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We are going to make a UK version of one of these:


A chest of drawers that has clean lines – not too fussy and fancy.

Hot water, detergent, bucket & cloth.

Tape measure.


Ruler/straight edge.

White chalk paint (I used Autentico Vintage ‘White’)

Black chalk paint (I used Autentico Vintage ‘Nearly Black’).

Paint brush and small art brush.

Peelable, A4 self adhesive paper – several sheets (I used 10).

Brayer or rolling pin.

A printer (and computer, with Word or similar).

Scissors and/or craft scalpel, plus a cutting surface (your £10k granite work top isn’t recommended).

Wax or varnish (I used Autentico Vintage Dark Wax).


The patience of a saint!


Once you’ve found yourself one of these (or similar)…:

retro drawers

…you will need to clean it. Give it a really thorough wipe down with hot water laced with a generous squirt or two of washing up liquid. Wring your cloth out well, so that the drawers don’t get soaked and use plenty of elbow grease to remove all grime, polish and grease from the wood. These types of retro drawers have quite brittle veneers, so I don’t recommend sanding – it can damage/chip the veneer, but removing all dirt and grease is essential. Wipe all of the chest of drawers, including the inside of the drawers. *If you’re not using chalk paint, you will need to sand to provide a key for your paint – just take it gently.

Leave to dry. *You could use a de-greaser, but I tend to stick to hot water and detergent where I can, as it does a pretty good job without the use of nasty chemicals.

Remove the drawers from the carcass and number them (so that they go back in the correct order). You can do this on the underside of the drawers, where the number won’t be seen once the refurb is done. I don’t recommend that you follow my previous bright idea in using the initials ‘T, M, B’ for top, middle and bottom, on little self adhesive dots. I spent half an hour in a confused state, wondering why I stuck a letter ‘W’ on a drawer. It eventually dawned on me that it was an upside-down  ‘M’, not a ‘W’. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a few weeks later I had a ground-hog day and did the same thing again, but had completely forgotten the outcome of the first episode. Doh!

If your chest of drawers has knobs or handles, these will need to be removed.

With the drawers removed, paint the carcass of the chest with one coat of white chalk paint, then do the same with the drawer fronts.

Leave to dry for several hours. Don’t worry if you have transparency and/or a stain bleed and the white paint goes a bit yellow or blotchy, this will work in your favour later:

Measure the width and height of the drawer fronts.

You now need to work out which font style to use for the letters, and what font sizes you will need for each place name. The largest fonts will be for the places with just a few letters and the smallest fonts will be used for the longest named places.

You might also want to do a few small font, place names to mix it all up a little – for instance, by adding a small word on top of a large word.

I used Arial font because it has nice straight lines, and I wanted something clear and crisp, to match the retro look of the drawers. I also wanted a font that would be reasonably easy to cut out. On the latter point I was disappointed:-)

Print out the places on plain paper and try them for size on the drawer fronts:

Swear copiously, as you realise that, despite using the measurement thingy on Word, only one of your efforts is the right size.

Rinse and repeat the above until you have the correct sized letters/words, or have run out of paper/ink/the will to live.

Once you’re happy with the sizing, print out the places/words on the A4 peelable, self adhesive paper.

If you’re using a craft scalpel, cut around the bits in the middle of the letters:

craft scalpel

Sarah (from Shabby Chic Sarah) recommends the use of a piece of glass to use as a cutting board. I only had one of those craft cutting boards, so used that and it worked ok, but the scalpel did stick just a little.

For cutting the outside of the letters, you can use the scalpel or a pair of tiny pink scissors. I used a pair of pink decoupage scissors. Yes, they have to be pink I’m afraid – this is a female dominated industry, so pink, okay! It won’t work with plain stainless steel, or black plastic handled scissors, trust me:-)

PINK decoupage scissors

Now jumble all the letters/words up….

…Yes, I was joking! Oops, you already did. Sorry!

Stack each word/place name individually. I guess if you’re really boring organised, you could put each word/place name in little plastic bags, so the letters don’t get jumbled or lost. I didn’t bother and really enjoyed walking up and down the garden for half an hour looking for a lost ‘C’. “What do you mean, you’ve never heard of ‘hancery Lane?” 

So, you’ve now got your chest of drawers painted white, and all the letters cut out.

Next you need to map out the words on your drawer fronts. Stand the drawers on end, so that you can place the letters on them and nudge them about to get them in position. Do this with the backing paper still on – we’re only doing a rehearsal:

just trying it for size

Using your ruler and pencil, drawer a line across the drawer front to act as level for your letters. I also tried putting a little vertical line where each letter would go, but found that it was easier to space them out just by looking at them and moving them about a bit:

vertical spacers

Once you’re happy with the positioning, peel the backing paper and stick the letters in place:

peel and stick

The letters are peelable, so you can peel them off and reposition them if needs be.

I found that for the long words, it was easiest to stick the middle letters first, then work outwards from side to side.

I suppose you could go to a lot more effort and carefully measure each letter and spacing, but we’re wanting something with gorgeously vintage character here, not perfection – there’s a difference!

Smooth down each letter carefully, making sure the edges are sticking:

dirty fingernail – occupational hazard

Just before you start to paint each drawer front, go over the letters with your brayer or rolling pin to smooth them down:


Paint the carcass and drawer fronts black:

1st coat of ‘Nearly Black’

You will need 2 coats – the pic above is after the first coat.

Repeat the smoothing of the letters with the brayer/rolling pin just before each new coat of paint.

Once the paint is dry, carefully peel the letters off slowly:

after 2nd coats of ‘Nearly Black’

Gasp in awe and amazement, then disappointment when you realise that:

a) you can’t spell,

b) there’s no such tube station  ‘Angle’,

c) the black paint bled into the white and vice versa:

Oh dear

d) the bloody woman on the blog just ruined your chest of drawers, cost you endless hours of tedium and frustration, not to mention a small fortune in paint and materials.

With a small art brush, touch in any bits and pieces that have bled:

Tidying up the paintwork

Curse that bloody woman on the blog. Leave to dry.

Before finishing

You can finish off here if you want a clean look like the pic above – just wax or varnish. Or… using the sandpaper, rub back bits here and there, to give a distressed, aged look. Brush away the dust.

Wax or varnish:

Distressed and dark waxed

I used Autetico Vinatge Dark Wax all over – I wanted to tone down the white lettering a little.

Wipe out inside of drawers to remove any dust. Replace the drawers in the correctly numbered order:

I have dirty fingernails, but clean drawers

Stand back and admire (or curse that bloody woman on the blog again. Consult a ‘proper’ barrister to see if you can sue).

Coffee and chocolate biscuits I think:-)