Upcycle Kitchen Cabinets Into a One-of-a-Kind Desk!

Today marks the first official post under our new Birdz of a Feather domain (if you don’t count the old post that accidentally republished a few days ago). Moving to a new domain is not without its challenges, but things will hopefully run smoothly from here-on-out!

The only real change you might notice is that Birdz of a Feather Home and Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab are now roosting together in the same nest – so to speak.There’s nothing we love more than sharing our tutorials with you, so making the decision to combine our DIY and craft blogs under one roof allows us to spend more time doing just that!

If you were subscribed to both blogs, you should only receive one email from us when we post. If for some reason that’s not the case, just let us know through the contact form on the home page and I’ll get it resolved 🙂

There’s a separate tab for Craft Rehab projects on the Home page so if you’re only familiar with our DIY projects, I hope you’ll check them out (and vice versa if you originally found me through Craft Rehab)!

Now on to today’s tutorial!

When we renovated our kitchen we saved two sets of drawers because we knew we could upcycle them into something super useful again. You know how they say that necessity is the mother of invention? This upcycle is a prime example. After the kitchen, next on our list of renovations was the craft room so storage and a desk area was at the top of the list of needs. The bank of drawers was just what we needed to create a one-of-a-kind desk for the office area!

A friend of ours originally built the cabinets for us as temporary storage until we could renovate our kitchen but we never did get around to making fronts for the drawers (as you can see above). For the new desk, we were going to have to get around to it because we had something exciting planned for the drawer fronts – as you’ll see later in the reveal!

My husband made this for me last x-mas to finish off the craft room he built for me in our basement. The first step was to measure each drawer so we could draw up a cut plan. He used it to cut pieces of MDF (medium density fibreboard) for the drawer fronts. Removing all the drawers made it easier to carry the shell into the basement so he could reassemble it.

He located the studs on the wall with a stud finder and used green tape to mark them. When he positioned the cabinets where I wanted them he noticed that he was going to cover up an electrical outlet. He decided to cut away the backing to leave it exposed behind a drawer just in case I ever want to put a charging station into one of the drawers (better to do it now before everything is attached to the wall)! By the way, if you’re wondering what the hole is in the bottom of the left unit, it was for a broom sweep that we tied into our vacuum system when it was in our kitchen. I thought about installing it again in my craft room but decided against it so we just covered the hole up.

Wood screws were used to connect the cabinets to each other (side to side) and then he put a few screws through the back, hitting the studs. This secures them to the wall and keeps them from tipping once they’re loaded up with stuff – and believe me when I say, they will be loaded up!

he put the drawers back in place so he could attach the MDF fronts to them. Along with the MDF, he also cut some long plastic strips to use as spacers (more on how he used those a bit further down).

On each piece of MDF, he applied double-faced tape onto one side, removed the backing and then pressed them into place. The tape allowed him the flexibility to remove the faces if he wanted to adjust the spacing, but he was careful to position them right the first time. The tape gets removed later.

Hubs started with the bottom pieces of MDF first. He placed a level on the ground, then a piece of plywood and several spacers on top of that to bring it up to the height he wanted to start at. He worked his way up to the top, making sure the drawer fronts were level and plum as he went.

He used two of the spacers on the edge of each piece of MDF so he could leave a decent gap between each one. This gap is necessary so the drawers don’t rub against each other when they’re opened and closed.

With the spacers in place, you can lean the bottom of the MDF on top, line it up and then push it onto the drawer so the tape holds it in place.

Here’s a view from the side, showing the double-faced tape before the MDF is pressed into place:

He used the spacers to leave a gap both horizontally and vertically too.

Once a drawer front is temporarily taped to its respective drawer, you can remove the spacers and move onto the next one repeating the process.

When all the MDF is in place, open one of the drawers and then evenly measure several spots on the inside of the drawers where you’ll drill to add screws to hold the MDF in place. On the small drawer shown here we measured for three screws but on the larger drawers, you’ll measure for six screws instead.

Add clamps to hold the MDF to the drawer. Be sure to put some green tape on your drill bit to mark the depth so you don’t go through the front of the MDF – you definitely don’t want any holes in the front! Pre drill the holes from the back into the MDF.

You can vacuum as you go or when you’ve finished drilling all the holes:

The drawer shown below is one of the larger ones, so it gets six screws. Screw through the back of the drawer into MDF with wood screws, then remove the clamps. Hub removed the clamps first to get a better picture, but it’s better to keep them in place until you’re done.

This is what you’ll end up with once all the drawers faces are screwed into place and a new black kick plate is added. You may think you’re just about done, but the finishing touches are just beginning: now you’re going to undo everything you just did!

Starting from the upper left and working clockwise, unscrew each piece of MDF (leave the screws in the drawers to re-use for later.) Use a pencil to consecutively number the back of the MDF as you remove each one. Hubs usually places the number in the middle and then covers it with a piece of green tape so it won’t get covered when it’s painted (and won’t show when it’s screwed back into the drawer).

