Monday, February 14, 2011

The dresser makeover.

I found this little gem at a garage sale last summer.
Actually I found both of those gems - the dresser and the lamp - but today I'm going to tell you about the dresser.

Consider it a Valentine's Day love story.

It was obvious the dresser had been well-loved at some point, but she was looking pretty shabby by the time I found her (yes, I've taken to calling the dresser "her" because I saw some personality there right from the start) under a bunch of other junk in the back of a poll barn.

I imagined a father or grandfather carefully cutting and sanding and gluing the pieces together in some bygone era.

And then staining the wood a dark, rich brown. Because yes, under a layer each of (probably lead-based) blue and green paint, there were drips of wood stain.

I had dreams of grandeur. Of restoring this piece to her original beauty. Or better.

Actually, I was just looking for a little more storage near the dining room and this sad-looking, dusty, musty-smelling relic had the perfect bones.

Turning this baby from her current state into a simple, cheerful, cottagey-type chest of drawers would require some fresh paint. I carefully considered several options, but in the end I chose the color I had originally planned on using. Can you guess which one?

Oh, and somewhere in the process of peeling off those old layers of paint and revealing a beautiful wood grain on the top of the dresser, I heard a voice in my head. 
"You want to paint that? You're not going to paint that are you?"

And so I relented. I left some of the wood bare and stained it, then primed the rest of the dresser for paint.

The stain actually looks pretty decent here, right?
Well let me tell you, I hated it. I painted the rest of the dresser in the color I chose and I hated how it looked with the stain. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted and that wasn't it. And there was no way I was going to live with something I didn't like just to save the look of some wood grain.

Someday when I sell this piece at a garage sale, the next owner can curse me for the layers upon layers of paint I put on it.

But I don't see myself parting with this baby anytime soon.

Orange! I painted it orange. Dutch Boy's Bouncing Ball, to be exact. 

I painted the insides of the drawers with the white primer to smooth them out and brighten them up a little. I also put a layer of orange on the sides of the drawers because they don't fit quite perfectly and I didn't want the imperfections to be really obvious when the drawers are all closed.

In a last minute wild card decision, I even decided to paint the rusty old casters a glossy white. My other option was to cut them off, but I decided the fact that the wheels are wood adds a little charm.
This photo washes out the color of the piece, but shows the cute pewter knobs I found at Lowe's on clearance for $1.02 each! They weren't what I originally had in mind, but a sweet clearance price made me fall in love with them.

So I took it from this:
 To this:

From this:

 To this:

Ain't she purty?

What you don't see here is what a time-consuming job this turned out to be. And what a complete mess I created in our front room (because we don't have a garage or basement, and I couldn't go outside in the snow). It was a little more than I bargained for, but definitely worth the effort. I ended up replacing the bottoms of two of the drawers with some wood glue and an inexpensive, thin sheet of wood from Home Depot (I asked and they took me right to the stuff I needed) that I was able to score and snap myself.

I used an eco-friendly paint stripper that I could use indoors. I ended up buying a second can because the paint on the top of the dresser was pretty stubborn ... and I am not patient enough to let the stuff sit and do its magic. For the pieces I sanded (the fronts of the drawers) I wore a dust mask because I really don't know how old the thing is and I wasn't interested in inhaling any more lead dust than necessary. Safety first, ya' know. When the weather outside hit ... oh ... maybe 27 degrees, I cracked the windows open just for good measure. That was a must on the day I applied the doomed-to-fail stain.

All in all I invested about $60-$70 in this project, and I'm good with that. I bought the dresser for $22, two cans of paint stripper, a quart of primer (and I have some left), a quart of paint (and I have a little left), and the knobs. I'm not counting the stain, the paint rollers, or anything else I can now consider part of my general decorating/sprucing up stash.

And of course, I can't put a price on my time. I'm guessing if I scrunched together all the hours I worked on this it would add up to a good three days' worth. I'm totally happy with that. I luuurve this piece! I'm doing my best to be patient and give it a good week to get really really really dry before I leave the drawers closed and actually set something on top.

Did I mention how much I *heart* this ORANGE chest of drawers?

I did?

Well then. Happy Valentine's Day!


  1. THIS LOOKS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. WHOA BABY! I have never, NEVER worked so hard to restore a piece. Whoever ends up with this should kiss your feet, for the work you put into it. And so glad to see that you went with a fun loving color!

  3. Jen, once upon an 80's time I PAINTED a dresser just that color of blue, if yours didn't have so many CUTE details that mine didn't, I'd SWEAR it was the same one.