Nursery Progress: Lining Our Drawers With Paper & Mod Podge

On Tuesday we shared how we refinished a Craigslist dresser for the nursery, taking it from this…

… to this:

So now we’re back with all the dirty drawer lining details as promised. This project actually only set us back around $1.30 because we already had everything on hand that we needed except for two foam craft brushes which we picked up at Michael’s for around sixty-five cents a pop. Our other already-owned project materials were Mod Podge and six sheets of wrapping paper (given to us by friends who founded this awesome local paper shop called Ink + Paper). And just for fun we selected three different patterns to use inside of our six 50+ year old drawers to give them a totally fresh look and a nice clean texture (as opposed to the raw wood that they came with).

We were lucky that the drawers were pretty clean (nothing a wipe down with a moist rag couldn’t remedy) and there wasn’t any musty smell or sticky stain to be found. But if you’re dealing with a slightly grosser old drawer scenario (like mustiness and odor that slaps you in the face every time you open a drawer) we’ve heard that wiping them down with mineral spirits and letting them sit out in the sun or air out in the garage for a bit might do the trick. Murphy’s Oil Soap is also said to be one of the best ways to thoroughly clean wood drawers that are past their prime to rid them of any stains or smells. And as extra credit you can place bowl of fresh ground coffee inside of each drawer to absorb any lingering odor afterwards (we’ve also heard that bowls of untreated charcoal briquettes work the same way). Gotta love a cheap and natural solution like that.

Anyway, here are four of our potential patterns that we laid out over the lip of our crib to evaluate as a group. We actually opted to use the three boldest ones twice (since we had six drawers to line) so each drawer would have a punchy little surprise inside. This meant that we had to eliminate one pattern so after a bit of deliberation we settled on two drawers with the orange bubble pattern, two with the green birdie design and two with the bright blue flowered paper. We figure that they’ll never all be open at the same time so it’ll hardly be overwhelming and we liked the idea of Baby P pulling open each drawer when she’s older to see something fun and graphic while she’s grabbing a pair of socks or putting away her crayons.

So after selecting our six sheets of wrapping paper (in three different patterns) it was time to cut each of our six sheets down to the size of the drawers (luckily they were all the same size so we cut one out and just used it as a template to quickly snip out the other five. Then we just had to decide how to adhere our “drawer liners.” Initially we debated using some simple double stick tape to hold the paper down around the edges, which probably would have worked just fine. But after a bit of thought we realized that we wanted something a little more heavy duty (that could take a bit of a beating for the next 15+ years and still look pretty good).

So that’s when we settled on Mod Podge. We recently used it to create “vintage” sign art for our bathroom, so we know how well it holds up to moisture and general wear & tear (thanks to the protective coating that you can apply right on top of any sort of paper to make it a lot more durable than it was before). The first step was not to Mod Podge over the paper though, it was to apply a thin and even coat of the stuff to the bottom of the drawer so that our pre-sized pieces of gift wrap could be securely adhered.

We always go for the “matte” kind of Mod Podge because we’ve found that it cures up more solidly and never feels tacky or sticky after it fully dries (usually within a few hours) so that should help keep the drawers from feeling grippy and tacky even in the warmer months. So after we slicked that onto the bottom of the dresser it was as easy as sticking down our already-cut-to-size gift wrap rectangle and pressing it along the center and out towards all of the corners to eliminate any bubbles or wrinkling. Note: we did not apply Mod Podge to the back of the paper, only to the bottom of the drawer.

I then worked my way around each of the other drawers, applying the Mod Podge to the base of the drawer and sticking down each pre-cut rectangle of gift wrap. Oh and the reason I didn’t go right to applying a layer of Mod Podge over the first wrapping paper swatch after it was stuck down was because I wanted to give it ample drying time before moistening the front of the paper and possibly causing bubbles or wrinkles. In fact, I gave all of the drawers about four hours to fully dry before applying that top coat of Mod Podge over the paper for added protection.

I was sure to apply the top coat evenly and thinly (not too gloppily so as to avoid wrinkles and bubbles). And after letting them dry overnight, we were left with durable and cheerful lined drawers that should last for the long haul (while providing a little dose of happy every time they’re opened). Oh and we love that Mod Podge is 100% water based and non-toxic so it’s not going to stink up our baby clothes or pollute the nursery like some other more chemical-ish sealers might. Good times.

