An easy way to add character and cabinet space to your kitchen without spending a fortune on custom built-ins is to repurpose an old dresser. A dresser has drawers -- some deep enough for serving bowls or pots -- and an extra countertop for the cappuccino machine or the baby-food blender. Regard that tired hand-me-down in the bedroom or the dusty "heirloom" in the attic with fresh eyes -- and a new paintbrush.
Patissier Prep Station
A dresser in the kitchen becomes the command station for specialized culinary skills. Dedicate yours to your patissier efforts with shallow drawers for pastry cutters, rolling pins, dough scrapers and measuring spoons. Deeper drawers hold mixing bowls, Madeleine molds and tart pans. Add a slab of marble to the top of the dresser to bring it up to a comfortable height for rolling out dough. A natural wood dresser in good shape may need some slight refinishing or a good waxing. Give an old painted model a light sanding and a couple of coats of creamy vanilla enamel to withstand the rigors of the kitchen and make it easy to wipe down.
Brace or bolt two small, matching dressers together, back-to-back, and attach a butcher-block top for a work surface. Treat the dressers to a makeover before you twin them. Remove the hardware and distress the wood by banging and scraping it with hammers, chains, screwdrivers and other abusive tools to simulate the wear of age. Paint both dressers a dark shade of acrylic, then apply crackle glaze to flat areas and add a topcoat in a lighter color paint. The glaze will craze into areas of cracks like aged paint as it dries, revealing the darker paint beneath. Lightly sand the edges and around the handles to remove a bit of the topcoat where an old piece of furniture would experience the most wear. Replace the knobs and handles with reproduction vintage designs, join the dressers, attach the top and revel in the additional storage and work space.
The reproduction bow-front dresser may be all wrong for your new Zen bedroom decor and just perfect for your eclectic kitchen. Help it to fit right in with a coat of chalky vivid turquoise, chartreuse or barn red paint, ornate metal hardware and decorative metal embellishments, a curved marble top -- maybe salvaged from an old powder room vanity -- and a set of sturdy, locking casters. Positioned in the center of the room, the dresser makes a handy island adjacent to the stove for chopping soup ingredients. By the sink, it holds a temporary drying rack for big wash-ups after holiday meals. Pushed up against a wall, it stores linens, dishes or seldom-used items and offers an extra shelf for the toaster, coffeemaker or microwave.
If your kitchen is not a complete madhouse, then it's safe enough to park an Asian antique chest along a prominent wall to upgrade the decor and add welcome storage. An old scholar's chest, medicine chest or tansu works just as well in your kitchen as it did in the bedroom. Use a taller chest, with its deep shelves and lower cupboards, as a makeshift pantry. A medicine chest with large drawers stores cooking utensils, potholders and dishtowels, or smaller specialty cookware or appliances. A stepped tansu keeps cutting boards, collanders and odd ladles and strainers at hand but out of sight. Put a set of matching canisters on the steps to free up counter space. A framed Chinese brush painting or product poster over an antique chest inspires a Zen kitchen makeover.