How to easily makeover your old thrifted furniture into card catalog/apothecary-style nightstands for your farmhouse-style bedroom. With a router and card catalog hardware, we easily transformed this Ethan Allen Chest of Drawers into a DIY Card Catalog Dresser Makeover.
Get more painted nightstands ideas here!
Last weekend I spotted this apothecary-style dresser on craigslist. Since I’ve been searching for something similar for a while now, it only took a few minutes to contact the seller and jump in the truck to snatch them up.
On craigslist he only had a photo of the dresser on the right, so I had no idea what the other one was going to look like.
I was so disappointed to find that the “matching” dresser wasn’t the same, but I bought them both anyway. There had to be a way to change it so it had the apothecary feel to it.
Faux Card Catalog Cabinet Inspiration
A few days later I stumbled across a post from Julia at Boxwood and Brass. Her pieces are always top-notch and I just love following her to see what she does next.
Well, by a miracle, she had just finished up the same exact Ethan Allen dresser. It was spot on with what I wanted to do and I finally had an idea of how to accomplish it.
I quickly scoured the comments to see if she had given any hint about how she had transformed the drawer fronts.
Her husband had routered out the drawer fronts to create her vision. That was just the inspiration I needed to transform our dresser.
Within 24 hours I had called my dad to get his advice and ask for his help on this one.
I had never used a router before, even though it’s on my list of tools to get. Of course, I couldn’t wait to see the transformation for myself, so we got to work as soon as possible.
We wanted to mimic the exact grooved-out design that Ethan Allen had originally created, but we wanted the bottom two drawers to look like they were actually 16 small drawers instead 4 longer drawers.
The original grooved-out design was a 5/8″ wide x 1/8″ deep. Each edge had an angle, just like a “v”.
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Supplies to make your own Card Catalog Style Dresser
- Bondo / Wood Filler
- Router – Also available at Home Depot
- Router Bits – 5/8″ Straight Bit & 1/4″ V- Groove
- Measuring Tape / Ruler & Pen
- Straight Edge (We used a scrap of wood that had a straight edge)
- Eye Protection
- 220 grit sandpaper (this is the best kind!)
DIY Apothecary Drawers
First, we filled in all of the old hardware holes with Bondo. Wood filler works too, but it’s a pain compared to Bondo.
Since publishing this post I have learned of an even easier way to fill hardware holes – Learn more about how to fill hardware holes here.
Using the top drawer of the dresser as a guide, we measured and clamped the straight edge to the drawer front.
Using the Straight Bit
Once everything was measured and then double-checked, we put the straight bit onto the router.
We held the router level and kept it flush against the side of the straight edge. Without the straight edge, there is no way we would have ended up with completely straight lines!
Using the V-Groove Bit
Once all of the straight grooves were cut, we changed out the Straight Bit for the V-Groove Bit.
This time we wanted the center of the router to be right on the edge of the groove we just router.
We measured, and then checked to make sure our measurements were correct by placing the center of the bit right on the edge.
Then we made sure the edge of the router base was flush against the straight edge. Once again we kept the router flush against the straight edge as we cut.
*Note: Be aware of the direction the bit is spinning. At one point the bit didn’t want to cut evenly and straight. We realized that when we were cutting one edge, the router needed to be pushed away from me. When we cut the other side of the groove, the router had to be pulled towards me.
Otherwise, the bit was cutting away from the wood, causing it to jump around.
The most time-consuming process was measuring and then double and triple-checking to make sure we were cutting in the right spot.
It wasn’t something we could mess up on and just start on a new board. But the extra time double-checking was well worth not messing up.
Then we cleaned up the edges with the V-Groove Bit.
When all the new grooves were cut, we sanded everything smooth with 220 grit sandpaper.
Painting Card Catalog Dressers
We taped off the tops and the insides of the drawers to prevent overspray from getting into the drawers. Learn more about our process here.
Then we gave them 2 coats of clear shellac.
Shellac is super important to use when painting lighter colors. The wood/stain tend to bleed through the lighter colors, causing random yellow / red spots. It’s also called bleed through.
Shellac primer works too, but clear shellac dries clear instead of white like primer, making it easy to distress without white under your paint. (Learn more about preventing bleed through here!)
Painting with Chalk Paint
We sprayed on about 3 coats of General Finishes Bone White Chalk Style Paint.
Usually we spray on at least 5 coats when we paint a shade of white, so I was super happy to see amazing coverage with this paint.
Using 220 grit sandpaper we distressed the edges and then wiped and vacuumed away the dust.
Then we took all of the tape and plastic covering off and we gave the tops two coats of General Finishes Antique Walnut Gel Stain.
Once all the paint and stain was dry we sprayed on multiple coats of my favorite clear topcoat, Varethane Polyurethane in Satin. This just helps add durability and makes everything easy to wipe down.
Learn ALL of my tips and tricks on How to Spray Polyurethane here!
Card Catalog Hardware
We ordered the card catalog style hardware from D. Lawless Hardware.
You can also order the screws for your hardware from them as well.
Since we had 36 pieces of hardware to attach, I quickly made a handmade version of a hardware template out of cardboard, tape and a small level.
I measured out where I wanted the hardware, made holes in the cardboard, and marked on each drawer where the screws would go. It made attaching the hardware so much more simple.
I couldn’t be happier with the final results!
Even up close and in person, I can’t even tell that the dressers didn’t come this way to begin with. The transformation is absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to find another dresser with basic drawers to transform.