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DIY Faux Apothecary Cabinet – (Card File Chest)

What can you do with a 16 cube IKEA Storage Unit? Well I’m going to show you how to make a DIY Faux Apothecary Cabinet or Card File Chest out of it. I had previously used this in my home office for storage. When we downsized, I no longer have a space for it. However, I held onto it, waiting for inspiration to hit. We were in the final stages of completing our DIY Greenhouse when an Idea began to form.

Are you a lover of Apothecary Cabinets or do you call them Card File Chest? Anything with small drawers, even if the drawers are fake, it will catch my attention. I decided to attempt an IKEA HACK by building a DIY Faux Apothecary Cabinet – (Card file chest) out of this 16 cube storage unit. This will be perfect for storing my gardening supplies.

Here is the 16 cube IKEA unit as we brought it out of storage.

Here is recent Fall View – I can’t wait to share this view for Christmas – Be sure to follow me on Instagram for all the latest.

The door inserts that we purchased with the unit will be perfect for adding the faux apothecary drawers.

When we purchased the unit from IKEA, we purchased 3 door and drawer inserts to hide the stored items. Since 8 door inserts were needed for this project, it was necessary to purchase an additional 5.

Supplies and Tools needed


How to make a DIY Faux APOTHECARY CABINET or Card File Chest from an IKEA Hack

First, paint or stain the wooden bun feet to match the IKEA cabinet.

Since the unit is square, this added the additional height needed for the space. Adding the feet is an optional step. If you are happy with the dimensions of the cabinet, adding the feet will not be necessary.

It is necessary to drill a hole the size of the screw attached to the wooden foot. You will also need leg mounting plates to attach the feet. Center the mounting plates over the drilled hole and attached with included screws. Then screw the wooden feet into place.

Paint the IKEA Cabinet your desired colors.

Next, it’s time to paint if you want to change the color of your cabinet. At this point I have decided to make the existing cabinet look like it’s two separate pieces. A larger piece at the bottom and the apothecary cabinet at the top. I painted the bottom half one color and the top half a contrasting color. I used French Linen for the bottom half and Old White for the top half. These Annie Sloan Chalk paints were some I had on hand and made the project more cost effective. Learn from this tutorial how to use chalk paint.

The existing cabinet has a slick surface and chalk paint does stick to this surface really well. I listed a Rust-olelum brand that is easy to find above.

Next, apply wax to seal the paint. Here is what the cabinet looks like at this point.

Add Reclaimed Wood

In order to make the cabinet look like two separate pieces, you will want to add some additional wood and trim to the bottom half of the cabinet. I used some weathered reclaimed wood that we had left over from another project. You can purchase new boards or trim work from the hardware store.

Now add full size boards to the side panels. We striped the boards using a table saw to create the trim pieces. A single board was attached at the center of the cabinet to divide the piece.

Now the bottom appears to be larger than the top. The IKEA Hack is coming together. The reclaimed wood gives the bottom half a primitive, rustic feel.

Building Small Wood Drawers for the Upper Half of Cabinet

Now it’s time to work on the top half of the cabinet. This is where the Apothecary Cabinet/Card File comes into play. Because we already some of the door inserts for this piece, we choose to purchase more to create our drawers. By purchasing two 2X4 sheets of 1/4″ plywood you will have enough wood to create the illusion of small drawers. The 8 door fronts are 13×13 so begin by cutting 32 – 6×6 squares. We used a table saw to strip the plywood into the appropriate size.

Then use a belt sander to smooth the edges. Although it is more time consuming, you can use a sanding block or sand paper if you don’t have a belt sander.

In order to achieve a distressed look for the Apothecary Cabinet Drawers, you will want to stain each square with a dark gel stain. These are stained with Old Masters American Walnut Stain. Once the stain has dried, then paint each square to match the top half of your cabinet. I only used one coat of paint because I wanted to allow the stain to show through.

Create a template for the Apothecary Drawers

This is an important step and will save you a lot of time and heartache. It is very hard to get the hardware installed evenly without a template.

Next create a template for your drawer fronts. Decide where you want your hardware placement and punch a hole in the paper template to mark for your pilot holes. This will assure that your hardware is placed in the exact same spot on each board.

Attach Hardware and drawer fronts to door inserts

Now you will want to drill two pilot holes in each drawer front with a small drill bit.

You want to be sure you space the wooden drawer fronts evenly on the door insert. Use wood screws that are 1 inch long to attach your hardware and your wooden drawer fronts, securing them firmly to the door insert.

I used label holder pulls for my hardware. The screw goes in from the front on these label holder pulls from D. Lawless Hardware, making them perfect for this project. The same pulls are used on Our Farmhouse Island and the Re-purposed Silverware Box.

Install your Apothecary Doors

Finally, you are ready to install the door fronts per IKEA instructions and your Apothecary Cabinet will be complete. I plan to add labels to the drawer pulls once I start adding supplies to the cabinet.

The upper Apothecary Cabinet Section appears to be sitting on top of a more primitive vintage piece. See how I made a potting table and a solar chandelier for the Greenhouse

Love IKEA Hacks

I hope you like this IKEA Hack. It’s exactly how I envisioned the project and am thrilled with the results. This will provide much needed storage for the greenhouse.

Check out this blog post where I share all the photo’s and details about how we built this greenhouse.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I look forward to sharing my next adventure with you.

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How to build a Faux Apothecary Cabinet (Card File Chest)  Step by Step instructions to this IKEA Hack

Cheryl Atkinson

Sunday 21st of August 2022

Hi Rachel! This is absolutely amazing! I am so glad i found you because you give me so much inspiration. This was genious!


Tuesday 23rd of August 2022

Cheryl, Thank you so much for these kind words of encouragement.


Wednesday 18th of May 2022

WOW JUST WOW! I can’t believe I am seeing this for the first time. I’ve seen this on your blog many times and thought it was an antique! What a beautiful way to fake your way through this! LOL I truly love this so much! I don’t have the room for one this big but I have got room for a smaller one. Love the way you created the front panels and I happen to have a small wood block about 2 ft. X 2 ft. thats divided already and this would be perfect for the space I have. Thanks so much for the inspiration! Never stop crafting…


Wednesday 18th of May 2022

Shirley, thanks so much for the hind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Keep coming back, we have many more projects!

Thistlekeeping - Thistlewood Farm

Saturday 16th of April 2022

[…] Here’s the DIY for this faux apothecary cabinet. […]


Monday 18th of April 2022

Thanks so much for sharing.


Monday 18th of April 2022

KariAnne, Thanks so much for sharing.


Friday 15th of April 2022

Oh my goodness! I love this idea so much. I want to do this in my greenhouse. I would love it if you would share this on the Fabulous Friday Link Party. You can find the link on my website. Hugs to you, my friend.


Monday 18th of April 2022

Renae, Thanks so much.


Wednesday 13th of April 2022

Rachel, I would never have guessed that you made the apothecary cabinet. It's amazing! I love your entire greenhouse!


Wednesday 13th of April 2022

Niky, I really appreciate this. Thanks for joining us this time.