How to Repurpose an Old Dresser in 9 Clever Ways 

Published June 24, 2022
woman sanding drawers to repurpose old dresser

Antique and vintage dressers offer practical storage in the bedroom, but there are also lots of ways to repurpose old dressers in other areas of your home. From the bathroom to the living room, these ideas will help you give an old dresser a whole new look.

Use an Old Dresser as a Pet Bed

dog in dresser drawer

You can turn a vintage dresser into a bed for your furry friend with a few simple modifications. This can work well if you want to be able to stow the bed away when your pet isn't using it. You can use any kind of dresser for this, including an antique chest of drawers or a painted vintage dresser. The key is choosing a dresser with a drawer size that will fit your pet.

  1. Measure the inside of the bottom drawer of the dresser and note the dimensions.
  2. Purchase a pillow or pet bed in these dimensions or make your own pet bed in the size you need. You can choose a pretty fabric that will complement the decor of the room.
  3. If you like, replace the hardware on the drawers to make it easy to open and close the one you'll be using for your pet.
  4. Remove the drawer from the dresser and place it where your pet likes to sleep. Put the pillow or bed inside the drawer and let your pet get comfy.
  5. When your pet is done using the bed, you can replace the drawer until it's bedtime again.

Repurpose an Old Dresser as a Bathroom Vanity

antique dresser turned into bathroom vanity

An old dresser can get a new purpose with a simple makeover as a bathroom vanity. For this project, you'll need a bit of painting experience and the help of a good plumber. It's a bit of work, but seeing your adorable new vanity will be more than worth it.

  1. Start by removing the drawer fronts from any top drawers. You'll affix the drawer front permanently to the dresser, leaving the drawer boxes off to make room for plumping. You can do this by putting thin wood strips inside the dresser where they won't be seen and screwing the drawer fronts to these.
  2. Modify the bottom drawers to accommodate the plumbing. You may want to work with the plumber to figure out exactly where the pipes will be located. You can make the drawers shallower to keep from bumping the pipes.
  3. Cut a hole for a vessel sink in the top of the dresser. Again, consult with the plumber before you make the hole for the sink. Don't install the sink yet, but mark where it will be located.
  4. Once all the structural modifications are made, it's time to repaint the dresser. Remove all hardware and set it aside if you'll be reusing it. Sand the dresser and remove any dust.
  5. Apply a coat of primer and at least two coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  6. When everything is dry, you can update the dresser hardware or replace the original hardware.
  7. Have your plumber install your new vanity.

Give a 70s Dresser a Makeover as an Art Deco Showpiece

art deco painted dresser

The 1970s aren't known for their beautiful decorating, but simple wooden dressers from this era are abundant at flea markets and garage sales. You can pick one up for a few dollars and give it a makeover that will really make it shine. You'll need an Art Deco-style stencil of your choice, paint and painting supplies, and new knobs if you'll be updating the dresser hardware.

  1. Sand the dresser and remove any dust or dirt on the surface.
  2. Prime the dresser using a small foam roller to achieve the smoothest finish.
  3. Once the primer has cured, apply at least two coats of paint.
  4. After the paint is dry, place the stencil on the surface. You can use a stencil adhesive to hold it in place if it's moving around.
  5. Apply a contrasting paint for the stencil. A metallic shade like gold or silver can be pretty.
  6. Once everything is dry, replace the hardware.

Convert an Old Dresser for Open Storage

dresser repurpose with open storage

Drawers are nice, but sometimes open storage offers a more updated look. You can repurpose an old dresser as open storage by removing the drawers and putting in shelves. This works best with a dresser that has large drawers so you have room to move tools and wood inside the dresser. Often, the best result is an upcycled dresser that's a combination of drawers and shelves.

  1. Start by removing the drawers you don't want to use.
  2. Measure the drawer bottoms and cut wood shelves from 1/4-inch plywood to the same size. Sand the shelves, especially on the front edges.
  3. Fit the shelves to the spot where the drawers were, using glue to hold them in place.
  4. Sand the entire dresser and remove any dust. Prime it and paint it in your chosen colors.
  5. Once the paint is dry, replace the hardware and add some storage baskets.

