Tabletop Version of a Vintage Library Card Catalog

Tabletop Version of a Vintage Library Card Catalog

On one of my typical thrifting adventures, I spied this mini chest of drawers near the cash register at the thrift shop. I didn’t really fancy the painted fruit “still life” that covered it, but I WAS curious about the wood underneath the paint. The idea of a “makeunder” floated through my mind as I envisioned a vintage library card catalog as the end result.

Mini chest of drawers at a thrift store for upcycling into a vintage library card catalog

And don’t you worry- it wasn’t a quality paint job. The original TJ Maxx price tag was still on the bottom! So, no guilt whatsoever.

I plopped in my cart as an impulse purchase because for $5.99, it was worth testing out my theory.

My plan was to remove the painted finish, stain the wood underneath, and replace the existing hardware with finger pulls like an old library card catalog. 

Bosch orbital sander to remove the paint from a small wooden chest
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Refinishing a Mini Chest of Drawers

After buying the mini chest of drawers, I set up shop in our garage to start refinishing it.

First, I pried off the original hardware since they didn’t exactly look like the kind of hardware on an antique card catalog.

Removing the hardware from a mini chest of drawers

Next, I grabbed my Bosch orbital sander and an 80-grit sanding disc. The existing paint came off pretty easily, which was a relief!

Using a Bosch orbital sander to remove paint from wood furniture

It didn’t take too long before I had revealed the clean, pale wood underneath all that paint. I thought for SURE this would take me a couple of days to finish, but I zipped right along.

Refinishing a mini chest of drawers by sanding off the paint

Truthfully, though, I didn’t focus on the sides of the mini drawers. Instead, I spent my time on the surfaces that would be visible when everything was closed.

I planned to use my DIY card catalog as both storage and home decor.

After all was said and done, I had a smooth, clean set of small storage drawers to work with!

The wood even had a decent grain to it and the chest had dovetail joints. I thought I spied those under the original paint job!

Next, I brought the mini chest of drawers outside in order to stain it. I decided that Honey wood stain (by Minwax) would give me the look of a vintage card catalog.

Honey wood stain on a DIY card catalog from a mini chest of drawers

Perfecting the Look of a Vintage Library Card Catalog

Two coats of Honey wood stain later and the small wooden chest had been COMPLETELY transformed!

Getting the look of an old library card catalog with honey wood stain

After the honey wood stain had cured over night, I sealed it with a satin topcoat.

Next, I needed to add the hardware to my vintage card catalog. I bought these small card catalog drawer pulls that would fit the mini drawers perfectly.

card catalog drawer pulls

Can. You. Handle. This?

I mean…if I didn’t do all the work myself, I might be in disbelief. But I know for a fact that I danced around my garage on a Friday night, with my Bosch orbital sander in one hand and a La Croix in the other, removing the paint.

upcycled version of a wooden card catalog

I couldn’t believe how much it was starting to look like an antique card catalog! So, I continued to add the finger pulls to each drawer until they were all done.

finger pulls on a vintage card catalog

Would you ever have guessed that this was originally covered up by that paint job?

replica of a vintage library card catalog

I just needed to add one more thing. Then, my tabletop version of a vintage library card catalog would be complete!

Tabletop Version of a Vintage Library Card Catalog

Labels! I just needed to add little labels to the finger pulls to correspond with the craft supplies that would be stored inside.

desktop version of a vintage library card catalog

See those dovetail joints that I was talking about? And the gorgeous wood grain!

replica of a vintage card catalog

Even though I was really excited about upcycling this mini chest of drawers, even I couldn’t predict how gorgeous it could become. Every time I look for a card catalog for sale, it’s out of my price range or is a modern reproduction.

But now I finally have my OWN by upcycling a $5.99 Goodwill find!

Did it take a bit of labor to create this DIY card catalog? YES. But you can’t put a price on this kind of result and the satisfaction of a project working out this well.

vintage library card catalog

And I can finally say I have a vintage card catalog, even if it’s a DIY version. When you can’t afford (or don’t WANT to pay for) the genuine thing, upcycling something from the thrift store can really scratch that itch.

And yes, you can bet your bottom dollar that if I see another mini chest of drawers on the thrift store shelves, I’ll be doing this again!

One can never have too many small storage drawers, especially when they double as vintage home decor!

If you enjoyed this thrift store makeover, then you’ll absolutely LOVE this industrial table I made by upcycling another thrift store find!

Industrial side table from VHS storage

Craft on!


