How to upcycle an old chest of drawers

Upcycling has become a popular trend recently as the growing concern over our climate encourages more Brits to assess their need to buy everything brand-new. From refurbishing old furniture to creating new clothes from old ones, there are plenty of opportunities to upcycle items you have around the house already.

Whether you’re in need of a creative project or you want to save a bit of cash, upcycling a pre-loved chest of drawers can be extremely rewarding. A fresh lick of paint, some upgraded handles and a few other simple changes can turn an old, worn out set into a beautiful, Instagram-worthy piece. Here, we outline some steps for upcycling an old chest of drawers.


A wooden chest of drawers should be sanded down with heavy-duty sandpaper to remove any old paint and create a smooth surface. Start by removing the handles, so you have a clear space to sand. Be sure to wear a dust mask to prevent breathing in dust and particles as you work, as well as a pair of safety glasses, to protect your eyes.  

Once you’ve finished sanding, take a damp cloth and remove any dust from the chest of drawers. Leave it to dry for a few hours before applying any varnish or paint.

Replace the drawer runners

A drawer runner, or drawer slide, is a piece of hardware which is attached to the side of the drawer and the inside of the drawer unit. It allows the drawer to move in and out smoothly. Over time these can become worn down, resulting in a stiff drawer which requires significant force to pull out and push back in. Replacing the drawer runners will ensure each drawer opens and closes with ease.

It’s important to choose the right drawer runners for your chest of drawers. You can choose between medium and heavy-duty, depending on the weight each drawer will be expected to hold. Choose a reputable supplier for your drawer runners, like RS Components.


It’s important to take precautions against the harmful effects of inhaling paint fumes. Ensure you keep the area where you’re painting well-ventilated by opening windows and doors. If possible, painting outside would be the best solution.

Apply one layer of undercoat and allow it to dry completely. Next, apply your first coat of paint and leave it to dry. Allowing it to dry overnight will be best, especially if you’re using an oil-based paint. Apply a second coat of paint and leave to dry.

Upgrade the handles

Affixing new handles to the drawers will give them a new lease of life and could completely change their style and appearance. Opt for ornate, antique-style knobs for a vintage look or go for something more modern with chic brass handles.

You may need to use a drill to create new holes to screw in the handles, especially if the style or size is different from the originals. You may also find you want to use woodfiller to cover up holes from the original handles. If this is the case, this should be carried out prior to sanding and painting.

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