How to Turn a Dresser Into a Bookshelf
Do you have an old dresser with drawers that don’t really work or that’s just old and ugly? Do you need more bookshelves? Well I’ve got the solution for you! This project is quick, easy, and cheap. My favorite kind.
This dresser was left behind by the previous tenants in an old apartment I lived in about 10 years ago. I used it as it was for years and then about 5 years ago I painted it brown. I didn’t really know what I was doing then and it sure wasn’t the prettiest transformation you ever saw but it served its purpose.
I saw a photo on Pinterest of old drawers being used as wall shelves and thought it was really cute. I still plan to do that with the drawers left over from this project but a bookshelf for Charlotte’s books was priority. Her books are her favorite things to play with and she sits on her little rug and “reads” them for most of the day. That means, of course, that I pick them up a million times a day. The bookshelf I was using was open all around which made it really frustrating trying to stand up all the books. It drives me crazy. I plan to put it in her room eventually with the drawer wall shelves above but for now (she’s only one) I like her to play in the living room where I can see her.
The added bonus to this bookshelf is the drawer I left at the top. I use it for all the unsightly old books that she doesn’t use or are too grown-up for her.
Here’s how I did it.
- paint (I used leftover wall paint but wood paint would be more durable)
- protective finish (I used Minwax Polycrylic in Clear Satin)
- paint brush, foam roller, and foam brushes
- MDF, wood or particle board for the shelves
- 4 L-brackets per shelf plus screws (1 inch are fine)
- more screws for bottom shelf
First you’ll want to take out the drawers and remove the tracks and anything else that may be attached to the inside of the dresser. You can leave a drawer at the top like I did or just take out all the drawers. It’s up to you! If the wood has a shiny finish or old chipped paint you’ll need to sand it a bit. Make sure the dresser is free of bumps or chips and rough up varnished surfaces with sand paper so the paint will adhere.
Measure the inside width and depth of your dresser and cut the shelves to fit. A good tip that I learned from my hubby is that you can usually have them cut your wood for you right at the hardware store which saves you a lot of trouble and mess and makes it way easier to transport home! Just be sure to measure two or three times to make sure you don’t arrive home with the wrong size and therefore wasted wood.
Attach the shelves to wherever you’d like them to go using the l-brackets, screws and a level. Make sure the shelves are level side-to-side AND back-to-front. This is important. I like to attach the brackets to inside of the dresser first, sit the shelf on them and then screw them to the shelf making sure the shelf front is flush with the front edge of the dresser. On my dresser there was a bit of a ledge on the bottom that I was able to screw my bottom shelf to but you may need to either use some l-brackets for yours or you can just use small strips of wood as braces since they will be hidden by the apron of the dresser.
Fill in any holes leftover from the drawer slides with wood filler or drywall composite for a more polished look. (I’m not going to lie, I’m lazy and skipped this step.) If you’re using MDF or particle board you should probably fill in the front edges of your shelves before you paint them too. (I also lazily skipped this step.) Sand the edges if you used wood.
Paint the whole thing (including your drawer) with one or two coats of primer then one to three coats of paint with the foam roller and/or paint brush. The inside will most likely be bare wood so you’ll especially need the primer here, otherwise the paint will soak right in and be wasted. Let dry between coats according to the instructions of your particular paint.
Using the foam brush (or the type of brush recommended for your protective finish) apply a few coats of protective finish, allowing it to dry for a couple hours between coats. You may want to change out your hardware on the top drawer too. When I refinished this dresser the first time, I spray painted some old brass kitchen cupboard knobs. They’re chipped a bit but I decided to just keep them. I think they go with the shabby chic sort of rustic look I have going on. (Some may also call that laziness.)
Once it’s all completely dry put your drawer back in and you’re done! Happy re-purposing!
I hope this post helps you get some more attractive life out of a tired old piece of furniture. I get great amounts of satisfaction out of it myself. I’d love to see your before-and-afters too!