When trying to update a kitchen with a very limited budget, you need to get creative, especially if you are looking for extra storage and counter space. But did you know you can create a kitchen island space with an old dresser?

You can even make this portable if you wanted by adding casters so that it can be moved aside when not in use. If you don't mind a bit of work, this can be a fun project.

Step 1 - Find an old dresser. If you have one, then that is great, but if you don't, you can go looking at the second hand stores, thrift stores or reuse stores or at those Saturday garage sales. Many of the older ones, are pretty solid and work best for this kitchen island project.

Step 2 - Once you get your old dresser home (if you had to go out and find one) give it a good vacuum and cleaning, then inspect it to see what work you might want to do to it to have it match your kitchen.

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Recycle an Old Dresser

 The idea of using an old dresser also works well if you are renting your space and can't add to the kitchen or you just have a small space. Either way, you can take this with you if you wish. You can get casters to put on your dresser with stops that stop it from rolling around if you are working with some force on this counter top. Otherwise, if you are happy with the feet that are on the old dresser, then this is good too.

Step 3 - At this point you are going to take out the drawers and remove the hardware and paint it. If it is a great old dresser, but it is too dark for your liking, you don't need to spend days stripping it, all you need to do is head to your paint store and get a high adhesion primer such as Zinsser for example. This type of primer will go over any type of paint or varnished surface as long as it has been cleaned of grease.


Once you have removed the hardware and given your drawer fronts and the old dresser a good coat of high adhesion primer, then you can now paint with a latex or water based paint in any color you like. At this point you may want to screw in your good quality casters if you wish to have them for portability or to add a bit of height.

Step 4 - Now you are going to cut a piece of plywood 3/4 inches thick and approximately 3 inches larger than the dresser top all the way around, this will be the size of your counter space. You can get a piece of plywood cut at the local home improvement store for a small fee by the staff.


Screw this plywood in place from underneath, you may need help with this part, but if the drawers are all out, you should be able to get underneath that top piece, as long as your screws are not too long!. Once the plywood has been screwed on, you can now choose the type of counter top you like. You can use this base for tiling, if you like to use tiles, by adding the tile base and adhesive, or you can head once again to your home improvement store for a piece of butcher block cut to size, or handy wood panels that are cut to size, or a simple Formica or arborite countertop. Sometimes you can find ready made ones in the kitchen supply section that will fit your new island. Another option is to source out your counter top first.

By having the 3/4 inch plywood screwed to the top you can now still use the top draw, since most counter tops have a rounded edge that would interfere with the top drawer, so the plywood adds strength as well as a bit of height. This is true for tiling as well, as you would put rounded tile edges on the edge of the plywood for the trim.

Step 5 - Put new hardware of your choice on the drawers and place the drawers back into their spots. (I usually number the drawers as I take them out, as many old dressers are not totally square and each drawer fits best in one spot).


Now you have a portable island for your kitchen, and depending on how much you paid for the dresser, it is a completely affordable project that has now added counter space and storage. The drawers are great for your linens and you can even put trays in them to house your extra cutlery. It is not too big or too small. Using an old dresser is a great way to recycle, as well as add more space.  Also see How to use Faux Tin Tiles to cover a bad backsplash.