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I love this DIY furniture fix so much, I should Marry it!

Missing Furniture Hardware: DIY Fix

Take a look at this photo. It's a side-by-side comparison of two drawers from a painted vintage dresser. Notice anything unusual? Look closely at the hardware. Can you find anything wrong? Me neither — and I know what to look for!


Believe it or not, this beautiful dresser was once a beat up Thrift Store misfit. It was ugly, old and missing a drawer-pull catnip to a creative like Nancy Christopher. Undeterred by the missing handle, the DIY blogger shelled out forty bucks for the ugly duckling dresser; took it home and worked her magic.

"I loved the curviness of it... the details... it needed to come home with me." 
— Nancy Christopher, Artsy Chicks Rule 

If you're not familiar with Nancy Christopher and ArtsyChicksRule.com, it's my pleasure to introduce you. Nancy is a talented (and beautiful) interior designer blessed with the ability to decorate on a dime, but make it look as though she spent a fortune. She lives and blogs on the East coast near Hampton Roads Virginia where she has made a name for herself repurposing and upcycling garage sale and thrift store finds.

To look at the before picture of this thrifted find — and you should definitely go look! — you might find it hard to believe the ugly thrifted misfit and Nancy's beautiful Aubusson blue dresser are one in the same. But I've come to expect sensational outcomes from Nancy's furniture makeovers. I've followed her work on Artsy Chicks Rule for several years and I can tell you the woman wields a paintbrush like Harry Potter's wand!

What spurred me to click read more in this case?

I could relate.

I don't have enough fingers and toes to count all of the broken and partial pieces of furniture my husband, Jamie, brought home when he was picking full-time.

Garage Sale finds exhibit A and B are typical examples:

Hardware missing from Garage Sale dresser
EXHIBIT A:  Dresser missing some hardware.

Craigslist Garage Sale dresser missing pulls and a drawer
EXHIBIT B: Dresser missing a drawer and every drawer pull

We were fortunate to sell both of these garage sale dressers on Craigslist "as is," which was a relief because missing drawer pulls, in particular, can be a difficult problem.

You might even call the problem my nemesis.

You see for me, worn out or broken furniture hardware is usually simple to repair (think wooden toothpicks and glue or escutcheon plates.) But upcycling furniture that's missing a knob, handles or pulls requires either a lot more time and elbow grease or more money than I'm willing to spend.

Consider the options. 

If your fabulous furniture find with great bones and even greater potential is missing hardware, you can:

1.  Buy all new knobs and pulls

(Obvious, I know.) But splurging on a whole new set of matching furniture hardware is usually cost prohibitive.  It would have set Nancy back $40 - $150 or more to replace all thirteen knobs and pulls on her $40 dresser.

2. Find an exact match

Of course, it's easier said than done. But with a lot of patience, on occasion, it's possible to find an exact match for even vintage hardware on the internet. Out of curiosity, I searched for dresser drawer pulls identical to Nancy's and managed to find a few on Amazon that are close, but not close enough.

3. Rearrange your hardware

When you can't find an exact match, sometimes you can get by with a similar handle if you switch it out with an original handle in a less conspicuous spot (such as the bottom right drawer.) However, the color of your replacement handle needs to be a near-perfect match to pull it off.

4. Disguise it with paint or embellishments

With the right primer, you can paint any type of furniture hardware from wooden and ceramic knobs to metal drawer pulls. It's cheap and relatively easy.  But if it doesn't look professional, it spoils the whole piece. Also, it doesn't help if you want to restore the furniture.

None of these vintage drawer pulls match, but a little white chalk paint 
pulls them together for a more cohesive look. 

 I love these Farmhouse drawer pulls painted Shabby Chic white.

Embellishing pulls with sisal rope is easy to do and can often 
disguise one that doesn't match. 

with metallic copper spray paint.

5. Make your own

When you DIY,  hand-crafted furniture fittings  — especially knobs and pulls repurposed from objects you have around the house — can be a fun, cost-effective solution to missing hardware that also adds character to the piece. But it takes an artistic eye and a certain amount of skill and experience to get it right.

Carrie at Lovely etc. used Krazy Glue to turn an old jewelry 

6. Go BOHO

Then again, you can always choose not to hide your mismatched handles and unleash your inner-Bohemian, instead. Just keep in mind this style requires a lot more miss than match!

7. Nix the naked drawer (or door)

You can also remove the drawer (or door) that's missing hardware altogether and either replace it with a decorative basket or convert the empty hole into open shelf space. However, finding a basket that's both the right size and style can take awhile. You may be forced to settle for one that's just okay or leave it open which could require the additional task of building a shelf from scratch.

Chelsea at Two Twenty One took out drawers, built a shelf  and spray painted  drawer 
pulls to transform a $50 Craigslist dresser into this fab entertainment center.

Which brings me back to Nancy Christopher and her beautiful Aubusson blue dresser minus one drawer pull.

WDND -- What did Nancy Do?

Nancy didn't do any of this.

She didn't want to replace the dresser's original hardware, so she did what she says, "any other crafty, creative girl would do."

She bought some oven-bake clay and made a handle to match.

Genius, right?  I love the idea so much I should marry it!

Molding a new handle out of clay:

  • is much less expensive than buying a whole new set of hardware.
  • is far more satisfying than a fruitless search for something identical.
  • doesn't rely on optical illusion.
  • is less time consuming than painting, embellishing or repurposing all new hardware.
  • doesn't require a huge amount of artistic talent to pull it off.
  • isn't overkill if you're missing only one handle.
  • doesn't force you to change hardware you love in any way.
  • is so ingenious and yet so simple that you're probably wondering why you didn't think of it!

The icing on the cake?

It looks really easy! Nancy has been kind enough to share a detailed tutorial explaining her thought process, mistakes she made and every step you need to take to make your own replacement handle out of clay.

Check out

Tell Nancy that Kristi from Craigslist Garage Sales sent you! 

I hope this helps. :-)

  — Happy DIY-ing!      

P.S. What's your go-to fix for Thrifted furniture?

Like this post? Please share it! :-)

7 Solutions for a missing drawer pull on thrifted furniture

If you love looking at before and after photos of furniture makeovers or need some inspiration for an upcoming DIY project of your own, you should check out my Pinterest board, "Ugly Craigslist Dresser Makeovers!"

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