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Dresser makeover: How to turn a dresser into an apothecary cabinet.

Do you remember the old days when going to the library was a thing? One of my most vivid memories of those trips to the library was admiring the beautiful card catalog cabinets, or apothecary cabinets. Either way you call them, we can agree we all want one for our home. But have you seen how much they cost? Do not let the price tag keep you from owning one. Today I want to show you how to turn a regular dresser into an apothecary cabinet for a fraction of the cost of buying one.

Supply List

* This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase from one of these links, I could make a commission at no charge to you.

  1. Cup Pull Hardware

  2. Catalog Hardware

  3. Industrial Wheels

Tool List

  1. Power Drill

  2. Cabinet Hardware Jig

  3. Kerf Saw

  4. Wood Clamps

  5. Tape Measurer

  6. Speed Square

  7. Circular Saw

  8. Starter Sander

  9. Surf Prep Sanding Kit (Use coupon code BELLARENOVARE10)

Prepping the dresser

I removed the old pulls from the dresser. Then I sanded all the drawers to smooth the holes left from the old hardware as much as possible.

I used a two part wood filler to fill the holes from the old hardware. I will never get tired of reminding you: do not mix too much wood filler when you start working. It will harden within 10 minutes and you will have to dispose of any of the unused mix. It is better to mix more later if you need to than wasting your wood filler because it hardens before you are able to use it.

I want to share with you one of my tips when filling hardware holes. Put a piece of tape in the back of the hole to seal it. That way when you push the wood filler into the hole, it will not go through and fall into the bottom of the drawer. This will help to eliminate wasting wood filler or making a mess that has to be cleaned up later.

Apply the wood filler just as you would icing to a cake, then let it dry and sand the excess.

Creating Faux Apothecary Drawers.

A distinctive trait of apothecary cabinets are their small compartment drawers. What I had to work with was a typical dresser with four long drawers. Therefore, to truly turn this dresser into an apothecary cabinet I had to create the illusion of several drawers.

First I had to determine how many handles I wanted in each drawer. I decided I wanted six. So I measured the length of the top drawer and divided the total by six. I used a pencil to trace a line to mark where my faux drawers would go.

I then lined up my speed square with the lines I just traced and clamped it in place. After that, I took a hand saw and made a cut along the line, using my speed square to keep my saw in place.

You can also use a circular saw, a curved saw, or a Dremel to make the cuts. I used my hand saw because I thought it would be easier to control the pressure I was applying. I did not want some of the cuts to be noticeably deeper than others.

Each cut was about 1 centimeter deep. This was enough to create the illusion of drawers even after painting.

Done with the cut on the top drawer, I aligned the other drawers and using my speed square traced the lines to mark where my other cuts should go.

I strongly suggest that you do not eyeball these lines. If you are truly trying to turn a dresser into an apothecary cabinet, the drawers need to be straight and evenly spaced.




Adding industrial details

I flipped my cabinet upside down and cut off the old legs. I replaced the legs with heavy duty wheels.

I got the wheels off amazon for around $37 and there is a large selection to pick from. I chose these heavy duty wheels because they had the industrial feel I was aiming for. They also had brakes which would make it easy to move and then keep it from rolling around when it was in its forever home.

Because I had to drill a lot of holes to add the hardware, I got myself a Cabinet Hardware Jig to make the process simpler. It was my first time using one and I am not sure why I did not purchase one sooner. It was easy to use and kept me from measuring every faux drawer to know where the holes for the hardware needed to go.

Creating a distressed look.

After attaching the wheels it was time to prep the dresser for painting. As usual, I cleaned it with White Lighting. White Lighting is a TSP based cleaner that will clean, degrease and degloss furniture. Always use clean water and a clean rag afterwards to make sure you do not have any residual cleaner.

I painted this apothecary cabinet with Coffee Bean which is a very dark brown, almost looks like black. This color is one of my favorites!

To give this apothecary dresser a worn and distressed look, I applied only one coat of paint and after it dried I sanded the entire piece. Sanding also helped smooth the holes I had drilled for the new hardware.

I sealed the entire cabinet with Hemp Oil. I like using Hemp Oils for dark colors because it helps in getting a flawless finish, without any streaks. In addition Hemp Oil cures very hard and is water resistant. A win-win.

I applied the Hemp Oil deliberately with my brush and wiped off the excess. I let it sit for about one hour and then came back to buff it with a clean rag.

Finally time to put on the hardware. I also found these amazing Cupboard pulls and catalog card holders on Amazon.

Adding the drawer pulls and holders was the slowest and most tedious part of this dresser makeover. I added 24 of each ! Not that I enjoy doing the math but I used a total of 96 screws for the hardware. Yes, very very monotonous work, but oh so worthy.

Just look at this apothecary cabinet in all of its glory!

How to turn a dresser into an apothecary cabinet. Bella Renovare by CrysDawna

I have the full video of how to turn a dresser into an apothecary cabinet here.



See you next time and happy creating!

CrysDawna BellaRenovare Furniture Artist

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