DIY Faux Apothecary Dresser

Today I'm sharing a furniture makeover with sentimental value as it's a piece of furniture my parent's purchased shortly after they married in the late 50s. If they could see it now, I hope they would approve of their vintage dresser being turned into a DIY faux apothecary dresser.

The inspiration for turning this dresser into an apothecary cabinet came from the grooves in the center of the large drawers that reminded me of small apothecary drawers. The six-drawer vintage dresser may look like it now has fifteen small apothecary drawers but in reality, it only has two.

Faux Apothecary Dresser DIY Faux Drawers

DIY Faux Apothecary Dresser

It is Furniture Fixer Upper Day where six talented furniture painting friends come together once a month to breath new life into an old piece of furniture. You can find links to the other five makeovers at the bottom of this post. Last month I transformed a golden oak Pedestal Console Table with a French Chatellerault furniture transfer.

By painting the outside of the 50s dresser white and adding legs, it retains its mid-century modern charm. No longer functional as a dresser, it would make a lovely media cabinet, dining sideboard, or home office credenza.

DIY Faux Apothecary Dresser

I'm hoping we can keep this dresser in the family like we did with the matching tallboy dresser that was converted it into a Faux Secretary Desk. With both pieces of their original bedroom set modified, my parents either rolled over in their graves or thought, "well look at that". Hopefully the later.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Painted Drawers

The drawers were stained and a little worse for wear so they got a pop of sage green both inside and out. They were also lined with striped wrapping paper set loosely in place.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Paper Lined Drawers

Originally this Canadian made vintage dresser by Victoriaville Furniture Ltd. out of Quebec had a blonde Labrador Sand finish. After my parents gifted it to us for our daughter's room we refinished it with a white pickling stain. I don't know what we were thinking when we added all those round knobs!

Faux Apothecary Dresser Before

After our daughter left the nest the dresser was converted into an office credenza but more about that mess later on in the post.

Once that incarnation was no longer useful, we moved it into the basement workshop where sadly it was used and abused as a worktable.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Top Before

When we reorganized the room, (catch the basement workshop tour here) it no longer accommodated the dresser. Taking up valuable floor space, I'm thrilled to finally have the dresser outta there.

With a lot of elbow grease and help from Mr. Frugalista, we were able to breath new life into the neglected but well-built dresser and this is what it looks like now.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Makeover

Big difference, right? The surprise waiting inside happens when you go to pull out a middle or bottom drawer and discover it's actually a swingout door to a pretty painted cupboard.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Cupboard

Instructions for turning a vintage dresser into a faux apothecary dresser

Towards the bottom of this post, I've included a supply list of products I used or recommend for this furniture makeover. They contain affiliate links and at no cost to you, we receive a small commission if you make a purchase.

This furniture makeover is all about using what I had on hand and a good example of how you can mix and match different product brands as long as they work together. Mine are all waterbased products.

Prepping the apothecary dresser for paint

The first order of business is to strip the pickling stain and all the paint splatters with EZ Strip, a low VOC water-soluble paint stripper that can safely be used indoors. Because I planned on leaving it to sit 1-2 hours, I kept it wet by covering with plastic.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Stripping Stain

It took two applications and the finish came off easily with a scraper. The remaining bits were removed with a 220-grit sanding pad and mouse sander.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Stripped Drawer Fronts

The dresser is mahogany and guaranteed to cause the tannins in the wood to bleed through the paint, especially considering I'm painting it white. I brushed one coat of stain-blocking primer and that did the trick.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Primed

Paint the apothecary dresser exterior

Now that the dresser is primed and ready for paint, I brushed three coats of Behr Chalk Paint in the color Tin White with my favorite paintbrush. I prefer working with a damp brush because it helps move the paint better. I spray it using this handy water misting spray bottle before dipping it into the paint.

I lightly sanded between coats with 220-grit sandpaper for a smooth as butter finish and waited two hours between coats.

Turning the drawer fronts into faux apothecary cubbies

As I mentioned earlier, the inspiration for turning this piece into an apothecary dresser came from the grooves in the center of the large drawers. We replicated the grooves by adding one more to each drawer front.

To do this Mr. Frugalista set the table saw to the same depth as the original groove and ran the drawer fronts through the saw blade. Voila, the look of fifteen apothecary drawers.

Staining the faux apothecary drawer fronts

The drawer fronts are stained with two coats of waterbased gel stain in the color Tobacco Road and lighted sanded with 220-grit sandpaper between coats. I apply the stain with a damp chip brush and wipe it over the wood with a lint-free shop towel.

Once the stain dried overnight, I deepened the color by brushing dark wax over the stain with a round wax brush. You can see the difference between the stain only (after just one coat) and the stain and wax combo in the photo below.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Drawer Fronts Stained Plus Wax

The real reason we turned the bottom four drawers into a cupboard

Sadly because of the former credenza modification, the interior of the dresser was butchered, rendering the bottom four drawers impossible to function as such again. Hence the reason for turning the bottom of the dresser into cupboards.

In that credenza modification, we had joined two sets of drawers into deep drawers for hanging file folders. You can get an idea of the mess it made of the dresser interior and the drawers in the photo below.

Faux Apothecary Dresser Damage Before

Modified dresser to accommodate two drawers and cupboards

In order to put this dresser back together again, we moved the drawer divider trim towards the bottom over to the top. We also moved the one remaining drawer slider so now the two intact drawers that survived are now at the top of the dresser (pictured below).

Faux Apothecary Dresser Repairing Damage

To turn the bottom portion of the dresser into cupboards Mr. Frugalista added a base and center divider with smooth 1/4-inch thick hardboard (pictured below). He attached it in the center by screwing into the center faceplate and L-brackets at the top towards the back. 

Faux Apothecary Dresser Wood Lined Interior

Once that was done I painted the cupboards with two coats of Rustoleum Chalked Ultra Matte Paint in the color Sensible Sage. The drawers were a little worse for wear so I also painted them the same color.

Modifications to the drawer fronts to be turned into doors 

After the four damaged drawers were dismantled and the drawer trim removed from the dresser, they are joined together to make cabinet doors.

To do this a piece of 1/4-inch thick hardboard is cut to size about an inch shorter on the sides so the doors close tight against the front of the dresser.

Next, one side of the hardboard is painted the same sage green as the interior cupboards. After the paint dried the drawer fronts and trim pieces are glued onto the unpainted side of the hardboard with construction adhesive and set to dry overnight (pictured below).

Faux Apothecary Dresser DIY Cupboard Doors

In order to have clearance for the extended edge on the doors, we had to use fully concealed 4-Way 175° hinges. This type of hinge is commonly used so cabinet doors swing out of the way for pullout shelves.

Adding cup pulls onto the faux apothecary drawers

Finding fifteen cup pulls in this town was almost next to impossible. Of course, I didn't give myself enough time to order some online but Mr. Frugalista managed to find some black ones at Rona.

With that many pulls so close to together, there is no room for error when mounting them. To keep the holes perfectly lined up and centered in each square we used a handy dandy Kreg Cabinet Hardware Jig. After a little measuring to set the jig up, we had all thirty holes drilled in no time.

Adding legs to the dresser

I had these awesome tapered wooden legs in my stash. The existing screw pins are meant to use with metal mounting brackets. Mr. Frugalista removed those and inserted double-ended dowel screws for wood into the legs and then the base of the dresser.

I should mention that blocks of wood had to be attached to the bottom of the dresser to accommodate adding legs. But first, the legs were sanded to remove the original finish and stained to match the drawer fronts. They also got a coat of dark wax to deepen the color.

Faux Apothecary Dresser New Tapered Wood Legs

Protective finishes

To protect the chalk painted surfaces, the sides of the dresser and interior walls are protected with clear wax and buffed to a matte finish. The top of the dresser and the bottom of the cupboards are protected with Gator Hide, a water repellent matte clear coat that is more durable.

Recommended products

Low VOC Paint Stripper
Plastic Scraper
Stainable Wood Filler
Stain Blocking Primer
Shop Towels
Chip Brush
White Chalk Paint
Sage Green Chalk Paint
Waterbased Tobacco Road Gel Stain
Clear Wax
Dark Wax
Round Wax Brush
Water-Repellent Clear Coat
1/4" Smooth Hardboard
Wood Construction Adhesive
Blackened Bronze Cup Pulls
Wood Tapered Legs
4-Way 175° Hinges


Kreg Cabinet Jig
Table saw
Cordless Drill
Mouse or Orbital Sander

The takeaway from this furniture makeover is that when there is sentimental value attached to a piece of furniture, find a way to salvage, repurpose, and/or refinish it with some careful thought and reLove it into your living space. I hope our DIY faux apothecary dresser has inspired or taught you something new along the way.

I love the white paint and dark stain combination. I used it when giving this Mid-Century Modern Cedar Chest a makeover.

If you have any questions about this makeover, please leave them in the comment section below or press the Contact Me button at the top of the blog to drop me an email. I love hearing from you!

Faux Apothecary Dresser

Vintage Faux Apothecary Dresser Before and After

Please join me to see how my talented friend's transformed these furniture pieces. Press the links below to see the after photos and tutorials.
Furniture Fixer Upper Group July 2019 Before Photos
  1. Girl In The Garage
  2. Confessions Of A Serial DIYer
  3. Petticoat Junktion
  4. Just The Woods
  5. Salvaged Inspirations
  6. The Interior Frugalista (that's me)

I share my projects at these inspiring link parties.



  1. You have such beautiful visions when you look at vintage pieces. The dresser if beautiful and fabulously functional but then when you sat those gorgeous orange vases on top! Wow! Love this.

    1. Funny story husband literally snuck those lovely vases into the house the night before and had them ready to list when I discovered them in the storage room. Mine Mine all mine now. LOL

  2. Wow what a gorgeous piece this is now, Marie!! I love it and I definitely think your parents would approve! XOXO

    1. Thank you very much sweet friend! xo I'm keeping my finger's crossed someone in the family will want it🤞🏻

  3. This is simply stunning Marie! I’m in love with this makeover and it’s just extra special that it’s been in your family since the 50’s! Pinned!!!

    1. Thank you so much my friend, I'm glad you like it! xo I'm so pleased we were able to salvage it after our previous cut job.

  4. Indeed, it is now a beautiful piece - an heirloom piece surely to be kept in your family. Nobody in my family is handy or has those tools so I would never be able to replicate. Please state what brushes you used for the products...Do you use separate ones for the wax vs. the chalk paint? How did you achieve a smooth finish (sanding between coats or using a wet brush or wetting the furniture)? Thanks for your hints.

    1. I'm glad you like the makeover! Great questions and I've edited the post to answer them as well as added links to the products in question. I hope this helps 😊

  5. Next to Mission Oak, this 50's style of furniture weighed a ton and was built like the proverbial know what. Interesting adaption. Almost wonder if it would have been easier to start from scratch, but then there is a lot of raw materials in one of those monsters. Great job, and you would never know what it was before!

    1. Yes, this dresser definitely weighs a ton. Because of the sentimental value of this piece I couldn't just start from scratch. I was bound and determined to salvage it into a useablel piece of furniture again. The reward of successfully achieving that goal was worth all the time and effort.

  6. Awesome work saving this piece that's been part of your family history. You know how much I love faux card catalogs and cabinets - it turned out fabulous Marie!

    1. Thank you Jen, I'm so pleased we were able to salvage this sentimental piece. Those drawer fronts were just begging to be turned into apothecary style.

  7. I most definitely think both your Mom and Dad are saying "Wow, look at our girl, she sure knows how to work magic with old pieces of furniture". You're a master at what you do Marie. It's beautiful

    1. 🤗 You just made my morning, Michelle 🤗 Thank you sweet friend ! Means a lot coming from the talents of you. xo

  8. LOL Marilyn, I'm glad you like it. I'm keeping my finger's crossed that it stays in the family because of the sentimental value but so far no one has come forward as a taker. 😟

  9. Wow! Talk about a transformation! This is so clever! I love the new look!

    1. Thank you so much, Kristi, I'm glad you like it! This makeover was a long time coming and I'm so glad my vision was possible for giving it a new life.

  10. Such a great makeover Marie! I love the Faux drawers. Apothecary drawers are beautiful but for me cabinets are more functional!

    1. I couldn't agree more Leah, you can fit a lot more in a cabinet than a drawer. I'm glad you like the dresser makeover. I was so happy to put my parent's original dresser to good use. Have a great weekend!


Post a Comment

Don't be shy, I love reading your comments and reply to every single one! If you want to be notified when I reply back to you, click the "Notify Me" button below the comment box.