DIY: a drawer of secrets and curiosities

It is painfully obvious that I am a collector of knick knacks and oddities. A couple years ago I finally decided to make a cabinet to display them all. Over the years I have outgrown my cabinet with all of my little treasures, especially with the tiny things that just don’t get displayed properly.

Many years ago, I picked up a vintage letterpress drawer on ebay. This was way before it became a “thing” and way before I turned into an antique hunting junkie. Either way, it has been used once before to put a lot of Reza’s small toys and now… well, I took it back and decided to give it a little life and this is what happened…

(click photo to view bigger)

So what do you need to make something like this? I will show you!

1 letterpress drawer
Several scraps of awesome paper (I used scrapbook paper from Halloween and vintage spelling pads)
Double stick tape
x-acto knife/scissors
flathead screwdriver, hammer, drill and mounting kit
Lots of awesome collectibles, tchotchkes and treasures.

I won’t lie, this is not a cheap endeavor because of all the magic that goes in it. A lot of it is years worth of collecting… and a drawer can run you anywhere from $40 and up, most of which I have seen in the $50-100 range depending where you get it.

This is what the drawer looked like before.

With the flathead, you want to dig up and remove all of the nails on the backing. It’s a pain in the ass but well worth it. Once all the nails are removed, you want to gently pry it apart. This is what it would look like.

If you got a particularly crusty antique on your hands, dust it off with a rag prior to continuing the project. Careful when handling it because the slots/partitions can come out/apart. My drawer had some slots that were very small, too many, so I pulled out some of the dividers to open up more space for larger items.

Set the frame aside and lay down the backing, front side up. This is the fun yet tedious part… take your papers and lay them across to map out where you would like to put them. The cool part is the back had the spaces kinda worn in so I could make better planning when it came to what papers I wanted where. Stick them down with double sided tape so you can reposition accordingly. You can glue if you want to but I didn’t in case I want to change the papers and the frame will hold them down anyway.

You with me up to this part? Cool. Pick up your frame and place over the backing just to see if everything is placed where you would like it, then remove once more. If you need to reposition and switch things up, now is the time.

Gently flip over your backing and cut off any trim or excess papers off the back and then reassemble the drawer.

I was lucky enough to get one that already had the mounting hardware on it. If yours doesn’t have some, some screws and picture frame wire would suffice. Mount on the wall! You will need to screw in some of the corners to the wall in order to keep it nicely anchored.

Then the fun part… fill with treasures and revel in the awesomenesss.

DIY: a cabinet of curiosities

I am a collector of knick knacks. I like *things*, but mostly things with sentimental value or incline toward my interests. This has been more than a decade in the making since some of the items you are about to see go that far back.

You could say this process was a labor of love cause it took many days to finish. I had this old cabinet that was once used for medicine and toiletires. Ole girl needed a make-over in a big way so I decided to give it to her.

Step 1: Dismantle: remove all hardware, it had a fabric panel in the window that I gutted out as well. I removed it all. I only took photos with my phone so forgive the quality.

Step 2: Primer. I used a flat white primer but didn’t prime it to a solid white cause I wanted some of the grain to strike through. The old hardware was brass/rusty. I don’t like it much, especially not on white so I opted to go silver.

Step 3: Paint! I chose to go with white since A) all the moulding in the house is white and B) it helps showcase/pop the items you are going to display. I used Glidden Trim & Door paint cause I had it lying around, it’s oil based and has really good coverage. Only problem with this stuff it takes a tap to dry and stinks to high hell. Painting it was a 2 day process because of the dimension and the drying time.

Step 4: Reassemble by installing all the hardware. The hinges, knob and roller catch thingy were all acquired at Home Depot and no more than $8

Step 5: Curate! In all honesty this was the best part. Gathering all my little knick knacks, papers, postcards, treats, rearranging, getting it to look the way I want. It took a while but I am really happy with the outcome.

And here she is…

Let’s look inside shall we?

Curious about the goods and their significance? Here are a few details.


Left to right: the quartz I got at a gem fair eons ago, the devil mask belonged to a creepy harlequin clown my sister had in the 80’s, the boxes: the top is filled with bees, middle: cicada wings I have collected, bottom: sea glass & shells I collected on the beach in San Diego, the sugar skull was the first one I ever made.


the cicada was the first one I found when we moved to NJ, I thought that agate slice looked like a Turkish eye when I bought it.


Left to right: Kevin, 9 is my favorite number, the plate in the back is from the order of the Eastern Star – It was the first Mason organization that allowed women. Josh’s grandmother Floye was one from what I was told. The jar of safety pins belonged to her.

And the rest is stuff I like… Halloween, vintage medical and chemistry items, bottles and cool antiques I have picked up over the past year.


To say I am in love with this process is an understatement. Something tells me there will be another one down the road but on a much larger scale.