As you remove the MDF, remember that you’ve got double-face tape on the back, so you may need to pry them to get them to lift off. Remove the double-faced tape from the drawers. As you can see, some of the MDF stuck to the tape; if you pry carefully you should be able to remove them cleanly.

He primed all sides of the MDF and then painted just the edges and back with a durable white paint (it’s not necessary to paint the front with the top coat because it will be covered in the next step).

Now for the Fun Part!

With all the prep work done on the drawers, it’s time to get creative. I took a high res picture of our VW (taken on our wedding day before this happened!) and scaled it in illustrator to fit the total length and width of the MDF drawer faces.

Then I handed if off to a friend to help with the graphic so the final reveal would still be a surprise for me. The VW was printed and laminated onto an adhesive backing by a company that specializes in large format printing. Each piece was then cut and attached to its respective MDF drawer front (paying attention to the numbers put on the back of the MDF!). Here are all the individual drawer fronts layed out on the floor, ready to get reattached.

Insert the screws through the previously drilled holes and reattach the drawer fronts to their respective drawers.

Below is a closeup of the painted edge of the MDF.

Hardware

Instead of screwing hardware through the face of the drawers – which would ruin the effect of the car – some chrome drawer pulls we had on hand were repurposed. They were strategically placed – only one on each drawer where the chrome is on the car – so the hardware would blend into the picture and not be noticed. The drawers still work perfectly and the chrome fits right in!

Here’s how it looks from the other side; it just wraps right around the top of the drawer and is screwed in from the back:

Desk

Right beside the bank of drawers, I wanted to add a surface area where l could photograph some of the step-by-steps for my craft posts. However, I didn’t want any support legs showing so it would look like it was floating.

To determine the best height (I’m vertically challenged so it’s great to be able to customize it specifically for me!), Hubs nailed together some temporary brackets out of 2 x 4’s as a starting point so he could place the work surface on top to test it with me seated at the countertop.

Testing out the comfort of the counter height before you install ledger boards will save you a lot of aggravation in the end (otherwise you could end up with screw holes you have to patch if you need to reposition). Here you can see the brackets holding up the counter as we test the height with a chair. You can shim the under the brackets to raise the counter until you find the height that’s best for you.

Once the height was worked out, Hubs marked the studs in the wall with green tape and used a level to draw a line along the back and sides. He used 1×2’s for the ledgers and installed them into the studs to permanently support the counter.

He painted the ledgers along the back and the right side the same colour as the wall.

On the left side however, he painted the ledger the same colour as the side of the cabinet to blend in better. Even though we were picky about painting the ledgers, once the counter top is in place, you really don’t see them.

Hubs pre drilled and screwed the ledger into the side of the cabinet (again, make sure your screw length is less than the depth of the materials you’re screwing together so the screw doesn’t poke out the other side).

As you’ll notice below, we ended up installing the ledger boards higher than the brackets and it worked out perfectly.

For the counter top itself, we used a door. The kitchen cabinets weren’t the only thing we upcycled for this project: the counter started out life as the door to our cold room, then we used it during our basement renovation to stage materials. Below we’re using it to tile our laundry room backspash (if you’re planning any tiling projects, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to tiling a backsplash).

Hubs simply cut the door to the width and length needed, then primed, painted it and set it on top of the ledgers. Below you can see how the counter looks in place.

Hubs unveiled the completed project for Christmas. The VW desk not only looks striking in my craft studio, but it does the trick in providing a ton of storage!

I not only love the look of the floating counter but it’s also practical too because now I can tuck away a filing cabinet and even my air compressor (both of which are on wheels and easily moveable).

All I can say is that it’s the BEST – GIFT – EVER!!!!

After I had a chance to settle in, here’s my desk area with a newly reupholstered chair (you can find the step-by-step tutorial here).

The desk is quite the conversation starter when we show people our newly built basement! The vintage VW that inspired this project is a car that my husband lovingly restored and only drives in the summer; how lucky am I to enjoy it year round in my now-finished craft studio?

The picture leaning against the wall is a portrait I made of my husband – completely out of paint chips!

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share.

To see what else I’ve been up to in my craft studio, check out my Craft Rehab category for clickable thumbnails of each project. Here’s a few craft projects  you may have missed:

Decoupaged Medicine Cabinet | Birdz of a Feather

Follow my blog here (link in footer) or on Bloglovin’ (click button below) to see upcoming DIY and craft projects – in and around the home.

Paint Chip Portrait | Birdz of a Feather

Paint Chip Portrait | Birdz of a Feather

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10 thoughts on “Upcycle Kitchen Cabinets Into a One-of-a-Kind Desk!

  1. I love this VW set of drawers. You two are so talented. It’s such a wonderful facade. I like the way you cleverly blended the hardware into the chrome in the photo, and the placement in your craft area ensures a good view of the piece. I’m glad you worked out the kinks with your new blog. It’s always a pleasure to stop by.

    • Thanks Jamie – it’s my favourite project to date 🙂 It would be a pretty cool idea in a boy’s room. The printer we used is only located in Toronto so you’d have to find someone local to Arizona; you must have some resources since you do graphic design? BTW, I loved the Valentine Love Light you did on Hometalk!

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