Introduction: Apothecary Chest From Cheap Plastic Parts Bin
A while back, we went to a liquidation sale at a handbag manufacturing facility. We picked up some great shop cabinets and some really nice fabric, and as we were leaving, the guy gave us a dozen of 18-drawer small parts bins that he was going to throw away...after all, they're only a few bucks at the discount store, and these were old and used and likely no one would buy them. Not one to pass up free stuff, we took them home. Of course we used a few of them for their intended purpose - to hold screws and other little parts things, but the majority of them sat unused on the back porch. Then, on a recent visit to Scotland, I was inspired by these beautiful antique apothecary chests we saw at Scone Palace and knew just what to do with the leftovers!
What you will need:
Plastic parts organizer drawers
Kraft paper or fabric
White glue or Mod Podge
Flat black spray paint
Black and red tempera paint (or colors of your choice)
Clear gloss and matte spray paint or acrylic sealer
Small beads or knobs (optional)
Step 1: Step One: Cover the Outside
The basic idea is to cover the ugly gray body of the organizer, but just painting it would only make it look like an ugly bumpy plastic box in a color other than gray. You could use some wood veneer or fabric, but for this one, I used the classic "faux leather from kraft paper" technique.
To do this, just take a bunch of brown kraft paper or old brown paper bags and start wadding it up. Unfold it and wad it up again. When you think it's wadded up enough, wad it up just a bit more. Then get your white glue and start gluing the paper to the outside of the box. A foam paintbrush works great for this. I wasn't really concerned about what the back or the inside of mine looked like, so I just turned a little bit of the paper to the inside to cover the edge. If you're really thorough though, you can cut pieces to do the inside - just be careful that since you are adding bulk to the box that the little drawers will still fit inside and slide easily.
After your outside is all covered, hit it with a coat or two of Mod Podge covering the whole thing - again the foam brush is great for this. If you don't have Mod Podge, just water down your white glue slightly and use that.
Step 2: Pretty - Up the Outside
To add a little bit more depth and an aged/distressed look, you can dab a little of your black paint on the outside of the box using a damp foam brush and QUICKLY wipe it off with a paper towel. This will leave a dark wash in the texture of your kraft paper. Of course, you can also skip this step if you like the way it looks already.
To finish off the outside of the box, take your clear matte spray paint or acrylic sealer, and coat the entire thing.
Step 3: Prepare the Drawers
Keep in mind that we're working with cheap plastic crap, not high quality craftsmanship. As such, if we paint the outside of the box the paint is just going to get scraped off when the drawers are opened and closed. The solution to this is to paint the inside of the boxes. I just used some matte black spray paint. Since they're clear, the color will show through the outside on the sides, and in the next step we're going to decorate the fronts.
Step 4: Drawer Knobs
The drawers I was using had a lip on them to grab to open the drawer, but I wanted to get a bit fancier, so I used some little wooden knobs from the craft store and just attached them to the center with some hot glue. You could use beads as well, or skip this part entirely.
Step 5: Drawer Front Decoration
One of the chests we saw at Scone Palace had this red and black marbled look to it with a high gloss laquer finish. Of course, mine don't look nearly as good as a priceless antique, but I was going for the same kind of effect.
To achieve this, I used some red and black tempera paints - just the cheap stuff that kids use to paint bake sale posters with. First coat the outside face of the drawer front in solid black. Next, dab a few globs each of red and black on the front of the boxes, and swirl them together with a toothpick. You don't want to mix the colors together all the way, just make some swirls in the paint.
Try to get the paint as smooth as possible while keeping the swirls intact. I did a better job at this on some of the drawers than others unfortunately.
Step 6: Drawer Front Finishing
The dried tempera paint is going to look like a hot mess when it dries - dull and muddy and ugly. Don't worry - we're going to fix that now. All this takes is a can of clear gloss spray paint. Coat the drawer fronts with several light coats. Make sure the coats are thin, and just keep applying coat after coat. If you get too heavy with the spray paint, it may get the tempera paint a bit wet and make it bubble up and get bumpy. I had this happen on a couple of my drawers.
Once your paint is dry, put your drawers back in and you have a fancy new organizer for anything from jewelry to your high-class hardware!
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