Re-purposing a table I already had into a kitchen island

Guest post from Alison

I have been wanting an island for my kitchen since we moved into this house (five years ago). My kitchen has kind of an odd layout and while it is a decent size, it has small counter spaces to work on and shallow small drawers for storage.

I thought an island would be a great way to add counter space and storage — if I could find one with drawers. But, budget was a big factor: a kitchen island isn’t a need, so I really needed to keep the cost down ($150 was what I was thinking).

I started looking at antique butcher blocks and discovered they are very pricey! Then I went to IKEA thinking I could go with something more modern and budget friendly. All of the ones I found were either too big or too small with no storage.

I was so frustrated.

However, a couple weeks ago, a friend was at my house for a playdate and said, “you know, that table in your living room is counter height and would be the perfect size for a kitchen island.”

Suddenly, it was so obvious that the table I had walked past for years was the perfect kitchen island — I had just never considered it. The best part, it is an antique, and has two big drawers! Plus, I didn’t have to buy anything.

But then I realized that it was completely unfinished in the back, exposing the back of the drawers and quite a few dust bunnies. So I put on my thinking cap and $26 later, I brought home some plywood and chalkboard paint to give the table a new look.

My husband and I painted the wood, attached it with wood screws, and now we have an amazing new kitchen island that I could not have afforded if I had found it this way in the store!

We both love it and the kids love having the drawers to store all of their art supplies in and the chalkboard to write on. And best of all, it only cost $26!

The moral to this story? Shop your house first and keep an open mind about ways to re-purpose items.

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  1. Patti says

    Wonderful idea! I went on a tour of homes this past holiday and a lady had made her kitchen island from an antique sewing machine with Corian on top. Yours looks the same size! You may want to top yours down the road or find a marble slab or something at a yard sale.

    • Meredith says

      Yes, I would put something else on the top. The wood could split fairly easy if it gets wet. We have an old wood stool that did this and it probably doesn’t get as much action as your table does. It does look great….fyi, we have the exact same flooring.

        • lily says

          Try plexiglass cut to fit (try Home Depot, Lowes, etc) with edges beveled/smoothed. Don’t have to worry about glass shattering, cracking, etc. My mom did this and then used a leftover piece as a cutting board/hot plate – it gets tons of use.

        • amber says

          We did something similar with an old dresser which we removed the top of, then secured a piece of butcher block from Ikea on top. The butcher block was less than $40, and Ikea was by far the cheapest price for it. Just a suggestion if you want a cutting board.

  2. Kristi says

    My mom did this in her kitchen with an old dresser and an extra slab of granite from the re-finished counter tops. The granite gave the dresser the few extra inches it needed to be counter level and fit perfectly with some overhang making it the perfect size for dinner prep. The dresser also has three long and decently deep drawers where she stores her spices, utensils, potatos, onions, and a laundry list of other random things.

  3. Carole says

    A very similar thing happened to me. I really wanted an entry way table (very much like what your now-island used to be!!), but couldn’t find/afford one. One day while rearranging furniture in the living room, my daughter said (about a sideboard that we have had for YEARS because i think it’s beautiful, even though it never “fit” in the living room), “Mom, let’s put that in the entry way and see if it “fits” there. 5 minutes (and $0) later, we had a beautiful entry table and, finally, the sideboard “fits” in our home:-)
    So happy for you and your “new” island!!

  4. Marie says

    On a smaller scale I’ve been wanting some kind of cabinet or something in the guest bathroom to hold toilet paper and hand towels. Part of my problem is just not knowing what will look right in the space. And the things I’ve seen at Target and Ikea just look cheap and not durable. So in the meantime I had a large hatbox that was given to us as a gift in the basement. We’ve never used it. It has a pretty picture on it and I realized it was great for holding these items. So now the hat box is propped in the corner and everything is hidden inside.
    Many times over I look around and try to reuse a basket or something instead of buying one. Recently I was getting ready for a yard sale and was able to consolidate clothes in the bins i had freeing up 6 bins that I can use for the current clothes and I didn’t need to buy them!!! I love when I “find money” in my house.

  5. Sue says

    I think this is great.. One thing that I would do.. I would cut a piece of wood to fit in the bottom.. over the rectangle that you have between the 4 legs.. and then that will give you some more storage. I have a bottom shelf on my butcher block and I can fit so much stuff on it. It is a great storage area.

    Sue in NJ

    • RitaB says

      Great idea! She could even put some kind of curtain or skirt around it to hide what’s stored there, if she wanted to :)

  6. Leighann says

    This is an excellent idea! We are going to be moving soon, but we haven’t selected our new home. I’m hoping for one with an island in the kitchen, but if it doesn’t have an island, this has inspired me on an inexpensive, easy way to make one! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Tisha says

    I did something similar and realized too late I needed to put something on top so the wood wouldn’t warp. I ended up getting a large cutting board and using that rubbermaid drawer cover under it to keep it in place. Looks great in your kitchen!

  8. Sue says

    I love the idea of repurposing something you already have…in my instance, it has been painting the item to give it a whole new look and to match existing decor and using a corner wall shelf as a nightstand. Your island looks great…and maybe it’s just me, but aren’t you going to get chalk on yourself and/or smudge the art work working at the island? I know if there is a possibility of me besmirching myself, it always happens.:) I love the concept of chalkboard paint, but I’m not sure it’s the best fix in this situation. I think you’re on the right track, however, just need artwork of a more permanent nature. Sorry if I’m raining on your parade–I certainly hope your actual use of the island proves me wrong.

  9. says

    I learned how to do this a couple years ago and am LOVING it! Our “used-to-be” neighbors gave us their entertainment center that i wasn’t really sure what to do with since we didn’t really need one. Then I realized that it would be perfect as a coffee table except that the back is totally exposed just like your table was. I haven’t done anything to it yet but when i get the chance I’m going to totally cover it with cloth and make it as if it was always meant to be a coffee table. FREE! Yay!!!

    Great job! I LOVE saving money and making my house look better at the same time, lol!

  10. Jen says

    Great idea to repurpose what you already have. One other idea. We did something similar is our small kitchen and added small locking wheels to the legs to the “island” to move it easily. You might like that for yours. Small wheels raise the heighth just a little and add great mobility.

  11. Pat says

    I would see about adding a temporary shelf at the bottom of very thin fiberboard or other thin wood (temporary to keep the value of the antique intact), and add two baskets for the kids toys or other items, and keep the two drawers for kitchen storage.

  12. Michelle says

    Beautiful cabinet! I have a small kitchen without a lot of storage space, so got a little creative. I found a really nice, large tv armoire on Craigslist for $50.00. I placed it in the adjacent dining room and filled the armoire with those plastic storage bins with drawers. You know the ones that are white with clear drawers. I bought some with 3 large drawers and on top of those stacked the ones that had 4 small drawers. Whipped out my label maker to assign various drawers such as pasta, boxed dinners, seasoning packets, etc. Filled the bottom cabinet portion of the armoire with bakeware. Now, whenever I need to grab something it is not only nearby, organized and convenient, but also hidden. No one would know that the gorgeous piece of furniture in my dining room is actually a pantry!

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