Upcycle Old Drawers into Decorative Shelves

shelves from old drawers

I love a cheap and easy upcycled project, and this one fits that description perfectly.  I found these two solid dresser drawers at a garage sale and planned from the beginning to make them into little decorative shelves.

upcycled drawer to shelf

I started by painting them both with DIY Chalk Paint in white, and then used hemp oil* to create a resist to allow the white to show through the top coat of paint.  I’ve tried out a few different types of resists, and each give a different look, especially depending on the type of paint I’m using for the top coat.  If I’m using true chalk paint (for this project I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey), I find I need to add the hemp oil, and then paint the top coat on right away.  If not, sometimes the chalk paint sticks right to the hemp oil!  When I use milk paint, the hemp oil resists the top layer much more, and I usually see a lot more of the base color.  If you’re wondering about different ways to create this look, check out this post where I compare hemp oil, wax, and Vaseline.

distressing to show second layer of paint

Once the drawers were painted, I cut pieces of coordinating decorative paper.  This particular paper was double sided with a different pattern on each side, so I just alternated the two sides.  But, you could find coordinating paper or fabric, or just use the same paper for the whole shelf.

upcycled dresser drawers

I used Loctite Spray Adhesive* (high performance or general performance works best for this type of project, because you don’t want it to be repositionable) to adhere the papers to the back of the drawers.

upcycle old drawers into shelves


The last step was to cut down come pieces of 1 x 8 pine and stain them in a similar color to the drawer fronts.  If I wasn’t creating on a budget, I definitely would have bought oak, since the drawer fronts are made of this type of wood, but pine is about 75% cheaper than solid oak.  I’m okay with it and still love how they look.  I air-nailed the boards through the sides of the drawers so they remain in place.

shelves from old drawers 2

Super easy and super cheap!

upcycled shelves from old drawers

I love this little picture.  It’s my great-grandfather and the members of his rowing team in college.

upcycle old drawers into shelves

That’s all there is to it.  Next time you see a free dresser on the side of the road, stop and check out the drawers before passing it by!

old dresser drawers into shelves

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Here are a few more upcycled creations:

Chicken Feeder Succulent Garden
Chicken Feeder Succulent Garden
DIY vintage faucet towel rack
Faucet Handle Towel Rack


Bathroom Storage from Thrift Store Baskets
Bathroom Storage from Thrift Store Baskets

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19 thoughts on “Upcycle Old Drawers into Decorative Shelves

  1. Good Morning Jenny!! Just popping in to let you know your post has been picked as a feature at the Welcome Home Wednesday Link Party! Stop by this morning to see your feature and link up! Don’t forget to grab your “Featured Button” too!

  2. I love a good repurposed drawer projecr! These are so clever, great idea on adding the colorful background. Thanks for sharing your tutorial at Vintage Inspiration Party.

  3. I’ve seen (and made!) a lot of drawer shelves, but I love how you used different papers behind each shelf – it really takes this idea up a notch! Thanks for sharing it at the Vintage Inspiration Party – I pinned it!

  4. I saw these over at Just a Girl and Her Blog and I had to pop over to see the whole post about them, they are so cute!! I wonder what the grooves on the insides of the drawers are for.


    1. Hi Pauletta – I actually don’t think I included it in the post, because it’s probably not the best advice! There is a lip on the top edge of each drawer, so I just put two screws in the wall for each drawer, and lip of the back of the drawer sits on the screws. If that didn’t work though, I would have used two key hole hangers on each side of the drawer, or attached a picture frame wire with D-hooks to each one. I hope that helps!

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