DIY Apothecary Box


August 24, 2012 by magpiemenina

Today we’re moving from one extended stay lodging place to another. Regardless, I thought I’d put up a brief DIY of a project I did this summer. It was before I considered blogging, so apologies for the lack of images. I’ll try to be clear in my directions.

Ikea Drawered Boxes into Faux Antique Specimen or Shop Cabinets

Two Ikea Moppe boxes, finished and stacked

To finish the boxes, you will need:

-an Ikea Moppe drawered box (or any similar box, of course)

-coarse sandpaper

-wood stain

-paint brushes

For the first few steps, I am indebted to Kristine at the Painted Hive.

1. Sand your box lightly. Turn the drawers around so that the notch used to open the drawer is facing the back of the box. Heavily sand the corners of the box and the new front of the drawers to give it a worn look like those on old wood furniture.

2. Select a color of wood stain. I used Minwax English Walnut. Follow the directions carefully (my Achilles heel) until you achieve the color desired. Let dry.

Now, prepare the knobs. You will need:

-6 unfinished wooden knobs, ¾” (available at most craft stores)

-fine sandpaper

-Darice Metallics Antique Gold acrylic paint

-black acrylic paint


-paper towel

1. Lightly sand the knobs. Paint with gold paint, brushing in the same direction. Let dry, and coat again. Let dry.

2. Paint knobs with black paint. Working quickly, dab paint off with paper towel until you have achieved an antiqued look. This may take some experimentation.

Next, make the tags.

-use either: 6 pieces of paper, cut to fit (option B, see below), or 6 EK Success™ Jolee’s Boutique™ French General™ red edged tags with lines (available at Michael’s in a tag pack) -see bottom

-black ink

-calligraphy dip pen

-coffee in a small spray bottle for antiquing the paper

1. Decide what to write on your tags. For one box, I was inspired by an old general store box with labels that read “corset laces,” etc. I consulted the Montgomery Ward catalog circa 1900 online for inspiration, coming up with items like “Ladies’ lace collars” and “Gents’ paper collars.” For the other box, I decided to make specimen drawers as might have been in a scientific amateur’s laboratory during the Victorian era (goes nicely with the butterfly natural history collection DIY here). These read, for example, “Specimen no. 46 Rattus norvegicus cranium and scapulae.” You could write what will actually be in the box if that suits your fance. I rearrange too much for that to be useful for me.

2. Write it. Writing in cursive with the calligraphy dip pen writing gives the tags an older look. Let dry.

3. Spray tags with coffee from about a foot away. Hope for a few splatters. (Think of it as tea-dying for paper.) You could also dip the tags in coffee if you don’t have a spray bottle.

Option B – bookplates. Apologies for the blurriness!

Additionally, for option B, you will need:

-6 Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ Adhesive Metal Bookplates (small, in gold)

-fine sandpaper

-black acrylic paint

-paper towel

1. Sand the bookplates. Dab black paint onto bookplates with paper towel until you’ve achieved an antiqued look. Don’t wipe the paint. It’s very important to dab it. Let dry.

Now you are finally ready to attach all of these things to the drawers!

You will need:

-E-6000® glue


-fine sandpaper

1. Find the middle of each box front and mark. (Again, recollect that this is not the side with the notches.) Glue the finished knobs over your mark. Let set according to directions.

2. Line up the tag or bookplate so that the middle of the tag or bookplate is centered over the knob. (Be sure the bookplate opening is pointing away from the knob so you can get the tag out at a later date if need be.) The Martha Stewart Home Office™ bookplates are self-adhesive, so you can just press them down. The French General™ paper tags can be glued down with my favorite Beacon 3-in-1 Glue™.

3. Gently sand the edges of the paper tags away from the center of the tag. This roughens up the tags and makes the edges look softer and older. Voilà! Your boxes are ready to be loaded up and displayed!

Further inspiration – another Ikea box. Shows French General™ tags. Uses a drawer pull from Hobby Lobby and a found metal spool with attached with a found red-painted screw.


19 thoughts on “DIY Apothecary Box

  1. artclubblog says:

    I can’t believe these started out as Ikea boxes! When I saw the first image I was convinced they were vintage. Wonderful! And I just love the names you chose for the tags.

  2. magpiemenina says:

    Thank you so much! That’s very flattering. I’m pleased they fool the eye! 🙂 Thanks too for visiting!

  3. I’ve searched the local garage sales and flea markets, and yet at a loss to find a chest even similar to this…… any suggestions???? Thanks and keep up the good work!!!

  4. magpiemenina says:

    Have you looked on ebay? Unfortunately, I don’t see the Ikea Moppe boxes in their catalog anymore, so maybe they don’t make them any longer. If that’s the case, second-hand is probably the best bet.

  5. […] Turn an Ikea Moppe drawered box into a faux antique specimen case/vintage card catalog. […]

  6. K. Yaslana says:

    I found that IKEA does have something similar though it might need to be changed to adapt to this project. They now have Forhoja (wooden boxes) in the paper media and storage sections. Thought others might like to know.

  7. magpiemenina says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! That’s great news. Did you happen to notice if the small boxes fit in the larger box? Here’s the link for anyone who is looking for it.

  8. OMG, that’s ingenious! Love it!

  9. magpiemenina says:

    Thank you, and thanks for stopping by!

  10. Homeroad says:

    I love this! I just finished making one myself at Homeroad.

    When I saw yours I thought wow! I could make another one and it could look like this real one… only yours isn’t a real one! You had me fooled and I love your hack!

  11. magpiemenina says:

    Thank you, Susan! That’s a tremendous compliment. 🙂 I’d love to see yours. Will you be posting pictures of yours?

  12. […] angetan haben es mir ja auch die Variationen im “Apotheker-Schrank-Stil”, zu sehen hier bei Magpie, Jaybird and Mew und auch bei The Painted Hive. Sieht das nicht großartig […]

  13. magpiemenina says:

    Beautifully done! Thank you so much for sharing. I really enjoyed seeing what you did.

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