into a Tropical Paradise


I have a very unique corner in a high traffic area off to the side of the kitchen island and on way to the living room. This corner is in our “grand room” that houses our wood stove (that heats our house), a cozy sitting area in front of the sliding doors and on the other side is our open concept dinning area.

Why the Sudden Empty Space?

This is where our fish tank was. We live in a wooded area set back from a rural road and are surrounded by cedars and poplar trees. In the last few years we have seen an increase in wind and ice storms that have taken down more trees behind our house. This has caused more sun (always a good thing!) to saturate our grand room through a wall of windows and a sliding door.

The sun had created a bad algae problem within the tank that I just couldn’t keep up with…. sigh! We moved our fish tank downstairs to the lower level in November. However because of our slightly over the top Christmas decorations the space was used for a displaced chair and than the dog bed!


Not sure exactly when I started thinking about putting a desk or shelf in this space but sitting in my red chairs by the fire daily I started thinking about a display area…. and one that could hold plants. I of course turned to Pinterest!

We live in a great unique house that although has lots of natural light in both the great room and kitchen it lacks windows that can be used for plants through out the house with the exception of my sitting room/sun room that faces towards the north. (You can check it out in my Zen Planter post)

It took some time for me to come up with something I could make with little to no money. First I thought about making a shelf with plumbing pipes and live edged wood (See above) like I did when I made my end tables in the living room with hubby’s help. (Strength) But that would take money to buy the live edged wood and I didn’t have the time or energy to look around the markets in St. Jacob’s especially in February.

Next, I spotted a great idea on both Instagram and Pinterest but had to find a cart to re-purpose into a Tropical Paradise.

Finding a Cart

I looked at two different reuse centres near me, both were Habitat for Humanity stores. Nothing! I looked in Salvation army, Goodwill and Value Village…again nothing!

I went out to my husbands workshop (Not much room for working) to talk to him and boom! He had two carts full with stuff (Junk) shoved under his back work bench. I pulled out the 2 shelf one and measured since it looked big. It was too big for my space. I than pulled out the 3 shelf one and measured and boom it would work! I wasn’t how sure as it was a bit warped had a happy face screwed into the top of it… really you can see it in my picture! It also had ugly bumpers on it, which we took off.

I thought a wooden top would look good. I looked around the workshop and barn for some wood to piece into the top. Than, I found a bigger piece of Oak! Hubby said I could use it! SCORE!! This will cover the screwed happy face and with a couple of screws up from bottom would fix the warped metal.

The Steps

  1. Prep metal cart for paint: sanded rough spots, removed happy face, and ugly bumpers on handle.
  2. Spray painted the cart (So easy… hubby did this while I was at work!)
  3. Cut oak or your pieces of wood to fit into proper size. (Hubby did this too!)
  4. Prep oak for staining: sanding (Me!)
  5. Stain and varnish oak slab (Me!)
  6. Put oak on top and screw from bottom to get rid of warped top and to cover happy face (Still shows even without the screws!)
  7. Hubby carried it in! (We have lots of snow and I didn’t want snow in house!)

Now to Decorate

I started with bringing some plants down from my sitting room. I brought down some accessories that I liked. I took items from a variety of rooms that were just not getting enough attention like my lighthouse candle, my wooden pineapple tray and what garden cart would be great without some gardening books? (And one Barnyard book on animals) I puttered with it on and off over a few hours…. actually between making lunch and doing laundry I worked on it!

The finished Tropical Paradise!

I just love it so much!

Now I am not finished yet, but I will do that next weekend. I have a piece of Oak that was cut off the top and I will stain it this week and varnish it too. I plan to attach it to the wall above and than add two triangular planters that I ordered on line a while ago. I need to paint the gold metal brackets shinny black to match the cart. That will complete the look! I will update the post as soon as that is done. Unfortunately I came up with the 2nd idea after seeing the cart in position and done. Also I have to work long days this week! So please check back next week or subscribe to be notified to see the 2nd part finished.

I love this project! May be one of my all time favorites. I also love that my cart has wheels, so I can push it closer to the window if necessary to get a little more light.

Please let me know what you think and if you have any ideas on what I can put on the shelf, to tie into my Tropical Paradise theme? The shelf will be almost the length of the wall behind the cart and about 5.5″ deep. Also I would appreciate any ideas you may have on how I can hide the thermostat? Its for one of the baseboard heaters; I need access but not often.


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4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. the thermostat is fine…I have just redone a whole house to sell lol so it’s ok!! lol also I love this cart. See you in august in brussels so you can plant and decorate my new house for me!!

    1. I am working on disguising the thermostat with a plant from below or above once I get the shelf up. This cart was actually so easy to do, even without a old medical cart a simply made shelving unit with or without wheels would work too. I would love to help you decorate your new house! 🙂

    1. Hi Ashley,
      Thank you for the praise. I love creating things especially when I can re-use (insert cheaply make!) something that is not being used. (Hubby tends to collect items!) I am sure you could make something for your home, start out small. I think the first thing I ever made was a Christmas wreath and it developed from there. Best of Luck!

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