I’ve always been a big believer in repurposing old furniture for organizing purposes. Not only is the furniture saved from ending up in storage or the landfill, repainting or otherwise changing a piece of furniture so that it serves a new purpose can be satisfyingly creative. Re-imagining and then selling old furniture—flipping–has even become popular as a way to earn extra income and was recently the subject of a New York Times feature.
A small bookcase might be perfect tucked into a bathroom to store towels and baskets organized with extra supplies. It could also work in a bedroom for a neatly folded blue jean or t-shirt collection. Give it a fresh coat of paint to either blend into the wall like built-in shelving or put a bright color on it to make a design statement.
Dressers are probably the most popular pieces of furniture to transform. They can be great in home offices to hide away supplies as well as small electronic gear such as scanners and laminators. In a home gym a dresser could house all the extra bits like bands, yoga blocks, extra mats and such, keeping the area looking tidy and the gear well-organized.
The right dresser could even make a great kitchen island with lots of storage for utensils and lightweight cooking gear. Mount a dishtowel bar or hooks for towels on one side. You might trade the legs for casters so it’s mobile or change the top to butcherblock or a countertop material.
Nightstands are one of my favorite items to paint and decorate. They are small enough to be manageable weekend projects and can be found in all shapes and sizes at flea markets and secondhand stores, often in pairs. I love using them as end tables. For organizing purposes, drawers are essential: in the living room you can hide remotes, games and charging cables in them. In an office, set the printer on top and store extra paper and ink in the drawers.
For use in a child’s room, nightstands are usually low enough to make the top a play surface. A Lego project or doll house can be displayed with on top and extra Legos or doll accessories can be stored in the drawers underneath.
Even old file cabinets can be candidates for a fresh paint job. One of the most memorable file cabinet transformations I’ve seen was a tall, four drawer cabinet painted white, then artfully covered with handprints in beautiful colors.
There is all kinds of inspiration for transforming furniture online. Try Pinterest and Instagram or YouTube. Adding casters to almost anything can make it a lot more useful and modern. Change drawer pulls and other hardware for an instant facelift. If you have some skills and the right tools, add molding and create interesting raised patterns to make a boring IKEA dresser a “wow.” Let your teenager collage something with inspirational photos from magazines and put a sealer on it.
Don’t be discouraged by the level of expertise required by some of the make-overs. Often you won’t even have to strain yourself sanding and might only have to give the piece a wipe down. I find that 1-2-3 spray primer covers a lot of flaws and follow it with whatever color spray paint I’m using. It’s easy and cheap, and the results can be dramatic.