how to transform diy kitchen island from dresser

diy kitchen island from dresser

Introduction to DIY Kitchen Island from dresser

diy kitchen island from dresser

The heart of any home is often the kitchen, and a kitchen island can become its focal point. But why settle for a standard, store-bought island when you can create a unique piece that reflects your personal style and meets your specific needs? Converting a dresser into a kitchen island is a fantastic way to achieve this. This project not only encourages sustainability by repurposing old furniture but also allows you to customize every aspect, from the color to the countertop material.

Selecting the Right Dresser for Your Project

The success of your DIY kitchen island project hinges on the dresser you choose. Look for a dresser that’s not only sturdy but also suits your kitchen’s design theme. Here’s what you should consider:

  1. Size and Proportions: The dresser should be proportionate to your kitchen space. A dresser that’s too small might not provide enough countertop area, while one that’s too large could overwhelm the room.
  2. Material: Solid wood dressers are ideal due to their durability. They can withstand the modifications you’ll make and the everyday wear and tear in a kitchen.
  3. Style: Choose a dresser that complements your kitchen’s style. If you have a rustic kitchen, a vintage dresser could work wonders, while a modern kitchen might call for a sleeker design.
  4. Drawer Configuration: The existing drawer layout will impact how you repurpose the dresser. A dresser with larger, deeper drawers could be perfect for storing pots and pans, while one with smaller drawers might be better suited for utensils and cutlery.

Gathering Necessary Tools and Materials

diy kitchen island from dresser

Before embarking on any DIY project, it’s essential to have the right tools and materials at your disposal. Here’s a comprehensive list to get you started:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Power drill with various bits
  • Saw (circular or jigsaw, depending on modifications)
  • Sandpaper (multiple grits)
  • Wood filler
  • Primer
  • Paint or wood stain
  • Countertop material (wood, granite, or marble)
  • Wheels or legs for mobility
  • Hooks, racks, and towel bars
  • Lighting fixtures (pendant lights or LED strips)
  • Decorative molding
  • Clear protective finish

Removing Drawers and Hardware

Let’s dive into the transformation process. Start by removing all drawers and hardware from the dresser. This might involve using a screwdriver or a power drill. Set aside the drawers and hardware; they might find a new purpose in your kitchen or other projects.

Preparing the Dresser Surface for Changes

With the drawers removed, take a close look at the dresser’s surface. Repair any damages or dents using wood filler. Once dry, sand the entire surface to create a smooth canvas for your chosen finish.

Adding Wheels or Legs for Mobility

The mobility of your kitchen island is crucial for versatility. If your dresser doesn’t have wheels or legs, this is the time to add them. Attach locking wheels or legs to the bottom corners of the dresser to make it easy to move around and lock in place when needed.

Creating Additional Shelves or Storage

diy kitchen island from dresser

Now it’s time to customize the dresser’s interior. Consider these steps:

  1. Measure and Plan: Assess the available space inside the dresser. Decide whether you want open shelves, closed cabinets, or a combination of both.
  2. Cut and Install: If you’re adding shelves, measure and cut pieces of wood to fit the interior. Attach them securely using brackets or supports.
  3. Cabinet Doors: If you’re converting drawers into cabinets, remove the drawer fronts and attach cabinet doors. Hinges can be purchased at hardware stores and are relatively simple to install.
  4. Finishing Touches: Sand the edges of the newly installed shelves or doors to ensure a seamless fit. If desired, apply a coat of paint or stain to match the dresser’s exterior.
  5. Hardware: Don’t forget to add hardware to the cabinet doors. Knobs or handles can enhance the aesthetic and make opening and closing cabinets easier.

Choosing the Perfect Countertop

diy kitchen island from dresser

The countertop is where the magic happens—where you’ll chop, mix, and prepare your meals. Here’s how to make the right choice:

  1. Material Selection: Consider durability, maintenance, and aesthetics when choosing a countertop material. Popular options include wood, granite, marble, and quartz.
  2. Size and Overhang: Measure the dresser’s dimensions accurately and decide how much overhang you want. A typical overhang is about 12 inches, providing enough space for seating.
  3. Cutting and Installation: If you’re confident in your DIY skills, you can cut the countertop to size yourself. Otherwise, consult a professional to ensure a precise fit.
  4. Finishing: Sand the edges of the countertop to ensure they’re smooth and free from splinters. Apply a food-safe sealant to protect the wood or a sealant recommended for stone surfaces.

