How to upcycle a chest of drawers

Annie Sloan shows you how to bring a new lease of life to old drawers with a Paul Klee-inspired painting effect

An upcycled chest of drawers painted in the style of Paul Klee

H&A favourite Annie Sloan recently visited an exhibition of work by early 20th-century painter and etcher Paul Klee – and it inspired her to paint a number of Klee-inspired pieces, such as this chest of drawers with graduated colour.


‘I’d forgotten how much Klee has influenced me until a recent visit to the “Making Visible” exhibition at Tate Modern (which runs until 9th March),’ says Annie. ‘Seeing the Klee show spurred to me to produce new pieces. To my mind Klee was a great colourist and colour has always made a huge impact on me.

‘On seeing Greeting and Separation in the Evening, I just thought, “Wouldn’t these translate into a lovely chest of drawers?” These tiny watercolour studies (both painted in 1922 for his students) explore how complementary colours work together.’

Here’s how you can achieve the same effect:

  1. Find a chest with close fitting drawers to upcycle – junk shops and auction houses are good places to look.
  2. Paint the frame with a dark shade of chalk paint. We chose ‘Graphite’.
  3. Select two complementary colours for the top and bottom drawers. We opted for ‘Barcelona Orange’ and ‘Greek Blue’.
  4. Starting with the bottom drawer, make gradual colour gradations using the two colours. For the bottom drawer we used ‘Greek Blue’ on its own, for the next drawer up we mixed in a small amount of ‘Barcelona Orange’ and so on, finishing with ‘Barcelona Orange’ on its own for the top drawer.