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antique library card catalog

thrift store version of a vintage card catalog

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Sarah Ramberg is the owner of Sadie Seasongoods, a website that celebrates all things secondhand. From upcycling ideas and thrifted decor to vintage-centric travel itineraries, Sadie Seasongoods is a one-stop shop for anyone who loves thrifting and approachable repurposing ideas. Sarah is also the author of “Crafting with Flannel” and has been featured in numerous media outlets and magazines.


  1. Fonda Rush says

    Personally, I like those chintzy drawer pulls, but I really like what you’ve used in the final piece. I love boxes, especially boxes with drawers. I love this make under!

  2. Christina in FL says

    Oh Sarah, this little cabinet is a stunning makeover! You really did this little cabinet a favor and made her beautiful. I know it was a lot of work. The new pulls with labels are perfect. 🙂 Thank you for all the details. She really does look authentically vintage. Enjoy and create on!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thank you so much, Christina! It was definitely one of those projects that *I* loved the makeunder, but I was worried that folks would be upset that I removed the grapes painting, LOL. You just never know…but I’m so glad you agree with me that it’s a huge improvement! 😀

  3. Oh wow how cute! You did a great job on the makeunder! I would love to have a mini card catalog, but their to expensive for me too. It looks so much better now, than with the fruit on it. What were they thinking! LOL

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Three words: Made in China. LOL- but I agree, why bother covering with a still life when there is such pretty wood grain underneath??

  4. Absolutely love your new old library drawers!! Great job.

  5. Kimberley A Mason says

    Loved this! I will be on the look out for these myself!

  6. Turned out great!…I was surprised to see that there was real wood under there.

  7. Beautiful result…but I must admit I liked that still life way too much…

  8. Perfection!!! This is my new favorite project on your blog!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Ohhhh, thank you so much!!! For a second I thought you might say that you had donated this…cuz we both know that has happened before! 😉

  9. Absolutely love this!! Great work!

  10. OMG! Adorable! I’m on the lookout for something similar now!! Too cute.

  11. These drawers look amazing, fantastic make under!

  12. chris aka monkey says

    oh yeaaa is right, this turned out awesome love it i am jealous xx

  13. Shay Moore says

    Awesome job!

  14. WOW!! I love it. Great job, it is so much better like this. Wanna sell it? jk

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Hahaha, I thought about it!!! But actually, I’ve decided to give to a dear friend of mine who can use the mini drawers for her jewelry business!

  15. Wow, Sarah, this looks so good! What a great makeUNDER and gives this box such character. Love the new function you’ve assigned to it too. My craft/sewing room could use one of these.

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thank you, Marie!! I wasn’t sure if I’d get pushback for removing the “painting” or not…but so far, so good (for the most part!) LOL

  16. Absolutely adore it!

  17. Love it!

  18. Kathy A. says

    Your makeunder is gorgeous! If it was such a nice wooden box, why did they cover it up that way??? My problem is, being close to a hoarder, that I would fill those tiny drawers up TOO quickly with my bits and bobs! Glad you could see the “good bones” of the box–if I did it, it would probably be cardboard underneath! Awesome job and a great tutorial, too.

  19. christykjames says

    Who knew that gorgeous piece was under that cheesy paintjob!! This looks amazing! XO

  20. Kaycee F says

    Wow, wow, wowzers what a transformation! I can’t believe there was wood, and not mdf under that fruity mess. What a beautiful transformation!!!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Exactly! I wouldn’t have been surprised had it been MDF…and would have tried this anyway. But it’s SO much better than I could have hoped. 😀

  21. I would have never guessed there could be dovetail drawers and nice wood graining underneath a TJ Maxx piece! Love how this turned out!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Right??? A TJ Maxx piece that became a Goodwill piece that became my card catalog- a long road but worth every mile!

  22. acraftymix says

    Ah man Sarah that’s just adorable and brilliant. She looks perfect now

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thank you, Michelle! She’s no stacked suitcase dresser, but she’ll do for now. 😉 😉 😉

  23. Oh my gosh… as a librarian who also can’t afford an actual card catalog, I love this SO much. Will definitely be keeping an eye out for one! Beautiful job!

  24. N-I-c-e! I thought “Makeunder”? What in the world? Well, now I know! Bye-bye not so special still life and hello cute card catalog! Hm, I think I may have a little box that needs a makeunder!

  25. Oh my goodness Sarah, you uncovered some gorgeous wood, she is a beauty! You have a great eye I love your brilliant transformation!!

