Cheap and Easy Ways to Spruce Up Shelves and Dressers

in Decorating on by
A sleek dresser with elegant matching decor pieces on top.

No matter how much you’ve enjoyed that shelving unit you spent a whole day putting together with an Allen wrench or that dresser you scored for $10 at a garage sale, sooner or later you’ll want something new. But instead of shopping for replacements, why not use your industrious creativity to revamp those old pieces?

Without further ado, here are the cheapest, easiest ways to make your old shelves and dressers look like brand new additions.

Elevating Your Shelf Profiles

Shelves are the easiest piece of furniture to upgrade, whether they’re part of a unit, suspended with rope or leather, or bracketed to walls. But instead of painting every shelf to give your home a facelift, just paint the edges of the shelves that face forward. This is especially effective on white shelves. Even better, paint them in a bright color that brings out the more subtle shades of your couch, flooring, or wall decor to brighten an entire room in around 15 minutes. Using a small brush and high-gloss paint works best here.

Alternatively, you might pick up some wild wallpaper odds and ends at your favorite home improvement store. Apply these to the interior back panels of solid shelving units, or on the wall behind open ones. For added convenience and versatility, choose a brand that’s easy to replace when you’re ready for a change.

You can also use a glue gun to apply fabric strips to the edges or back walls of shelves. Get eclectic and create a montage of assorted materials, or unify the look by using the same materials throughout.

This super light wood typically used to construct toy airplanes that soar effortlessly through the air is also ideal for creating facades on the surfaces and backboards of shelves. Herringbone patterns are particularly attractive here. Simply cut the wood, paint it the desired colors, let it thoroughly dry, and create a pattern on the back panels to give your framed pictures and knickknacks a whole new look.

Last but not least, go minimalist. Use one of the aforementioned techniques on all the exposed surfaces of the shelves. Instead of putting items back on the shelves, leave them empty, or place one very plain object on each one, such as a pillar candle or solid vase.

Dressing Up Dressers

Wrapping paper is a great, cheap way to spruce up shelves and drawers.

Dressers typically take a bit longer to revamp, but it’s time well spent that gives you bragging rights for your unique imagination and inspired home improvement skills.

The easiest approach here is undoubtedly contact paper. And don’t worry — this stuff isn’t just your mother’s drawer lining paper anymore. It now comes in vibrant colors and patterns, as well as varieties that are easily removable without leaving adhesive behind. Carefully cut out shapes and patterns and apply them to the sides, tops, or front of drawers on your dresser.

If your kids have a favorite sports team, video game, movie, or TV show, you might consider ordering an assortment of related decals online and covering their bedroom dresser with them. Letting them help only adds to the fun.

If you’re a bit timid about changing the appearance of a dresser’s exterior, maybe just line the drawers with contact paper, shelf paper, or wallpaper. No one but you will likely see it, but it will make choosing socks and underwear in the morning a little more interesting.

If you’re really looking for a budget-friendly option, consider wrapping paper. Choose a sturdy variety and apply it to the shell of the dresser with a glue gun, being careful to smooth it out to avoid wrinkles and bubbles as you go. Cover the drawer fronts with a compatible paper, or use shiny gold or silver paper for the facades. Kids love their names on things, too, so you could even stencil their names on the front of the top drawer to bring an easy smile to your little one’s face.

Alternatively, you could try striping your dresser. To do this, simply create a pattern on the exterior with strips of wide or narrow masking tape. Then paint the exposed portions with a glossy paint. You can leave the unpainted areas plain or add stickers/decals to jazz them up. Similarly, you can also chalk your drawers up. Just paint them with chalkboard paint and use it in a message board for your kitchen or kids’ bedroom. And don’t worry: using chalk pens to write messages or personalize the drawers does not contribute to dust and residue.

If you have a dresser with missing or damaged drawers, you might try tossing the drawers, giving the unit itself a coat of paint inside and out, and turning it into a set of shelves where you can decoratively stack towels and sheets, sweaters, or t-shirts. If you don’t feel comfortable tossing old furniture, just put it on the porch and use the drawers to store fertilizer, potting soil, and other gardening tools. Use the top to display plants and start seedlings before planting them in the ground.

Handles and Pulls

Of course, changing the handles on dressers is one of the easiest ways to change their look. For kids’ rooms, you can even use tiny rubber toys to replace drawer handles. Miniature dinosaurs, trucks, animals, and blocks are extremely easy to attach to these furniture pieces, but be sure to use a super strong glue that’s kid-proof and non-toxic.

For your own drawers, consider vintage pulls. Kids don’t have to have all the fun, after all. There are thousands of vintage door pulls available online in glass, ceramic, pewter, and gold plate that can transform a ho-hum dresser into a conversation piece in less than an hour.

And how could we forget about retro refurbishing? Handles popular in the 50s, 60s, and 70s are available cheap and easy online. Even better, they look good on old dressers and turn newer models into conversation pieces.

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