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Ways To Makeover Your Furniture Drawers

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees?! Usually when I talk about doing furniture makeovers on the podcast, I’m talking about the full piece and bringing it from a state of ‘bleh’ to a state of ‘yeahh’. But today, more specifically, I wanted to talk about sprucing up our furniture makeovers in a way that you may or may not have even thought to do in the past. It’s a part of some pieces of furniture that might go unnoticed by some during the makeover process since it typically serves a functional role in the furniture piece, so may not always be thought of during the design process– which is the drawers.

Since they’re hidden when your piece is sitting, I feel like it’s a part that people don’t tend to think much about them but it is still a big piece of real estate on your furniture, like in a dresser or buffet, and I feel like it’s a great place that you can really get creative with it and clients really like the unexpected pop that it can have. It’s like when you’re a professional who is proper and clean cut and then starts to let out their personality a bit and be a little rough around the edges when you get them in a one-on-one conversation or they show you a silly tattoo they got when they were younger. It’s a fun pop of personality that’s unexpected, so it hits a little different.

And there’s a ton of different ways that you can incorporate some personality into the drawers of a piece in different ways. Sometimes you might want to stick with the theme or style of the piece on the outside, but other times you might want to choose a look or style that compliments but doesn’t necessarily match what you’re already doing on the outside of the piece, so it’s really up to you.

And because you’re here listening to this podcast, I know that you love and appreciate preloved painted and refinished furniture, which is why I wanted to let you know that I have a weekly newsletter that I know you’ll love called the Friday Furniture Focus where I highlight not only the recent furniture flips that I’ve done but I also share a weekly Furniture Fact to learn more about the furniture you’re transforming or a Furniture Fix with a tip to make your furniture makeovers go quicker or easier. There’s also a furniture painter or refinisher featured each week with a Q&A to get to know them, their story and their business. So if you are interested in receiving this, I’ll add a link in the show notes but you can sign up on my website, just scroll to the bottom of the homepage and submit the form and then keep an eye on your inbox every Friday for some furniture inspo to start the weekend off right!

With all drawers that you get on any furniture piece, I recommend not only thoroughly cleaning them inside and out when you get the piece in your possession, but also just giving them at least a scuff sand to scuff up that older finish that’s on it. More often than not, the drawers are made of wood so this just brings them back to life and gets rid of any little stains or discolouration that may have existed on the sides and bottoms of drawers. Sometimes you see things like pen or pencil marks or other marks from items that may have previously been stored in them, so sanding them down quickly just gets rid of all of that so it doesn’t feel like the piece was preloved and it seems like they’re closer to being brand new. Unless there’s a really big, pesky stain that I’m trying to get rid of, I’ll usually use around 200 grit sandpaper for this step.

Then, once I’m done sanding, I’ll wipe the sanding dust away and give the drawers a wipe with a damp microfiber cloth again just to get any leftover dust or residue that may be lingering.

By that point, you can definitely just leave them as is if you’d like. For the most part, though, I’ll also add another step in, even if I don’t intend on adding any other design elements to the drawers and just want to keep them plain. Since they are often made of wood and the wood can dry out over time, I’ll typically add a furniture salve to the wood in order to moisturize it a bit and bring it back to life. There’s plenty of options for doing this, both scented and unscented. Some of my favourite products for this are using Big Mama’s Butta from Dixie Belle* (specifically in the scent Orange Grove), using Hemp Oil from Fusion Mineral Paint*, or using Howard’s Feed N Wax*.

You can apply these with a brush or shop towels or even just a shop rag like an old tshirt– as long as it’s lint-free, you should be good to go. I personally like to use my Annie Sloan chalk paint brush because it has natural bristles so the products keep them really well moisturized and I just use that one specific brush for all of those oil-based products, so I don’t need to clean it out every time. I just add enough product to cover all of the surfaces and I wipe it in pretty well so that I know it covered the surface well, and then I’ll usually leave the product on there for awhile, maybe a few hours or even overnight, and then come back and wipe off any excess remaining on the wood that hasn’t yet been absorbed.

A word of caution, or of guidance I guess- if you are planning on doing this on a piece that already has a buyer in mind, like if you’re doing a custom project, then I recommend checking with that person first before you do it if you had planned on using one of the products that is scented. The ones I mentioned all have really nice, light scents that are meant to not be overwhelming and are supposed to neutralize any musty-ness or other odours that may exist in the furniture, but because some people do have sensitivities to scents, I always like to check with the person first, because you never know.

And then if and when a piece sells that I have used a moisturizing product on the drawers, even if it isn’t one with a scent, I’ll always give the buyer a heads up that it was put on there to bring the drawers back to life a bit and tell them that if they plan on putting clothing in the drawers, to just grab a paper towel or a dry cloth or something and wipe them out first just to get rid of any remaining residue that there may be so that it doesn’t end up on their clothes. After I wiped the excess product away initially there shouldn’t be any left anyways, but I like to say it just in case some happens to pop back up between now and then, in case changing temperatures or something like that affects it.

Okay great, so that is for plain but great looking drawers. But what if we want to add a little more pizazz?

One option is to add a drawer liner to the bottom of the drawer so that you have that added pop of a lil’ sum sum when you open up the drawer. This is also a great approach to take if you happen to have an especially ugly drawer with one of those pesky stains I mentioned that you just can’t get out no matter what you do. And it happens! So instead of selling it looking ugly and less than ideal, add a drawer liner to freshen it up and your buyer will be none the wiser.

