DIY

How to upcycle a chest of drawers

Learn how to use chalk paint for a sophisticated finish.
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Turn a tired-looking sideboard into a functional hutch-style buffet – and make your place a home!

Not everyone can flip houses for a living, but we can all flip a cabinet to refresh it, repurpose it and add value to your space without having to drop a bundle. By using a lick of decorative chalk paint, surprisingly easy woodwork, and a little sweat equity, you can coax out a stylish, functional showpiece from an old sideboard.

How to upcycle a chest of drawers

upcycled chest of drawers
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

What you’ll need:

  • 2400 x 1200 x 16mm MDF panel
  • Degreaser spray
  • Fine steel wool
  • 89 x 19mm 1.8m dressed pine (2)
  • British Paints White Prep 4in1 Water Based
  • British Paints Furniture Paint in Healing Spa
  • British Paints Furniture Paint Protective Matt Clear varnish
  • 320mm bar handles (2)
  • Rub’n Buff in Antique Gold
  • Hardwired Antique Brass sconce

You’ll also need:

  • Cabinet
  • Painter’s tape
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Square
  • Circular saw
  • 120-grit sandpaper and block
  • String
  • Nail
  • Jigsaw
  • Trim router
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Cloths
  • Wood-filling cement
  • Putty knife
  • Nap rollers and trays
  • 30mm screws
  • 60mm screws
  • sponge dabber
  • 44mm hole saw
components

Safety notes

  • Have a licensed electrician convert a hardwired wall sconce to a plug-in.
  • When operating power tools, wear safety glasses, mask, earmuffs and tie your hair back. When appropriate, wear rubber gloves and protective clothing. 

Step. 1

step 1
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

With your cabinet in place, apply painter’s tape on the wall behind to show outline and curves of backboard. Measure your tape layout and mark the MDF panel accordingly.

Step. 2

step 2
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

Measure, mark and cut all components (see list below) with tape measure, pencil, square and circular saw. Sand sawn edges with sandpaper and block. Mark the centre of the Backboard at the top and draw a straight line down the centre to the bottom edge. To mark a round curve on top of Backboard, tie a length of string to a nail. Measure string to half the width of cabinet (600mm) and tie a loop at other end. Anchor nail on centre line, 600mm from top, then insert pencil into loop and draw a semicircle on top of the Backboard. Cut along marked curve with jigsaw. 

Step. 3

step 3
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

With trim router, cut an edge profile along curved Backboard edge to match edges on cabinet. Repeat to cut edge profile on 2 sides and front edge of both Shelves.

Step. 4

For Shelves, drill 2 holes 320mm apart and 20mm in from front edge on both Shelves. Set aside.

Step. 5

Remove drawers, doors and handles from cabinet. Working one section at a time, spray degreaser onto all handles and cabinet surfaces (inside and out). Scrub with steel wool. Wipe away dirt with clean, damp cloth. Fill holes and dents with wood-filling cement and putty knife. Allow to dry. Sand surface with sandpaper and block until smooth. Wipe down with damp cloth.

Step. 6

step 6
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

To prepare cabinet for painting, mask edges of drawers with painter’s tape. Apply 1 coat of Prep 4in1 with nap roller to cabinet carcass, drawer fronts, Backboard and Shelves. Allow to dry. Apply 2 coats of Furniture Paint in Healing Spa to all primed surfaces, then 1 coat of Clear varnish. Allow to dry after each coat. Remove painter’s tape. 

Step. 7

Lay Backboard face-down on a flat surface. Lay 2 equally spaced Braces 100mm in from edge with overhang same height as cabinet carcass. Predrill and screw both Braces to Backboard with 4 equally spaced 30mm screws. 

Step. 8

step 8a
(Credit: Alan Jensen)
step 8b
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

With Backboard flush on back of cabinet, predrill 2 holes through Brace and into cabinet frame, 10mm from top and bottom edges. Insert 60mm screws and screw tight. Repeat for second Brace. 

Step. 9

step 9
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

For Shelf positions, measure and mark 500mm up from bottom of Backboard centre line. Draw a 420mm horizontal line to left of centre line. Measure and draw a parallel line 300mm above the first. Drill 3 equally spaced holes along both lines.

Step. 10

step 10 Juliet measure and marking her shelf for th eupcycled chest of drawers
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

With Shelf in position, predrill through all Backboard holes and into Shelf back edge. Check with level; insert 60mm screws and screw tight. Repeat for second Shelf. 

Step. 11

juliet attaching bar handles to shelf upcycled chest of drawers
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

Apply Rub’n Buff to bar drawer handles with sponge dabber; buff to a shine with dry cloth. Attach bar handles to Shelves and reattach handles to cabinet.

Step. 12

juliet attaches sconce to backboard on her upcycled chest of drawers
(Credit: Alan Jensen)

Mark location of sconce on Backboard. Use a 44mm hole saw to bore a hole through Backboard. Screw sconce base plate to Backboard. Feed sconce’s plug/electric cable through hole. Secure light to base plate. Plug in wall sconce; move buffet/hutch against the wall.

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