Sanding and Refinishing the Dresser Exterior

Before painting or staining, you need to prepare the dresser’s exterior:

  1. Surface Preparation: Use medium-grit sandpaper to remove the existing finish and create a rough surface that paint or stain can adhere to.
  2. Fine Sanding: After the initial sanding, switch to a finer grit sandpaper to achieve a smooth texture. Sand in the direction of the wood grain for the best results.
  3. Cleaning: Wipe down the dresser to remove any dust or debris from sanding. A clean surface ensures a flawless finish.

Painting or Staining for a Fresh Look

diy kitchen island from dresser

The transformation is about to get exciting with a fresh coat of paint or stain. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Priming (If Painting): If you’re painting the dresser, apply a coat of primer first. Primer improves paint adhesion and enhances the final color.
  2. Painting Tips: Use a high-quality paintbrush or a paint sprayer for a smooth finish. Apply thin coats and let each coat dry before adding the next.
  3. Staining Technique: If you’re staining, use a clean cloth to apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain. Allow it to penetrate for a few minutes before wiping off the excess.
  4. Sealing the Deal: After the paint or stain is completely dry, seal the surface with a clear protective finish. This adds durability and a polished appearance.

Incorporating Hooks or Racks for Utensils

Functional accessories like hooks and racks can greatly enhance the usability of your kitchen island:

  1. Strategic Placement: Determine where you want to install hooks or racks. Consider locations that are easily accessible from all sides of the island.
  2. Installation: Use a power drill to create pilot holes for screws. Attach hooks, racks, or rails securely to the sides of the island.
  3. **Purposeful Organization:** Hang utensils, pots, pans, or even oven mitts on the hooks and racks. This keeps your essentials within reach while adding a decorative touch.

Installing a Towel Bar or Rack

diy kitchen island from dresser

The addition of a towel bar or rack adds a practical element to your kitchen island. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Selection: Choose a towel bar or rack that complements the island’s design. Consider materials like stainless steel for a modern look or wrought iron for a rustic touch.
  2. Placement: Attach the towel bar to one side of the island. It should be within easy reach of your main workspace.
  3. Installation: Drill holes for the mounting brackets and secure the towel bar in place. Make sure it’s level before tightening the screws.
  4. Functionality: Hang kitchen towels, aprons, or oven mitts on the bar. This not only adds convenience but also enhances the island’s visual appeal.

Adding a Drop-Leaf Extension

A drop-leaf extension adds flexibility to your kitchen island, allowing you to expand the countertop area when needed:

  1. Hinge Selection: Choose sturdy drop-leaf table hinges that can support the weight of the extended countertop.
  2. Leaf Preparation: If your dresser doesn’t have a drop-leaf design, you’ll need to create one. Measure and cut a piece of wood to match the dresser’s width.
  3. Hinge Installation: Attach the hinges to both the dresser and the drop-leaf piece. Make sure the hinges are level and the drop-leaf can swing smoothly.
  4. Finishing Touches: Sand the drop-leaf piece and finish it to match the rest of the island. Apply a clear protective finish for added durability.

Enhancing Aesthetics with Decorative Molding

diy kitchen island from dresser

Decorative molding can transform your kitchen island from ordinary to extraordinary:

  1. Molding Selection: Choose a molding style that complements your kitchen’s overall design. Options range from simple and clean to ornate and intricate.
  2. Measuring and Cutting: Measure the areas where you want to add molding. Cut the molding to fit these dimensions accurately.
  3. Attachment: Apply wood glue to the back of the molding and press it firmly onto the island’s surface. Use finishing nails to secure the molding in place.
  4. Seamless Integration: Use wood filler to fill any gaps between the molding and the island’s surface. Sand the edges for a smooth transition.

Wiring and Installing Additional Lighting

Proper lighting can transform your kitchen island into a functional and inviting workspace:

  1. Lighting Options: Choose between pendant lights, track lighting, or LED strips. Consider the island’s size and your lighting needs.
  2. Electrical Work: If you’re installing new lighting fixtures, consult an electrician for proper wiring. Safety is paramount when working with electricity.
  3. Placement: Position the lighting fixtures strategically above the island. They should provide ample illumination without casting shadows on your workspace.
  4. Installation: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the lighting fixtures. Make sure they are securely attached to the ceiling and properly wired.

