How To Turn An Ordinary Chest of Drawers Into a Rustic Bookcase

How to Turn an Ordinary Chest of Drawers Into a Rustic BookcaseSometimes the best way to salvage a damaged piece of furniture is to change its use from its original purpose. For example, a chest of drawers with missing or mangled drawers can be transformed into many other things like a bench or a bookcase.

There was actually nothing wrong with this chest of drawers. I just wanted to change it up!

chest of drawers_beforeHere’s how we transformed an ordinary chest of drawers into a rustic bookcase.

We started by removing three of the drawers along with all of the hardware inside of the dresser. We also removed the back of the dresser. This is easy to do. It is usually just a piece of thin plywood that can be pried off.

Next we purchased several boards of rough wood at the hardware store and used them to build up the inside walls of the bookcase all the way around. Before we assembled the boards, I painted each one with Real Milk Paint. The colors I used were Yellow Rose, Redstone and Pumpkin, a pretty autumn palette.

chest of drawers turned dresser_progress photo1We bought two pieces of nice wood and stained them to create shelves for the bookcase. We left the top drawer in place for some out-of-sight storage.

I used Real Milk Paint products to create the rustic look on the exterior of the bookcase. This is the same technique I used a few weeks ago on the vintage door I turned into a family message center.

I mixed a rich brown color called Warm Ash with Real Milk Paint’s UltraBond, a product that promotes better paint adhesion so the finish does not become chippy. I wanted the basecoat to be smooth. The UltraBond also helps milk paint stick better to slick surfaces like this dresser. You can see the base coat of Warm Ash in the photo posted above.

When the Warm Ash dried, I brushed Hemp Oil on places where a piece of furniture would likely start distressing over time, around the edges and here and there. The Hemp Oil creates a resist for the second color of paint you apply, allowing the basecoat color to come through with some wonderful texture.

When the Hemp Oil was still wet, I brushed on a second Real Milk Paint color called Redstone, a nice terracotta color. I did not mix UltraBond into the Redstone paint because I wanted it to chip and distress.

dresser turned bookcase_closeup1

PAINTING TIP: Add UltraBond if you desire a smooth finish or need to cover a slick surface. Skip it if you like that chipped, distressed look that milk paint does so nicely.

As the paint dried, it started to crackle in places where I had applied the Hemp Oil. When it was completely dry, I used a scraper and sandpaper to accentuate these spots to give the bookcase a heavily distressed rustic look. I am really into this look right now!

dresser turned bookcase_closeup2I finished this project with two products. I started with Real Milk Paint’s Burnishing Paste because it provides more durable protection than wax. I figured this was a bookcase now and it is going to get beat up.

However, I wanted the piece to have a silkier feel to it than Burnishing Paste affords. So after it dried completely, I applied Real Milk Paint’s Clear Carnauba Wax over it. It’s an extra step that is optional. One or the other finishing products would have been fine. I just wanted extra durability AND a satin feel so I used both.

If you choose to use both products, remember:


Here’s the finished bookcase:

Dresser Turned Into Bookcase1

Dresser Turned Bookcase2

You may be wondering about the three drawers we removed. I didn’t throw them away! I have a plan in my head to turn one of them into a display case for the pillows we sell at our shop, All Things New Again in Leesburg, VA.

The other two? Well, I haven’t decided yet, but I am sure I will come up with something!

If you have any ideas for up cycling dresser drawers, please let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

~ Cathy

All Things New Again is a family-owned furniture and paint boutique located in Leesburg, Virginia, about an hour or so west of Washington, D.C. We sell eclectic hand-painted furniture and several lines of paint for your next DIY project, including all-natural, non-toxic Real Milk Paint. We also offer painting classes and workshops.
Click here to learn more about our Intro to Milk Paint Class and see our current schedule.

Leave a Reply