before & after: curio cabinet redesign

This “apothecurio” cabinet by Meg and Todd van der Kruik of Union Eighteen studio is a really wonderful testament to the power of legs. The “before” version of this cabinet is nice, but admittedly a bit oppressive in its weight. Meg and Todd have lightened up this piece in so many ways: the color, the delicate knobs, the mixed woods and the legs!! Isn’t it incredible how transformative adding a bit of air under a piece can be? Just beautiful. Wonderful work, guys! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read more about Meg & Todd’s curio cabinet redesign after the jump!

Time: 10–12 hours (including planning the design)

Cost: $200

Basic Steps: We were tasked with turning this piece of “trash” into a treasure that people would then bid on at IIDA’s charity event. We were so excited to do this project but were truly stumped with a direction once we realized the dresser was made from disintegrating particleboard. It became a total remodel project inspired by vintage curio cabinets and apothecary stands. By lifting it to the height of a classic curio cabinet and adding the functionality of an apothecary stand, it evolved into a really fun and unique piece! Together we scoured local antique hardware and salvage stores and rescued old sewing machine drawers, cash register drawers and the like to assemble one amazing piece that is perfect to hold all of your most valuable possessions. Repurposed vintage spindle legs added height, and small pieces of hand-stained wood created the handmade look of the mosaic top. We call it the “Apothecurio”!

Step 1. Strip/Sand/Primer: We stripped the entire piece down (removed cabinet doors, particle board top and hardware). We then sanded down the entire frame and drawer fronts before applying the primer. We filled in the holes on the drawer fronts with wood putty and sanded those to a smooth finish so that we could later add new hardware in the center of the drawer.

Step 2. Elevation: We lifted the entire piece about 24” off the ground by adding 2” x 4” braces across the bottom (right/left/middle). This helped to stabilize the body and added the support the legs would need. We cut the table legs to size and then added threaded inserts to the legs so they could be easily removed at a later time.

Step 3. Apothecary-ness: We built three shelves in the center of the dresser and then loosely placed the vintage sewing drawers on them. This allows them to slide out easily and to be rearranged at will.

Step 4. Mosaic Top: We purchased some maple 1 x 4s at the local hardware store and cut them to size. We then hand-stained each piece, intentionally adding multiple layers of stain to only a few of the pieces. This helped to achieve the uneven look of the finished top.

Our advice: Plan it out first! We would have saved a ton of time by really planning out the finished piece. Also, if you can avoid using a pressed-wood frame as the base of your piece, you will have fewer headaches when it comes time to paint or stain. Meg & Todd


I LOVE IT! The legs and fresh paint really add a lot of charm to that cabinet!

I’d probably never have thought to add legs, but now I totally want to put legs on a couple of my random street finds! Thanks for the idea!!!



This would be such a handy cabinet to have to store all those bits and pieces in all those little drawers, great for someone like me with a slight obsession with organisation!x


Love the addition of the legs and painting it a lighter color. The legs make it lighter looking and not so heavy, as when it was sitting on the floor. Good job!


this turned out really great! I love little old drawers. I would LOVE to have this piece in my home. You took such a boring, dated old piece and made it fabulous!!


Lifting it off of the ground makes a huge difference! Wow really terrific job transforming this dresser. Also, really nice inspiration piece – makes you rethink how to transform drawers/cupboard space. Kudos!


Just wanted to add too, how much I enjoy this before and after section. Its really awesome to have this source of creative ideas, to rethink and inspire how to reuse/recycle so many existing items into some pretty beautiful unique creations, and often for minimal cost. And! – often far superior to many new items you can find nowadays. Thanks Grace!


I love this style. I would like to know what the white paint color is and from what brand. I have a buffet with similar wood tones and have been looking for the right (not too bright) white that would compliment the wood.

Rick Woods

What an amazing difference. You guys took something that looked like it was headed for the scrap heap and transformed it into a beautiful piece. Nice job.


I like it but those legs not painted white just blatantly give away its frankenstein construction. There isn’t enough unity in the parts, especially with that business going on in the middle. Again, I like it, I just look at those legs and expect the dresser to begin walking and groaning eerily…

deana mattos diefenbach

I too love legs and want to now add them to everything, but the most surprising thing about this piece was the fun use of old sewing machine drawers, I love collecting those and this use is genius, thanks for sharing. I just finished redoing a dresser for the second time, just need to change out the knobs (I have found a bag of vintage brass, they will all be different) I free handed the poppies on the front.


I really like the new look. It looks alot more elegant on the new legs and I love the apothecary effect with the vintage sewing drawers.