Got a Pine Chest of Drawers in Need of Upcycling?

by Rachel
5 Materials
15 Hours

When it’s time for a new look, painting is a great way to upcycle a pine chest of drawers.

A pine chest of drawers is a popular piece of furniture. They’re solid, sturdier than MDF but not as expensive as hardwoods. A good mid-budget option that’s often worth saving and upcycling rather than adding to landfill.

I bought this from Facebook for £40. But I knew it was great quality and actually the biggest piece I have done to date. (Although I have bigger ones on my to-do list now!).

Having said it was great quality, and it was, I did get a little over-enthusiastic with the wood filler on the various dings and scratches.

I find it really satisfying to use wood filler, clearly. This probably makes it look far worse than it was but it was fun to do.

I actually started this project in July, as that’s where I found this photo on my camera reel. It’s now November… but with a big kitchen renovation taking place during that time, here we are.

A quick tip when painting drawers is to label where they came from. Sometimes a drawer only fits well in the original place.

Check out my other tips here!

Fortunately, someone had already done that and both the back of each drawer and the drawer stop were labelled.

I initially planned to sand off only the varnish but once I chose my colour, which was light, I decided to sand back to the raw wood.

This took hours and hours to get it looking even but it was worth the effort.

There were lots of knots in the pine which risk showing through the paint if not covered properly. But my go-to shellac-based Zinsser BIN primer which is best for this was nearly finished. I just had enough to only go over the knots with this primer.

So, I then did two full coats of the Zinsser 123 primer on top. Primer is important on raw wood as it means less paint will soak into the wood and will use less paint in the long run.

I also sanded lightly between coats to get a nice smooth surface.

  • Seven drawers
  • One frame
  • Two (+ knot coverage) coats of primer
  • Three coats of paint
  • Two coats of sealer…

No wonder this took four months! Phew!

Here’s a glam overhaul of a chest of drawers with only 4 drawers, what a breeze!

The paint I chose was the beautiful Goddess Ashwagandha by Fusion Mineral Paint. It reminds me of the classic by Farrow and Ball, Elephant’s Breath.

It’s a greige colour and therefore neutral rather than cold, which I find grey can often be.

I like to use a roller for large surfaces as it’s easier to avoid brushstrokes. I recommend the rollers by Staalmeester. They are really soft and clean well.

My house quickly gets overrun with drawers when it’s in the various stages of painting and drying. Keeping them in the frame is helpful although it does mean painting the frame at a separate time so it doesn’t all stick to each other.

You might also just spot my painter’s pyramids which I use to keep the piece off of the floor while painting the legs. Such a brilliant tool.

I used Polyvine’s Wax Finish Varnish to seal the piece. I did two coats over everything and a third on the top of the frame which will get the most use.

Polyvine does a variety of finishes and despite it looking quite shiny here, it dries flat and invisible.

I often use Painter’s Tape for clean lines on pieces but I find that there’s invariably a bit of paint that gets into places it shouldn’t.

180 grit sandpaper is good to gently sand the excess paint off and get back to nice clean edges.

I didn’t want to paint the inside of the drawers to let the raw wood be a nice contrast. To give it a bit of a freshen up, I used Dixie Belle’s Big Mama’s Butta on it. It’s a wax that revives wood grain.

It also helps with musty smells (this flavour was Orange Grove which is lovely) but my piece didn’t smell, fortunately.

I also waxed the frame where the drawers slide, to help it from potentially sticking. Fortunately, it hasn’t been a problem but sometimes the additional layers of paint can make the drawers a snug fit so they need the extra lubrication.

Need a gift for the DIYer or upcycler in your life (even if that’s you?!). Here’s my  holiday gift guide with some more unusual recommendations.

Just how pretty are these knobs?

I chose these handles as part of a mini haul from TK Maxx months ago. They’re silvery gold and I thought complemented the piece whilst having a pop of sparkle too.

They didn’t come with snappable screws, unfortunately. So I had to buy bolt cutters and a file to cut them down to a good size that didn’t stick out into the drawer too much.

Still, I’ll forgive them for being beautiful.

And here it is. Many hours, coats and shuffling around later.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

You can see the texture of the wood still, so it maintains some of its original character.

The varnished version was fine, nice and classic. But I love this grey update. It’s neutral with a bit of glam.

Are you looking to make your upcycling and DIY life simpler? 

Take a look at the  5 tools under $20 to make your life easier!

Suggested materials:
  • Paint   (Fusion)
  • Primer   (Zinsser)
  • Sealer   (Polyvine)
See all materials
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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5 of 16 comments
  • Jaynie Jaynie on Nov 04, 2021

    I am in love with Fusion Mineral Paint, and am currently painting a lovely buffet the same lovely Goddess Ashwagandha color. Well done! And thanks for the tip on those painters pyramids!! Going out to get some today!

  • Bonnie Webster Fuller Bonnie Webster Fuller on Nov 04, 2021

    You did a beautiful job but it pains me to always see beautiful wood painted rather than restored to it's original beauty. I am not one to paint unless it's beyond saving! You did a beautiful job I will say that!

    • Camsron Camsron on Nov 06, 2021

      This one was pine. Good mahogany should not be painted, but pine is just pine.