So there you have our under-two-dollar drawer lining adventure. We’d definitely suggest looking around your house for anything from decorative scrapbooking paper and gift wrap (even tissue paper) to swatches of wallpaper or even flash cards or playing cards to create your very own custom drawer liners on the cheap. Mod Podge + pretty much anything that’s flat = interesting drawers that make you smile every time you slip them open. And you could even line drawers with old swatches of fabric, we would just use dots of fabric glue or even glue gun dabs on the back of each piece to hold them down as opposed to Mod Podge.

What about you guys? Have you lined any drawers with something that you already had around the house? Or even hit up Target or the dollar store for festive paper with just that purpose in mind? We’d love to know if you’ve added some unexpected personality to the inside of a dresser or cabinet so spill the drawer lining beans.

Psst- Wanna see our nursery progress from the very beginning? Here’s our painting post, our big shopping spree, our crib hunting rundown, our curtain-making tutorial, our fun little chair search, our mirror-painting extravaganza, this DIY faux sheepskin project, and our big dresser makeover. Fun, fun, fun.


  1. says

    i LOVE this idea so much. paper products are my weakness.
    i brought home a newspaper from a recent trip to china and didn’t know what to do with it. i finally decided to line the drawers of an antique desk with it. rather than mod podging it directly to the drawer, i adhered it to a peice of cardboard cut to size and just dropped it in each drawer. i love opening those drawers….makes me smile and remember my trip.

    • says

      That’s a great alternate suggestion! Thanks so much for sharing. Chinese newspaper is one of the coolest drawer liner ideas we’ve heard of so far!


  2. says

    We just did this very project a couple of days ago (and posted a how-to on our blog). We wanted the durability you get from Modge Podge, but the flexibility to change our minds. The solution: wrapping paper (like you), covered with clear Con-Tact paper. It stays in place, is incredibly durable, but also removes easy as pie when you’re ready for a new look.

    (Pretty cool to change the liners out for the season…imagine seeing Santa’s face smiling at you!)

  3. says

    Looks great! I’ve used paper in almost all of my drawers and am planning on doing the same in the basement on some new dressers I bought. I’ve never used mod podge on drawers since I like to mix things up once in a while so I use double-sided tape.

  4. Randa says

    This is a great, inexpensive idea — I’ve lined my drawers with pretty wrapping paper before but didn’t think of applying Mod-Podge. Question: Did you use the Matte Finish Mod-Podge? I’ve used that before for some craft projects involving collaging bits of magazine cut-outs on a basic wooden picture frame. I liked the results but maybe the shiny finish would be nicer?

    • says

      We did use a matte finish since that was the Podge we had on hand. Either type would probably look great though (although we tend to think the matte kind dries more solidly and isn’t as potentially sticky as the glossy kind). Hope it helps!


  5. says

    Awesome dresser you guys! I sometimes find with mod-podge that even after a thorough drying time, if it gets warm things stick to it. I usually coat all my projects with a thin coat of polyurethane. It keeps if from getting sticky.


    • says

      Thanks for the tip Kate! We’ll definitely keep an eye out for any stickage come warmer weather. We did use the matte finish over the glossy (which we think is a lot less sticky and has already cured up to be very solid) so hopefully that helps.


  6. says

    I love Mod Podge! I’ve used it to decoupage a desk and a tray in my bathroom and it’s a dream. Thanks for linking to that paper store too!! They have gorgeous stuff and their prices are totally reasonable.

  7. Molly says

    And there’s more to this wonderful DIY dresser?! I love the papers you choose to line the drawers. I love how detailed you both are!

  8. Emma says

    It surprises me that you guys did this. I absolutely hate when people do that. It most be a cultural thing, as I am from another country. I just do that roll of anti-slippery stuff.

  9. KimberlyH says

    One question for you- I’ve used Modge-Podge before but when it dried it still had a sticky finish. Did you have the same problem? I would expect not if you are going to be putting clothes in the drawers, since you wouldn’t want everything sticking! Maybe I used a different type of MP?

    • says

      Ours is actually the matte kind, which we always think dries a lot more crisply and never gets sticky. So far it’s super hard and shell-like without any grip or stickiness to it. It seems to have cured up really well for us, but perhaps also choosing the matte finish over the glossy will help with that?


  10. Erin says

    I just wanted to say I love the little touches you all take the time to do on projects like this. This looks incredible and adds so much fun pop! I did something similar to this to a bookcase in my baby’s room — I got some pretty scrapbooking paper and used it to give the plain white shelves a bit of fun.

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