Using Beadboard for a Charming Touch

Beadboard adds texture and charm to the sides of your kitchen island. Here’s how to incorporate it:

  1. Materials: Purchase beadboard panels from a home improvement store. These panels are typically made of wood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard).
  2. Measuring and Cutting: Measure the dimensions of the island’s sides and cut the beadboard panels to fit. A jigsaw or circular saw works well for this task.
  3. Attachment: Apply construction adhesive to the back of the beadboard panels and press them onto the island’s sides. Secure the panels with finishing nails.
  4. Finishing: Fill the nail holes with wood filler and sand the edges of the beadboard for a seamless look. Paint or stain the beadboard to match the island’s finish.

Replacing Hardware for a Complete Transformation

Updating the hardware is a small yet impactful step that can completely transform the look of your kitchen island:

  1. Hardware Selection: Choose knobs, handles, or pulls that align with your kitchen’s style. Consider the finish of your lighting fixtures and other hardware for a cohesive look.
  2. Measuring: Measure the distance between the screw holes of the existing hardware. This ensures that your new hardware will fit without the need for additional drilling.
  3. Attachment: Use a screwdriver or power drill to remove the old hardware. Align the holes of the new hardware with the existing holes and secure them in place.
  4. Uniformity: For a cohesive appearance, replace hardware throughout the island. This includes drawers, cabinet doors, and any other accessible areas.

Applying a Clear Protective Finish

To preserve the beauty of your kitchen island, apply a clear protective finish over the painted or stained surfaces:

  1. Preparation: Ensure the island’s surface is clean and free from dust or debris before applying the protective finish.
  2. Application: Use a paintbrush or foam brush to apply the clear finish evenly over the surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying times between coats.
  3. Light Sanding: After each coat of protective finish has dried, lightly sand the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper. This creates a smooth surface for the next coat.
  4. Final Coat: Apply the final coat of protective finish and allow it to dry thoroughly. The protective finish will shield the island from daily use and potential spills.

Styling Your Transformed Kitchen Island

With your DIY kitchen island complete, it’s time to style it to perfection:

  • Decorative Elements: Place potted plants, decorative bowls, or colorful kitchen gadgets on the island’s surface to add personality.
  • Functional Arrangement: Organize utensil holders, cutting boards, and frequently used ingredients for easy access while cooking.
  • Seating: If your island has an overhang, consider adding bar stools for casual dining or conversing with guests while you cook.

Tips for Maintenance and Upkeep

  1. Regular Cleaning: Wipe down the island’s surface daily to prevent the buildup of dirt and stains. Use a gentle cleaner that won’t damage the finish.
  2. Avoid Heat Exposure: Place hot pots and pans on trivets or hot pads to protect the countertop from heat damage.
  3. Tighten Hardware: Periodically check and tighten any screws or bolts to ensure the island remains stable and safe to use.
  4. Wheel Maintenance: If your island has wheels, lubricate them periodically to ensure smooth movement. Check for any signs of wear and replace them if needed.


Converting a dresser into a kitchen island is a creative endeavor that combines functionality with personal expression. Through careful selection, thoughtful customization, and attention to detail, you can transform an ordinary dresser into a centerpiece that defines your kitchen space. By following these steps, you’re well on your way to enjoying a kitchen island that not only serves as a practical workspace but also reflects your unique style.


Q1: Can I use any type of dresser for this project?
Absolutely. While solid wood dressers are often the best choice due to their durability, you can certainly get creative with other materials, keeping in mind the dresser’s intended use and the overall aesthetic you’re aiming for.

Q2: Do I need advanced carpentry skills to complete this project?
Not necessarily. Many

of the steps can be accomplished with basic DIY skills. However, if you’re planning more complex modifications or electrical work, it might be wise to consult professionals.

Q3: Can I install electrical outlets on my kitchen island?
Adding electrical outlets involves complex wiring work and adherence to safety standards. It’s recommended to consult a licensed electrician for this type of project to ensure safety and compliance.

Q4: How long does this transformation typically take?
The duration can vary depending on your familiarity with DIY projects, the complexity of modifications, and drying times for paint and finish. Generally, this project could take several days to a week to complete.

Q5: Can I repurpose an old dresser that’s damaged?
Minor damages can often be repaired with wood filler and sanding. However, extensive damage might compromise the dresser’s structural integrity, affecting its suitability for this project.

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