Budget Decorating Ideas: New Ideas for Old Bureaus


Flickr Photo Credit: Photo-Mojo

If you’ve recently inherited an old set of dresser drawers or picked one up at a thrift store / dump, you may be wondering what to do with it.  Depending on the style of the piece, numerous options are available to you.

One time, I found a really long cream and brass set of drawers with carved legs and drawer fronts at a salvage store in Tucson. It was one of those girly-girly kinds that were all the rage a few decades ago.  As a chest of drawers, it looked a bit dated. But with a matte black finish and some freshly repainted hardware with gold paint pen added detail, this piece had major potential to be a great buffet piece for a formal loft-style dining room. We ended up moving before I had a chance to complete this project. It was so heavy and we had paid so little for it, that I couldn’t justify taking up that much weight from our military shipping allowance on a piece I could recreate cheaply by hitting the thrift stores at our next location. I’ve always remembered it as a piece that could have been a conversation-maker for years to come.

When trying to come up with ideas to give our new home major style on a less-than-pennies budget, my mind returned to creative ways to use old dresser drawers. They are always some of the first things to be put out at yard sales. Also, truth be told, we have a pile of them that came with the lake cottage we just purchased. In addition to a dining room server buffet, here are a few other things you can do with them using not much more than a fresh coat of paint.

First, consider putting one to use as an impromptu linen closet in a hallway with no storage. Setting it outside where guests can reach it easily makes things go smoothly when beds need to be changed. Bathrooms would be another place to use a bureau in this manner. Towels, first aid supplies, and grooming items could be stored fashionably this way, particularly in an older home or apartment with little to no built in storage options. Choose a color and paint finish that appeal to your personal taste.

Depending on the height of the piece, you could paint it in an accent color such as barn red, top it with glass for easy cleaning and safe food prep, and place it in your kitchen for extra counter space. Just a tip – consider adding caster wheels to be able to easily move it for cleaning or rearranging your small kitchen.

Almost any size of bureau could be used in an office to hold supplies and provide work space. They are also great to put office equipment on top, such as a photocopier. With your stapler and paper clips housed in the drawer below, how much more convenient can you get.

Need a place to store craft supplies but don’t have an extra room? Repainting one of these to coordinate with your living or dining room provides storage that easily integrates with your home design. Have a matched set of two? These can look extra great in a dining room as a matched set of serving buffets. One can hold silverware, serving platter, napkins and table cloths. The other can hold crafting or writing supplies.  Both bureau tops are available to decorate similarly and serve from at parties.

Have a low bureau that’s reasonably long? Place it behind your sofa with the drawers facing out and top with plants to serve as a great transition piece in an open concept home. This is a great place to store board games!

A matching set of smaller drawers could be turned into end tables with storage capacity. Place some living room lamps on top and stick them on the ends of your sofa. Remember, choice of hardware and color can completely change the look of a piece.

Have a dresser with missing drawers? I’ve seen these painted funky colors or even black or sage green, and filled with drawer sized baskets for storage. Or, cut MDF board to fit and attach to the wooden edges that used to support the drawers. Paint the whole thing the same color and use for open shelving of canned goods and other “need to be seen” items. One project I saw that was particularly striking involved one large plain style dresser on the bottom with a set of basic simple book shelves attached to the top. The person had trimmed out the top of the book shelves and the space where the two pieces joined with cheap wooden quarter round molding. The entire thing was painted one color, and the hardware drawer pulls on the bottom were given a fresh coat of spray paint (think, brass, antique silver or black). Voila! A custom piece that has the feel of a china hutch.

I’ve found some ideas online that other people have posted. Here are a few of them:

 This should be enough ideas to get you started. Good luck with your frugal home make-over!


  1. Alexandra says:

    Thanks for the link! Great ideas…I’ll be sharing.