Repurpose an Antique Dresser as a Living Room Focal Point

dresser in living room

You don't have to do a vintage dresser makeover to use an antique dresser in a new way. The possibilities extend far beyond simple bedroom storage. You can create a focal point in your living room with a beautiful dresser as the anchor.

  1. Choose a dresser that is really gorgeous, ideally one made of a beautiful wood. You want it to look pretty in the room and be a neutral backdrop for the items you choose to display.
  2. Hang a painting, photograph, or mirror over the dresser. It should be in a frame that is a similar width to the dresser. Leave vertical space between the surface of the dresser and the bottom of the art so you can display items on top of the dresser.
  3. Pick several pieces of varying heights. A bouquet of flowers, a pair of antique candle holders, a special lamp, or another tall item can be your starting point. Then, add two or three smaller items like interesting antique finds or fascinating rocks.

Use Dividers to Store Tools in a Dresser

dresser drawer dividers

Dressers are great storage in the garage too, especially if you have a vintage dresser in rough shape. Just add some dividers to the drawers to store everything from hand tools to fasteners.

  1. Remove the drawers from the dresser. Measure the interior of each drawer and note the dimensions.
  2. Use pieces of luan or 1/4-inch plywood to make dividers for the drawers or purchase dividers that will fit. You can use organizers originally designed for silverware storage.
  3. After adding the dividers, replace the drawers. You can also add a work surface to the top of a low dresser by adding a piece of butcher block countertop or plywood cut to size.

Turn a Vintage Dresser Into a Kitchen Sink Cabinet

apron front sink antique dresser

You can use an antique or vintage dresser in your kitchen as a sink cabinet. With a few modifications, you can fit an apron-front sink to a dresser of the appropriate size. The key is to choose a dresser that is slightly wider than the sink. You'll want to work closely with a plumber for this project. Keep in mind that the exact steps for your dresser modification will depend on the dresser and sink you choose, as well as your home.

  1. Before cutting into the dresser, make careful measurements of the interior and exterior of the sink.
  2. Use painter's tape to mark where you will remove parts of the dresser. Consider how this will affect the structural stability of the dresser. You'll need to reinforce the dresser inside so it can support the weight of a sink full of water.
  3. Working with the plumber, look at where the dresser will need to be modified to accommodate the sink and plumbing. Remove the drawer boxes or shorten them as you need to.
  4. When the modifications are done, work with the plumber to install the sink.

Make Dresser Drawer Planters

herbs in dresser drawer

If you have an old painted vintage dresser in bad shape, you can repurpose the drawers as planters. These can work inside or outside, although exposure to weather will not be good for the wood or paint.

  1. Remove the drawers from an old dresser and replace the hardware if you wish.
  2. Choose a container that will fit inside the drawer, such as a low plastic planter or pot.
  3. Fill the container with soil and add your favorite plants.
  4. Display the drawer planter with the hardware visible.

Use a Painted Vintage Dresser as a Changing Table

baby on changing table dresser

You can repaint a vintage dresser to match the colors in a baby's room and then give it a new purpose as a changing table. Dressers offer great storage for baby clothes and diapers.

  1. Start by choosing a dresser that's wider than 36 inches. You'll need room for the changing pad on top of it.
  2. Pick up a changing pad. Affix a piece of webbing strap to the bottom of the changing pad.
  3. Attach the other end of the strap to the dresser using a screw.
  4. Put a pretty changing pad cover on the pad.

No End to Vintage Dresser Makeover Ideas

There are so many things you can do with an antique dresser. From a adding a new coat of paint to updating dresser hardware, there are lots of ways to give an old piece of furniture a totally new look. With a little freshening up, it can be the showpiece of any room in your home.

Love upcycling vintage items? Try these ideas for repurposing an old door.

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How to Repurpose an Old Dresser in 9 Clever Ways