Reader Redesign: From Library to Living Room

I worked in a library all through high school, which means that things like microfiche and the Dewey Decimal System have a special place in my heart. So of course I was excited about this DIY project from Jeremy & Adrianne that involved turning a Craiglists find from an old public library into a signature piece for their dining room. Here’s Jeremy’s letter:

My wife Adrianne and I love your site. I thought I would send in our before and after pictures as we took a vintage Phoenix Public Library card catalog (purchased on Craigslist for $150) and turned it into a buffet for our dining room. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we did:

  • Removed the 72 drawers, numbering each with tape as we went so we could place it back in the correct corresponding spot
  • Removed the outside plywood casing of original cabinet

  • Separated the four sections of 18 slots that were stacked 4 X 1 and reacquainted them with each other in a 2 x 2 buffet setting. Screwed the sections back together.
  • Purchased two 4’X8′ sections of oak plywood and had Lowe’s cut them to size for free. These would be the new top and base, but we used the original casings for the sides to preserve the character of the piece since they have great splits and dents already.

  • Secured 8 legs purchased from Lowe’s for $8 each to base sheet of plywood in a diamond pattern (the card catalog is probably 350 lbs so we were really really relieved when the base withstood all of the weight.)
  • Added 3/4″ trim purchased from Lowe’s and cut at home with our miter saw, then patched the nail holes with wood putty.

  • Sanded, re-sanded, and sanded a little more to smooth things out.
  • Painted with Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint and Primer in one from Home Depot (a blueish gray color call Rhino).
  • Then we rubbed some stain (Minwax Dark Walnut 2716) all over with a small brush and a few rags to give the antique look, followed by a little more sanding and then some Minwax Wipe On Poly to seal it.

  • Lastly we placed all the original hardware back on each drawer, moved it into place and we now have this great, extremely unique buffet.

We keep bottles of wine in one section, napkins and utensils in another, and still have many drawers to fill with whatever will fit. It was a tough project since the unit was so heavy but we are so happy that we put a little time, a little energy, and a few dollars ($345 to be exact) to have this great conversation piece. -Jeremy and Adrianne at The Lentine Family

We’re totally digging this transformation (not to mention the meticulous refinishing that went into it). And it’s fun just to think that if we were ever lucky enough to score a similar discarded card catalog we could fill it with tons of fun stuff (from Clara and Burger’s collection of toys to Sherry’s extra lip balm tubes and my favorite ties and belts). Great work you guys- it’s a total showstopper akin to some 3K piece from Restoration Hardware or Anthropologie (but it’s even more one-of-a-kind). What do you guys at home think? Isn’t it quite the makeover? Who’s craving a trip to the library?

Psst- Don’t forget to check out our weekly BabyCenter post right here. We switched up Clara’s art wall again- we just can’t help ourselves!


  1. says

    Love it! We did something really similar for a card catelog (see the black one on the right in the hobby room?)

    Yours looks bigger…we definitely couldn’t fit a wine bottle in our drawers but my wife uses it for scrapbook stuff – stamps, tape, etc. It makes me smile to see things re-purposed, great work!

  2. says

    As a librarian I have a special place in my heart for the old catalogue card holder. I am always on the lookout for one of these and they are so hard to find these days… great find for $150.00.

    I hear the old card catalogues are often sold for big bucks to movie production companies these days!

    Great transformation… I am so jealous!!

  3. says

    I luv the legs chosen for this piece. I was just in Lowes this weekend looking at legs for two ottoman I plan to reupholster. I’m a fellow DIY’er and this this is a cool idea. Great job!

  4. bex says

    I’m unbelievably jealous!!!! As a total book nerd, I’ve been on the lookout for a card catalog for just about as long as I’ve had my own place to decorate (read: Freshman year of college). I’ve NEVER been able to find one for as cheap as $150!!

    I love how they made it into a buffet. Brilliant. This post is getting filed away into my little design folder for the “someday” when I’m able to hunt down a card catalog.

  5. Lisa says

    I love this! I think my favorite part would be if you could somehow save that card catalog smell…. (I know, I’m weird.)

  6. Mim says

    Very cool, but I can’t believe after all that work and an obvious love of libraries, they didn’t go the extra mile and put labels on the drawers so they know what’s where. I would love to see actual typed labels (or they could use a Courier font made to look like real typewriting) with drawers labeled “Wine” or maybe even the exact vintages. alphabetically, of course! and so on.

  7. staceys says

    I just got a card catalog for my birthday this weekend! And today they’ve popped up on 3 times on my reder, strange coincidence!

  8. Christin says

    Well done. Absolutely fantastic! Great job Jeremy and Adrianne!! It reminds me of that red vintage-ish piece from Pottery Barn with all the small drawers (or faux drawers) – but this is SO much better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *