The Ultimate Dresser To Bench Transformation
Let me take you back to Summer 2017. My entryway had problems. Like “needs a serious organizational intervention” level of problems.
So when I was wandering around my favorite thrift store and saw a dresser the exact width of the staircase, I jumped on it! Extra exciting bonus: the dresser was under $10. That helped the jumping.
Clearly, some of the knobs were missing, and both the bottom of the front of the dresser, and the top of the dresser, were pretty scratched up. Additionally, one of the drawer fronts had a major crack in it- I could have ripped a chunk of the wood off if I’d wanted too.
But, anything would be better than the current state of the entryway, so the dresser came home with me anyway.
My end goal was to make this into a bench with two bottom drawers on the left half, and a recycling bin on the right half. To make this happen, I did the following things:
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The Dresser Transformation
Step 1: Pry Off The Top
During the purchasing/packing into tiny hatchback car/hauling up elevator routine, I had noticed that the top of the dresser was lifting up slightly.
Should I have actually wanted to use this as a dresser, I would’ve smacked some wood glue in, weighted it down with heavy books for a few hours, then went on my merry way.
But since I actually wanted to tear the dresser into pieces and make it into something different, I considered this a huge opportunity. So instead of immediately hacking at the top with a giant saw like a power tool fanatic, I grabbed my trusty pry bar (from this really great set, actually,) and slowly lifted the top from the rest of the dresser.
Sure enough, the glue was weak enough that I managed this successfully!
See how the top is lifting up? It was very easy to fit my pry bar in the space and work my way around lifting up the top of the dresser.
Step 2: Reconfigure Drawer Positioning
Originally this dresser had a top row consisting of three drawers, with three lower rows of two drawers. I wanted all the rows to have two drawers (or, more specifically, look like they had two drawers.)
Since I had pried out the top dividers already, it was relatively simple to pry off one of the pieces of wood the length of the drawer. I reattached that piece to the middle of the dresser using wood glue and pocket hole screws
Detached piece of wood that will now divide the top row into two “drawer” areas instead of three.
Step 3: Clear Out Bench Area
I put the two bottom drawers in to give me a better visual idea of what I was working with, and then started prying out pieces that would be in the way of the seating area. I started with what had been the drawer guides in the original dresser.
At this point, I decided I had cleared out as much as I could without actually cutting wood. The first piece I cut I actually used a hand saw- I didn’t think I could get my jigsaw into the small space. Hand saws are not as time consuming as you’d expect- as long as your piece is small.
After I cut out the top middle divider. I used a hand saw to cut the piece in the center of the dresser. From there, I could just pull it right out.
Step 5: Create Center Divide
This section separates the left and right sides from each other, and provides support to the side of the bench. I took some of the drawer guides that I had pried out and cut them to fit the width of the dresser, creating the divide.
All were attached with wood glue and pocket hole screws. The purpose of these was for the side of the bench to have something to attach to in multiple places.
Step 6: Add Bench Supports
I used the drawer divider that I had sawed out in Step 4 to create a center support for my bench seat. I also used some of the drawer guides that I’d pulled out to be supports in the back.
Step 7: Clear Out Recycling Side
My plan is to place a trash bin on the recycle side to collect any smaller items, with the remaining space for broken down boxes. That means that I needed to clear out the entire right side of all of the drawer supports and dividers.
I also added a piece of plywood to the bottom as reinforcement- I didn’t trust the super old flimsy plywood that was there to hold, no matter how light I’m expecting my recycling to be.
Step 8: Break Apart Drawers
I planned to use the drawer fronts, sides, and backs in the rest of the project, so I started breaking down the drawers. I used both a hand saw and a circular saw to saw them into pieces, since I couldn’t get either my jigsaw or the circular saw to fit on the side with the drawer front.
How I used my handsaw to cut apart the drawer. Since I could fit my circular saw on the other side, I used my circular saw for the back of the drawer cuts.
Step 9: Build and Attach the Door
I originally planned to buy a suitably sized piece of plywood, and then glue the drawer fronts to the piece of plywood for my door. However, I struggled to find a large enough piece of plywood that was not an entire sheet (which would have cost me around $50 for a ¾” piece.)
So instead, I decided to make the door using the spare pieces of drawer. I glued/screwed the drawer backs together using pocket hole screws to create a flat front to glue my drawers onto.
Since the drawer backs were only 3/8” thick, I decided to reinforce this by building a frame on the back. I used some ¾” spare pieces of wood I had sitting around from former projects, of pretty much all widths, to build the frame.
In retrospect, this may have been overkill, since it resulted in a really thick door, but the door is functional, so I can’t complain.
I then glued the drawer fronts to the front of the door, and reinforced the glue with brad nails (using my awesome brad nail gun!!) Finally, I attached the door to the dresser using some classic style hinges.
Step 10: Make the Bench Backrest
I chose to use the materials from my drawer to form the back of the bench area. I cut these to size using my circular saw, then secured them to the dresser using wood glue and brad nails. This was one of the easiest (and most relaxing!) parts of the project.
Step 11: Cut and Attach Top
I used the original top of the dresser (that was pried off in step 1) to make the top of the recycle bin section and the seat bench. Ideally, you would make these cuts with a table saw, but as someone who lacked a table saw, I had to make due with my circular saw.
The top of the right half was secured with a piano hinge, so that I could lift up the top to add things to the bin. I secured the bench seat with wood glue and screws (that I added from below).
The top “arm rest” and back of the bench was secured with wood glue and brad nails. At this point, I was mostly focused on how my bench actually looked like a bench! And as an added bonus, it was sturdy enough for me to sit on!
Step 11: Finish
I painted the bench with a nice cream color I found in the “oops” part of Home Depot. I attempted to turn the paint into chalk paint, which did not go well, possibly because the paint was “oops” paint in the first place. But I managed to save it in the end:
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This is the most difficult furniture project I’ve attempted so far. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I worried the bench wouldn’t be stable, or I’d screw up cutting the top, or I’d get halfway through and realize there was no way I could complete this successfully.
But it all worked out, and even if there were things I’d do differently (hello giant, heavy, unnecessary door), I’m proud that I completed this at all. Have you ever had a project that you were scared to start? Did you finish it? Inspire me!