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9 Creative Ways to Reuse Old Bureaus (Chest of Drawers)

By Myscha Theriault

antique dresser bureauScan the furniture section of Craigslist, check out a yard or garage sale, or walk through the local flea market – you’ll see a plethora of gently (or not so gently) used bureaus (i.e. chest of drawers) to choose from. Instead of paying outrageous prices for high-end, specialty furniture, why not take advantage of these vintage finds?

As long as the basic style works with your space, there are a number of great ways to re-purpose an old bureau. Refinish and add new hardware to your second-hand find for a more modern spin, or leave it as is for a shabby sheik look. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating your own, custom piece.

Here are nine of my favorite creative ways to reuse old bureaus.

Ways to Reuse Old Bureaus

1. Hallway Linen Closet
Most people don’t have abundant linen storage in their homes. Without an extra closet, finding room to store all of your towels and bed linens can be challenging enough. The additional effort to keep them organized is enough to drive anyone crazy.

An antique dresser can be just the answer to this nagging problem. Choose a size that will fit your storage needs and space best, then fill the drawers with hand towels, wash cloths, extra sheets, and bath towels. Once everything is organized, you can decorate to your heart’s content. Top the bureau with a stylish cloth and some framed photos. Add a framed mirror, or other piece of art, to round out the look.

2. DIY Kitchen Island
If you’re going for a gourmet kitchen on the cheap, one of the easiest ways to save money is on the kitchen island. Put caster wheels on the legs of a waist high, long bureau, refinish in a color that suits you, and attach some towel bars to the sides. Voila! You have an affordable, roving kitchen island that can also be wheeled out to the patio when you need an outdoor serving buffet or coffee bar.

3. Room Divider
This idea works well if you have an open-concept home where the family space, kitchen, and dining areas flow together in one room. Arranging furniture and having a room divider defines the space. When that room divider has storage, it also helps keep clutter like DVDs and CDs organized and out of the way.

Similar to the kitchen island concept, this idea requires a long, low, all-wood piece (no particle board for backing). You’ll be seeing it from both sides, so it’s important that they both look presentable. Top with a stylish tapestry and a couple of affordable, low-maintenance ferns for a decorative touch. A collection of candles of varying heights can also be a dramatic and affordable touch.

4. Sofa Table
Whether you are using one to divide a room as I mentioned above, or to create storage and display space for decorative items, the right bureau can be quite attractive as a sofa table. Since sofa tables are generally wide but not very deep, you’ll need a similarly shaped bureau.

Family board games are easily stored in the bureau drawers, and they will be within reach when you find a convenient time to play Monopoly between homework and bedtime. You can also store remote controls and reading material to avoid clutter around the room. Lastly, you can use the top of the bureau as a setting for your table lamps.

5. Dining Room Buffet
Obviously, you’ll need the right style of bureau to pull this off. Clunky, eighties-era dressers with raised paneling simply won’t cut it. But a long bureau with clean lines and a reasonable depth of storage can work wonders in a dining room.

Top it with candlesticks and crystal vases when not in use as a serving station, and use the drawers to store extra table linens, china, and holiday serving platters.

6. Entryway Storage
If you have an empty wall in your home’s entryway, you’ve got the perfect place to use an elegantly-refinished bureau. Hats, mittens, and scarves will be easy to store in the winter, and baseball gloves and softballs will be a cinch to grab when spring rolls around. Basically, this storage space is perfect for anything you need to routinely grab on your way out the door.

As with the options listed above, you can dress up your refinished piece with a decorative cloth and whatever doodads you see fit.

7. Craft Cabinet
If a dedicated craft room is currently a distant dream, selecting a small chest of drawers to place along a wall in the family room may be your next best option. Your materials will be organized and easy to reach, and you’ll be able to grab your knitting or beading project while the family is gathered for movie night and popcorn. Depending on your craft activities of choice, you can likely store several types of project supplies in one small bureau.

8. Gift Wrapping Station
Since most guests don’t bother to unpack completely, the bureau in a guest bedroom tends to be more for show than anything else. Therefore, it can easily pull double duty as a gift wrapping station. Rather than taking up valuable closet space, you can store supplies in the drawers while utilizing the top for cutting and wrapping.

9. Changing Table
Why spend the money on a changing table when you have a new baby on the way? Use a bureau at the height you want and put a changing pad on top. You can store your diapering supplies in the top drawer, and when those days are over, you’ll have clothing and toy storage your child can grow up with.

The key is to choose a design that will work through the years. Something classic, and not too cutesy is perfect. Remember, paint color is easily changed later on, so if you want to stick with white for the nursery, go right ahead!

Final Word

The key to success with reusing an old bureau is choosing the right style. Look past the beat up finish to the basic form of the piece. Is it the right size and shape? Will it meet your storage and decorating needs? If you see a clunky, beat-up piece of ugly junk at the thrift store or pawn shop and can’t envision it working for you, then it’s best to pass on it completely. On the other hand, if you’re absolutely desperate for storage and the price is right, you can always put it in the basement or garage.

Keep in mind, you can’t go wrong with clean lines and designs that can easily work in a variety of rooms. Happy decorating!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Myscha Theriault
Myscha Theriault is a syndicated columnist with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, best-selling author and professional blogger whose work has appeared on such web sites as Forbes, MSN, the Los Angeles Times and AOL. Print interviews include Better Homes and Gardens, the New York Times, Women’s World and All You magazine. She is the founder of Trek Hound, a site for independent travelers, We Be Sharin', a home living web site, and The Lesson Machine, a site for teachers both Stateside and abroad.

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