We needed some kind of storage in the nursery, and decided on drawers. My husband and I are generally IKEA fans anyway so when I decided I wanted to modify some drawers (having seen similar ones made by someone with more creative flair than I), in the absence of some that we already owned or could get second hand locally, going for the relatively cheap MALM drawers seemed like the sensible solution.
As I was going to paint them anyway, we bought the white ones, which are £10 cheaper than any coloured / finished one. We wanted to use it as a changing table, so researched the ‘standard’ height of most changing tables, which seemed to range from 90cm to 100cm. The MALM drawers are either 80cm tall (for a 3-drawer unit) or 100cm tall (for a 4 drawer unit), so even with taking into account a few extra centimetres to build a changing table on top, we opted for the 4 drawer unit for a bargain £45.
Here is how I made the drawers…
1) Before putting them together, I worked out which pieces would be painted (top, sides, drawer fronts, the bits that form the front between the drawers) and sanded these down with medium grade sandpaper – just enough to rough off the surfaces.
Sort the pieces carefully – no need to prepare / paint more that necessary!
2) After sanding, I painted each piece with B&Q Quick Dry wood undercoat – low VOCs and water-based, so safe for nursery furniture. The only pieces I didn’t paint at this point were the 4 drawer fronts.
One undercoat was sufficient as the drawers were already white.
3) This is where the design bit came in. I looked all over the place for a good supplier of wooden letters, not having the time, patience, tools or skills to make my own, but most places were very limited. I could buy a whole set in one size (which wouldn’t work for what I needed) or order different heights, but they automatically came in different thicknesses (which would look odd). I finally found a company online called Infinite Crafts and found that they could offer 6mm thick, individually cut plywood letters in a huge range of sizes. Hurrah!
From their website, I decided that the font ‘Cooper Black’ would look the nicest as a full alphabet so set about creating a scale image on MS Word to work out how I would arrange the letters, and what size each one needed to be. This was probably the most time consuming part of the whole project! Eventually I worked it all out and ordered the letters, which worked out to less than £26 and had free postage – bargain. I have to say I did this section before we bought the drawers, because as we already owned some, I could measure up each drawer face to save time.
The time consuming bit!
4) I set out the letters on the drawers to check for size and layout, then drew around each one in pencil to ensure that I glued them in the right place.
I guess you could glue the letters straight on, but I am too cautious!
5) Next, I used standard wood glue from B&Q to stick each letter on. It didn’t take much and fortunately dries clear if a bit squidges out, but it’s best to wipe it of ASAP or it’ll make your paint finish uneven.
Letters glued on.
6) Once all the glue had dried, I painted each drawer front with the white undercoat. The edges of the letters were quite dark (as you can see in the photo above) due to the singing that occurs when they are being cut, so I did double-coat the edges.
Letters glued on and all under-coated.
7) The next stage was to gloss everything except the letter fronts, using B&Q’s ‘Light Rain’ quick drying gloss from their Colours range. I painted the edges of the letters and the insides, so all that was left white was the very front faces. I did two coats of gloss everywhere – I find gloss quite tricky to get smooth as it is so thick and dries quickly, so if you brush over it when it’s started to dry, it can cause brush strokes. My top tip (after painting several bits of furniture with it!) would be to work as quickly as you can, and don’t be afraid of using it generously – just keep an eye out for drips.
8) The fun bit! I decided to sponge the colour onto each letter. We used the tester pots that also did the stars on the nursery wall (£1.10 each, 7 pots, and they did everything we needed) and I decided to sponge the colour on. I used a decorator’s sponge and chopped it up into small pieces so that each tester pot had it’s own bit of sponge. On an old piece of wood, I tested the sponge effect and the colours – with such an array of bright colours, I didn’t want them to clash, so the order was quite important to check! I also wrote down the letter that would be painted by each colour underneath it, to try and avoid silly mistakes.
Tester pots, colours, sponges and letters – what could possibly go wrong?!
9) Simple next step – sponging each colour onto the face of each letter. Most letters ended up needing 2 coats (as expected) but the orange and pink needed 3 coats as they showed the slight grey gloss edging through.
Loading up the sponge with some paint.
Begin to sponge it on.
All 4 drawers complete – the colours are not quite right in this photo but it gives you the idea.
10) Finally, we put the drawers together. All done!
The modified drawers with changing table on top.