At the risk of coming across as someone slightly obsessed with mini drawers, here’s another little drawer hack.
My mum actually picked up this small drawer set for $12 from Kmart a few weeks back.
She mentioned she was planning on doing ‘something’ with it, then I kinda stole it so I could do ‘something’ with it instead (don’t worry, she’s usually happy when I steal her stuff – I did give it back).
Although there was nothing majorly wrong with it, it was just kinda meh, had a few splits and chips and didn’t really suit her style, so I wanted to completely transform it. That said, I also wanted the project to be super quick and simple because I know, that for my readers, fast and easy make-overs are among the most appealing.
So, as is the case with most of my under-takings, pondering took precedence over progress!
The finger pulls posed the biggest problem. I needed to come up with a simple solution for concealing them.
Unlike my previous Ikea Moppe hack, I couldn’t simply reverse the drawers as the rears were shorter than the fronts…
I figured the finger pulls could either be filled or covered in some way, and after toying with a few very different ideas, settled on covering them with some form of upholstery.
Though using what kind of fabric?
Something natural and neutral. Maybe linen or burlap? Then, out of nowhere, it suddenly came to me. What about leather? That could look cool!
The only issue was the clearance around the drawers. There was seriously little more than a hair’s width in some places.
I wanted to wrap each drawer for that ‘proper’ upholstered finish, though there really wasn’t enough of a gap to accommodate something thick like leather, especially at the corners. The drawers simply wouldn’t close properly anymore.
I considered attaching the leather to the face only then trimming the edges in some way (maybe with brass studs) though given the small scale of the drawers I decided I really did want to try fully wrapping them.
So, I started searching for thinner alternatives to real leather and eventually came across some really great contact paper. Hmmm, that could work!
Well, let the project commence.
You will need…
1 Mini drawer set.
As touched on above, I stole this one from my mum though she originally bought it from Kmart for just $12 (I think they still have them in stock).
Mini drawer sets are pretty common and can be found in lots of places. Ikea sells a few. You can also have a search online and check out craft/office/decor/dollar stores.
I used chalkboard paint because I wanted something neutral and I love the distressed graphite appearance it takes on once seasoned (coated with chalk then rubbed back). Of course, you can choose any type of paint in any colour you like. Spray paint would have been handy though I just used regular canned paint because that’s what I had.
This is merely to cover the finger pull holes to avoid any possible dipping of the contact paper at that point. I simply cut up a cereal box. Anything thin and rigid will work. If your drawers don’t have finger pulls then of course you don’t need to worry about using any card.
You can use anything slightly squishy which will give the “leather” a padded appearance. I used wadding (batting) because I already had some on hand though I actually think something a bit denser, like foam or felt sheet (even a kitchen sponge!) could work better.
As mentioned above, to ensure I could wrap my drawers I used contact paper in place of real leather. You could use real leather if your item permits. You could also try wallpaper (I found some amazing wallpapers which were available to buy in generous sample sizes for super cheap!). My contact paper was $10 for one meter and I found it here. It has a slight texture and I think it looks really authentic.
I was lucky to have some left-over brass label holder pulls from my previous Ikea drawer hack. They were around $3 each from eBay. Label holder pulls are pretty easy to find nowadays and are much more affordable than they used to be. eBay and Etsy are two good sources. Of course, you can use any handles you like. I think a flat label holder with a separate knob would also be cute as would something rustic, like hand-made rope pulls.
1 Paint the drawer set carcass.
As mentioned above, I used chalkboard paint though you could use anything you like (I’m loving the idea of gloss navy!). Spray paint would be easiest though I used tinned paint because I already had some on hand. I didn’t need to do any prep as my drawer set carcass was already smooth and super dry. Depending on your item you may need to sand it and/or apply a primer first.
Once my paint was completely dry I seasoned it (coated it with white chalk then rubbed it off again) to create a distressed, imperfect, graphite appearance.
2 Attach card to the drawer faces.
This is simply to cover the finger pull holes, mainly to avoid the possibility of the contact paper sagging at that point. I simply cut some rectangles from a cereal box and attached them with double sided tape (you could use glue). I covered the entire drawer front, rather than just the finger pull areas, to ensure I created one nice even plain. I was just a bit concerned that any card edges might be discernible through the wadding and contact paper.
3 Drill pilot hardware holes.
It’s important to drill your pilot hardware holes before attaching any kind of material which may get caught up in the drill bit. Simply line up your hardware as desired, mark the nail or screw points then drill yours pilot holes as required. Depending on the density of your drawers, pilot holes may not be necessary though I always find it easier to use them. It just saves a bit of effort trying to bash your nails through or drive your screws into solid wood, not to mention the possibility of breaking something! Just make sure your drill bit is one or two sizes smaller than your nail or screw to ensure they will hold firmly.
