Disclosure: Some affiliate links are provided below. Learn more.
A few months ago I picked up a beautiful, solid pine coffee table from the side of the road. I had every intention of upcycling the coffee table by stripping the dated orangey-brown stain and refinishing it in a more neutral colour.
The best laid plans and all that.
When I began stripping back the original finish, I realised that the varnish was on thick. I’m talking “belt sander with 40 grit sandpaper can’t get it off” thick. The table was huge and I honestly couldn’t stand spending multiple days stripping it all back.
As I was shoving the table into my “too hard basket” corner of shame, I looked at one of the drawers and had an idea: I wanted to see if I could repurpose the drawer into some shelving.
This got me excited for three reasons. Firstly, it didn’t seem like it would be that hard. The varnish on the drawers was much thinner than on the top of the table. Secondly, it meant that my laundry room could finally have some storage. And finally, upcycling a drawer into a shelf meant that my coffee table “adventures” hadn’t been a total waste.
Here’s how my little experiment turned out:
How to turn a drawer into shelving
- A piece of timber, cut to the width of your drawer. This piece of timber will form your middle shelf.
- An orbital sander + sanding discs in 40 grit and 120 grit
- A drill+ four 50mm (approx 2 inch) screws
- A rag
- Regular sandpaper in 120 grit
- Two wood stains. I used Cabot’s Interior Water-Based Stain in Walnut & British Paints Water-Based Stain in Black (Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Special Walnut and Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Espresso seem to be very similar colours)
- A paintbrush
- Polyurethane varnish
Step 1: Strip the original finish from your drawer
This is what my drawer looked like originally. To remove the orangey-brown stain, I used an orbital sander and 40 grit sandpaper to sand the drawer until the original finish was removed.
Sanding to remove finishes can be tedious and time-consuming, especially when they’re on thick. I recommend listening to some awesome music while you do this. This helps ensure you don’t die from boredom.
Once I had removed the original finish, I then used my orbital sander to lightly sand the drawer using 120 grit sandpaper
Step 2: Add a second shelf to the drawer
To add a second shelf to your upcycled shelving, flip your drawer on its side. Slot in your piece of pre-measured wood. Once you’re sure your shelf is straight, drive two screws into the side of your drawer. I used 50mm (approximately 2 inch) screws. Provided you choose a screw that’s long enough to both penetrate the side of the drawer and ‘bite into’ the shelf wood, the exact length doesn’t matter.
Flip your drawer over and repeat on the other side.
When you’ve finished, you’ll have something looking like this:
Now you’ve finished all of the construction required to turn a drawer into shelving!
Step 3: Stain your upcycled shelves
Once you’ve assembled your shelving unit, it’s time to give it a cosmetic makeover. You can stain or paint your shelves in an way you want. Choose something that makes you smile!
I’ll show you how I achieved my particular stain in case you want to emulate it.
To begin, I applied a messy coat of Cabot’s Interior Water-Based Stain in Walnut (Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Special Walnut is a good colour alternative for American readers). I wiped excess stain off with a rag within 30 seconds of application as I didn’t want the stain to be too pigmented or dark.
Once the first layer of stain was dry, I used a rag to apply British Paints Water-Based Stain in Black (Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Espresso seems to be a similar colour). I wiped the stain on random spots with the rag, then immediately wiped it off.
After the second layer of stain was dry, I used 120 grit sandpaper to sand the stain off in a few places. I like imperfect stains because they add character to pieces!
Step 4: Seal your upcycled shelves
Once your stain or paint is dry, it’s a good idea to seal your shelves using a protective top coat. This helps protect your DIY project against general wear and tear. I just used a simple polyurethane varnish on my shelves.
And with that, you’re now the proud owner of one upcycled drawer turned shelving unit.
You can attach your upcycled shelving unit to the wall in any number of ways. I just used some right-angle brackets.
You can pin this project here