Decoupage a chest of drawers


It’s easy and rewarding to rescue an old piece of furniture and upcycle it with a coat of paint and some decoupage. in the past we’ve decoupaged dining chairs, lampshades and even kitchen cabinet doors, but  I wanted a set of drawers for storing different fabrics for quilting.  An old three-drawer filing chest became a colour-coded fabric stash with very little work. Here’s how.

The “Before”

chest of drawers before
The starting point was pretty hideous – chipboard covered with artificial wood finish and with a couple of wonky drawers – one with the front partly detached from its dowel fixings. It was destined for the tip – until I thought of reviving it with decoupage and a coat of paint.
My plan was to colour code each drawer so I could easily find the pieces of fabric I want to store – my most frequently used colours are red/orange tones, greens and blues.

Fixing the broken drawers

removing handles from drawers

First of all remove the drawer handles and put these in a safe place along with the fixings.

Fix the drawers

glueing drawers

If, as in my case, the plastic-covered chipboard drawers are coming apart, it’s easy to reattach the dowel joints quickly, using a glue gun.

Sand down the surfaces of the chest case

Sanding down
Sanding down is essential preparation before painting, in order to get a good “keyed” surface for the paint to adhere to. This is important as this type of cheap self-assembly furniture is not made from wood and the paint will slide off the plastic surface if not roughed up. You don’t need to rub hard – just enough to slightly roughen the surface.

Prime with a good undercoat

I used entirely Farrow & Ball paint in Pitch Blue and so used their dark coloured interior wood primer. It’s definitely worth using a good quality paint – and as you don’t need big quantities it’s worth spending a bit more –  it will be  easier to apply and give a better finish.

Apply a couple of coats of paint

Cover the whole surface – making sure you apply the paint evenly and not too heavily. For a perfect finish it’s worth lightly sanding between coats. Allow to dry thoroughly between the coats.

Prepare the decoupage pieces

sorting images
As I wanted to produce colour-coded drawers, I selected images in three colour groups (in line with my fabrcis to be stored) – red, blues and greens. I used a free magazine from an estate agent, an interiors magazine and a travel brochure and found some fabulous images. Once they were all cut out I grouped them by colour.

Work out the general pattern

sorting images

I didn’t stick to this too religiously but I did start off by working out roughly how I was going to place the pieces – so I could apply them in the right order.

Mix the glue and apply pieces

mixing PVA glue

Pour some PVA glue into a plastic tray or a plate and add some water to thin it down. Mix well. You want to get a consistency that’s easy to “paint on”.
Glue the paper pieces in place.

Varnish, varnish, varnish!

As  these are drawers and will be opened frequently make sure they’re well covered and won’t scuff – so plenty of coats of varnish are needed.

Re-attach the handles

Or you may want to upgrade with some new ones. Reattach the draw stop fixings and put the drawers back in place.
And that’s it.
I now have no trouble finding the right fabric.
For more tips on decoupage see our video


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