What I love most about this approach is that there are literally MILLIONS of options for drawer liners because of just how vast your options are for what to use as a drawer liner. Yes, of course, you can look for things that are specifically marked as being drawer liners, but typically those end up being those like foamy plastic mats that you lay down so that your cups or cutlery or whatever don’t slide all over the place. That…. Works, but isn’t quite the pizazz I had in mind.

If you expand your mind and creativity a little further, you can use things like wallpapers, or peel’n’stick wallpapers. You can use wrapping papers, or stationary. Think of the wide array of colours, patterns and photos that you could find. But also, and especially if you’re wanting to add a textural element into the mix, you can also go to your local fabric store and find a fabric to use as a liner… or better yet, hit up your local thrift store and try and find something that would work, like a curtain or a sheet or something you could chop up into the size of the pieces you need. There’s honestly so many options– hell, you could cut up a shower curtain if you found one you really loved the look of. SO many different options, so think of how unique that would make your piece stand apart from the rest– particularly if you have a piece that’s more “common” like a black or white dresser. Chances are, there’s probably other ones of those also for sale in your area, but adding a fun liner that is an unexpected pop can make yours be a little different, a little unique and stand apart from the competition.

My preferred method for applying drawer liners is to measure out the size I need for it, and measure twice and cut once. If anything, I aim for the liner to be sliiiightly bigger than I’ll need, because you can either trim it down once you have it in there with a little razor blade or something, or even sometimes it can slide under the edges and it gives it a perfect fit. I also recommend measuring every drawer every time and not assuming that the size of each drawer is exactly the same, because you never know. Especially if you are working on an older piece that could potentially have been handmade, things were a little less uniform and perfect proportions didn’t exist as readily, so take the extra minute or two to measure before you start cutting and using up your material.

Once I have the pieces cut to the correct size, I go in with a spray adhesive that I have and spray it on and then I like to move it around a bit so that it’s more of an even, uniform layer of the product on the bottom of the drawer to avoid any clumping or extra moisture being under there contained in one spot, because depending on what material you’re lining with, I’ve had that affect the finish in the past. Particularly when I was using ModPodge*– I think I had used too much product and put too thick of a layer, but it got the stationary I was using as a liner looking wrinkly and just like… wet paper essentially, and it wasn’t very cute. Which is why I switched to the spray adhesive, but I’m sure you could use ModPodge and have it work as long as you used the right amount.

So put your product on, then I let it sit for 30 seconds or so so it starts to get tacky, and then lay the liner down. If you want to have a bit more workability time, put the liner down right away after applying the product instead of waiting for it to get tacky and you should be able to move the liner around a bit and get it into place more before it starts to dry. Then voila! Beautifully-decorated drawer bottoms that add some fun flair to your furniture flip. I would recommend letting that product dry and cure up overnight before any use of the drawers though, and it doesn’t hurt to let them sit for the duration of the curing time of the rest of your piece too, which is 21-30 days once you’ve finished making it over.

Another option that you can do to make the drawers match the look and feel of your piece after you’ve made it over, whether you stained or painted it, is to stain your drawers the same colour or a coordinating stain colour as the outside of the piece. This could mean doing the whole drawer in its entirety, including the inside and drawer bottoms, or even just the outer drawer sides so it gives the piece a more cohesive look when you pull the drawer out. I’d probably also recommend adding a protective layer after that also to seal it in, like a polyurethane or polycrylic.

The last thing you can do to add a little pizazz and oomph to your furniture makeover’s drawers is to do something fun to the outside of the drawer sides. Now, there’s a few different options here- one of the easier ways to get a consistent, even pattern would be to use a stencil. The ones I like to use are the Redesign with Prima Stick n Style stencils because they come in a long roll of stencil that have a backing on it that you can remove and they will stick to your piece while you use them, which is really helpful so you don’t need to either hold it with one hand and paint with the other, or bother taping it down. Quick and easy and I’ve even been able to reuse them a couple times if I clean the paint up off of the stencil after I use it, because the stickiness lasts for a few uses which is great.

You can also absolutely freehand a design on the sides, like adding a dot pattern, drawing something on like flowers or something like that, or even adding a geometric design with tape. If you listened to episode 20 where I outlined 6 products to make your furniture makeovers easier, you already know that I prefer to use Frog Tape* to painter’s tape whenever I’m doing a geometric design like this because it always gives a crisp, seamless line.

Another pattern I did once which was super cute was making a scalloped pattern along the edge of the drawer side closest to the drawer front so there’s a cute little pop of colour when you pull the drawer out. To do this, I just found a circular object that was the right size so I could repeat the pattern as many times as I thought looked like it made sense (for the larger drawers I believe I used a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce and for the smaller top drawers, I used a shot glass). Then you basically line it up so about half of the circle is over the edge, then trace the half-circles side by side until you reach the other side. You could also do this pattern along the top or bottom of the drawer side along the length of the drawer, there’s so many options! When it comes to adding these fun pops of flair, just let your creativity run wild and I guarantee there will be a buyer out there who appreciates what you did and is interested in buying it.

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: Create the beauty you wish to see in the world.

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

*this is an affiliate link, which means that I earn a small commission when you use my links at no additional cost to you!

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