  26. Now, I know a new word: “makeunder”. I love what you did with this little chest. It looks like a great piece to use in a craft room.

  27. Wow. What an amazing makeover. You really took something that was pretty icky and turned it into something so spectacular. Great Job!

  28. I have a little 2 drawer wooden box I should totally do this to! It isn’t nice wood like this but, I think I could still pull off the look. I think 😉 Thank you so much for sharing with us at Funtastic Friday! Pinned & sharing

  29. This turned out beautiful, Sarah! I pinned it & will share on FB! 🙂

  30. helenfern says

    That is so awesome – so much better than the original! Thanks for sharing on the Pleasures of the NW’s DIY party!

  31. This project is an OMG gorgeous project. I love it, love it, and ya, love it!!!

  32. houseonwinchester says

    This is darling!!!

  33. Keep dancing Sarah because once again you nailed it! I have lots of doo-dads waiting on something like this. Thank you for sharing with us this week at Celebrate Your Story, and I hope your week is going great.

  34. Sarah yet another incredible makeover. You are so talented. Thank you so much for sharing!

  35. You already know how much I love these library card drawers! Now I’m happy to tell you that you’re featured this week at the This is How We Roll Link Party.

  36. eyeloveknots says

    This is awesome! It looks like the perfect size to sit on a desk and hold all the most used goodies. Will be perfect for your friend to use in her jewelry making 🙂 Pinned for inspiration. I hope I come across one of these!

  37. Thank you so much for sharing this at the Farmhouse Friday link party! Pinned and shared! 🙂

  38. Sharon Warren says

    This is so adorable! Who knew? Oh right, you did!
    I’ve looked and may have missed it, but where did you get the new label/drawer pulls. I need those!

  39. I want to go thrifting with you! What a great find! And your transformation? So awesome!! Enjoy all that extra storage ! 😀

  40. I love this Sarah! I would love to have this in my home. I’ll be featuring your beautiful card catalogue at this week’s link party. xx

  41. I’m clapping my hands, cause I’m happy and I know it!!! Sooooo doing this! Thanks a bunch!

  42. loriratzke2015 says

    That is one awesome makeunder!! I love it!! I think your blog is my new obsession!! You are very talented!!

  43. Just amazing. I so enjoy all of your makeovers.

  44. Wow! What a transformation!

  45. Michelle says


  46. I have this exact same jewelry box, I always thought it slightly cheesy, but it was my Mom’s so I have kept it and used it for my jewelry. Being a furniture up-cycler it is funny that I happened across your pin! I love the idea of the card catalogue and will have to try it :). Better than the painted fruit.

  47. Holy Cow is right!!! I’ve seen that same piece in the thrift store and I’m jumping on it next time! That is an amazing make-under and I love it so much!!!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Do it! There’s a gem waiting under that paint…mine had the original TJ Maxx pricetag on the very bottom so they were definitely mass produced!

  48. I would have never seen the finished project if I had looked at those drawers in a thrift store… Thank you for opening my eyes and seeing the possibilities.

  49. Patty Soriano says

    Love this and gotta have one! So, where do we get those little pulls on the front for the labels ? Hobby Lobby ?

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      No, I really don’t shop at Hobby Lobby, actually- I included a link to in my posts to the exact pulls I used! 🙂

  50. MaryElizabeth says

    Have the same piece. I am going to try this

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      That’s awesome! Did you get it at TJ Maxx? The one I found at Goodwill had a TJ Maxx pricetag on the bottom.

  51. Anita Montgomery says

    OMG I absolutely love this, may I ask where you got the card catalog drawer pulls, they are past perfect! You are so creative, great work! 🙂

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thank you, Anita! See the bold blue text when I discuss them? That’s an affiliate link to the exact ones I used so that you can buy them, too. I link to as many products as I can- look for those bold blue links (sometimes underlined, sometimes not).

  52. I so would love doing this but I would use it as a jewelry box and label the drawers with “hoops” “drops” “dangles” etc. Conventional J boxes have too small compartments! Thanks for all your ideas!!!

  53. Love, love, love it! The drawer pulls are perfect but how did you type on those little cards. I found a card catalogue at an auction but don’t know how to “label” it! So nice of you to give it to your friend, but she’ll need no cards for her jewelry.

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Oh, I typed those up on the computer using a typewriter font on paper (from the craft store) that looked aged!


  1. […] who here remembers my library card catalog “makeunder” project? Here’s a refresher if you don’t – it sure didn’t look like this before, did […]

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