4 Attach padding to the drawer fronts.
As mentioned above, you can use anything slightly squishy. I used standard wadding (batting) because I already had some on hand. As with the card, I simply cut rectangles to fit my drawer fronts and attached them with double sided tape. I was careful to ensure they were slightly smaller than the drawer face so that no excess wadding was pushed over the drawer edges once the contact paper was stretched on.
5 Attach “leather” to the drawer fronts.
This was the fiddliest part though it was still super easy.
You can see the texture in the contact paper really well in the above pic (oh, and don’t worry about the little white corner – it’s just the side of the protruding top and isn’t visible once the drawers are in place).
5A As mentioned earlier, I used contact paper in place of real leather because I needed something very thin. As you can see in the above pic, I actually bought two different papers because I couldn’t decide! I really love both of them though decided against the more obviously distressed one as I felt the scale of the grain was a little too large and distinct for my little drawers (I’ll use it for a future project). I found the contact really great. It has a subtle texture which adds to its realism and it was easy to work with because it didn’t adhere to itself.
5B I cut a nice even rectangle of contact paper which was around 3cm (1″) larger than my drawer face all around.
5C I then removed the backing paper and pressed it onto the wadding, smoothing and stretching it slightly before creating subtle indents at each corner point by gently pressing the contact down with my finger.
5D I used these indents as my markers to cut diagonally across the corners of the contact, as near to the indent as possible (this just removes any excess contact paper and makes for neater corners which are easier to fold). I did this whilst the contact was on top of the drawer (rather than measure and pre-cut the corners) for better accuracy as it’s almost impossible to gauge how the volume of the padding will effect the position of the contact paper. It’s also hard to know just how much stretch your contact has until you remove the backing.
Just be careful not to cut too much off your corners. You don’t want to leave any of the underlying drawer exposed once you wrap the contact around.
5E Next I smoothed down the contact paper and, stretching it slightly to ensure a nice tight finish, attached it to the drawer, pressing firmly to adhere well. I started with the drawer sides.
5F With the sides adhered, I folded in the tiny corners and tightly wrapped the base and top.
You may find your corners need a little tweaking. Contact paper is generally somewhat malleable so can be smoothed into place to some extent however if need be you can remove any unsightly excess with a sharp craft knife. You can also touch up any exposed areas with a similarly coloured marker.
6 Attach hardware.
Poke a pin through the pilot holes you already created – from inside the drawer right through to the front. Using the new pin holes as a guide, line up your hardware on top of the drawer and drive your nails or screws through. Secure your handles as tightly as needed and desired, nestling them into the padding to create a subtle cushioned appearance.
Just go easy if you are using screws to attach your hardware as their thread can get caught up in the padding, particularly if you used something fibrous (like wadding).
To finish, insert some cute labels. I totally cheated and made mine digitally. I used a high resolution aged paper texture and the lovely free font Notera (of course, you can simply tea-stain some paper and hand-write the text). Mum is going to use the little drawers to corral all the crap that builds-up in her kitchen nook so I categorised each drawer as requested by her.
This little drawer set now has a very ‘campaign-esque’ feel. I actually searched hard for some little brass corners and ‘T’ plates though couldn’t find anything small enough I really loved (well, I did find some really cute corners in the US though the shipping was crazy high). I even had a go at creating my own though I wasn’t satisfied that they looked “proper” enough so decided against using them.
I’m not sure if the photos do it justice (I’m also not sure if those wooden hands are creepy or not?).
It has a decidedly masculine edge though the overall neutrality means it’s still super versatile. I’m loving the rich “leather” teamed with the distressed chalkboard paint and the nod to refinement the brass hardware imparts.
In other news, I was lucky to recently acquire a new camera lens and am still working out how the heck to use it (#camerasconfuseme). I had some fun playing around with the aperture capabilities by taking some artistic shots of my vintage props.
I adore antique books and old cameras!
Anyhoo, here are some before and afters…
Quite a contrast!
I really had no idea how these little drawers were going to turn out. I think I’m pleasantly surprised!
I’m now also really excited about the possibility of upholstering something bigger using leather. Maybe a dresser or even some cabinet doors!
PS Thanks so much if you’re one of the lovely people who has so far placed a bid on my Honeycomb Armoire to help raise funds for charity. The auction still has five days to go so be sure to hop on over and bid. I’ll love you forever!