Paint A Dresser: New Life For An Old Piece Of Furniture

You can take a dresser from a beast to a beauty!
You can take a dresser from a beast to a beauty! | Source

Need to Liven Up an Old Dresser with Paint?


The first question is, "How do you begin reviving an old piece of furniture?"

A look at my plans for this paint-a-dresser project can give you the fundamentals for getting that special piece you've been wanting to paint from your workbench to your living space.

Grace your home with handiwork that will make guests ask you to paint old furniture for them!


The Restoration Begins
The Restoration Begins | Source

Thinking Through How to Go About Painting a Dresser:


Evaluate the dresser's structure to see if it needs any repair.

Evaluate the piece's finish to see what kind of preparation it needs before beginning your techniques.

Decide what tools and supplies/products you will need to use and get everything on hand before beginning.

Dedicate the needed work space by thinking through the paint project's time frame--consider other people's schedules, the weather, and unexpected interruptions.

Plan your steps for reviving an old chest of drawers with decorative paint, then go to work and get it done!


Turning a Beast into a Beauty--Paint a Dresser and give it New Life:

Once upon a time a little chest of drawers lived a sad Cinderella life. It did its job well, yet it was beaten and bruised for its efforts. This petite chest of drawers would have given up all hope but it had a friend with a vision for what it could become. With barely a whisper of a promise from the friend, courage to hold on for the future won the day.

To the dresser’s surprise, the day of its rescue arrived. The envisioned promise became a reality and the small bit of furniture flourished under the transformation that its friend created for it. With insight into what the dresser could become, the friend made a plan and enlisted the help of her handy-dandy husband.

He helped clean the poor thing for it had ages of dust in every nook and cranny. It smelled horrible, but a good wash and dry in the sun refreshed it nicely. However, the already warped drawers became even more crooked. The husband’s skilled hands remade the drawers using the original fronts. Under the care it received, a beautiful change began to take place.

Once it was finished, everyone who knew the dresser was stunned by its metamorphosis. No one would have recognized it if they had not been told that it was the very same dresser, and even then they were incredulous that such a change could be wrought. To be taken from such dilapidation to a charming state seemed impossible. Now, the little chest of drawers is not just serviceable, it is living happily ever after, sharing its beauty with everyone it meets.

Would you like to know how its restyling occurred? The following is the rest of the story:


The Dresser was a Shambles

But My Husband was Willing to Go the Extra Mile so I Could Paint it:

The photos may not show how dirty this piece of furniture was, but you can be glad that the smell was stopped by the camera lens. It was a real mess. Cleaning it was important if I wanted the primer to be able to do its job. At one point, my husband offered to buy me a new dresser to paint. When I explained why I wanted to make this one beautiful he was on board with me.

Not every piece of furniture will need to be reworked with carpentry tools, but the drawers on this one were obviously ruined. It certainly took some extra time, yet there was no choice but to rebuild most of the drawers' sides and backs. Bravo to my husband for his patience on this project. He's really the hero of the story because my artwork would have been useless without his skills to prepare the piece.

A little sanding along the way, more cleaning and dusting, and then double checking with some tweeking to make sure the drawers worked well put this dresser in order for painting. A good primer would be the first step of that phase. This project, as it turned out, would need more than the usual amount of a primer preparation.


Paint a dresser with primer after cleaning it.
Paint a dresser with primer after cleaning it. | Source
Cover every surface with primer for best results.
Cover every surface with primer for best results. | Source

Primer Worked Wonders to Breathe New Life into a Sad Predicament:

I used a primer product called Kilz to coat every possible surface on this dresser project. Turning it upside down and going in from the bottom in order to completely primer underneath the top wasn’t too difficult because the dresser was small enough to set on a table. This enabled me to primer all surfaces of the inside, as well.

Putting primer (and paint) on the drawers was like doing a separate project. Each section had to have plenty of drying time. First, the bottoms and about an inch around those edges were done, then the sides and the top edges, then the fronts and backs as well as those edges, and finally the insides could be done.

Primer coating all the outside surfaces was imperative. The top needed several coats because large oil spots wanted to soak through the layers and the drawer fronts also needed more than one coat. Each of these primer coats needed to dry well before I could move to the next, making this phase of the project a longer process than I thought it would be.

There were open seams along the back’s edges so I used a quick-drying caulk to seal them off. As I put the first coat of primer on small spots that needed extra caulk showed up, giving me a chance to seal those edges well before applying the paint.


Base coat on top of primer.
Base coat on top of primer. | Source
Smooth finish readies the piece for decorative painting.
Smooth finish readies the piece for decorative painting. | Source
Artwork comes together step-by-step.
Artwork comes together step-by-step. | Source
Finishing touches prepare the piece for a clear top coat.
Finishing touches prepare the piece for a clear top coat. | Source
Plan out your artwork ahead of time, but remain flexible in the process.
Plan out your artwork ahead of time, but remain flexible in the process. | Source

Paint, the Wonder Worker for Furniture Projects:

Using a high quality wall paint meant that I could be confident of my decorative paints sticking well. The first coat was tinted a light beige, but when I applied it the color was too yellow. I tinted it to the palest of sages, which probably does not show well in the photos. Most people call it a beige when they first see it, but the difference in adding the green tint was huge.

Covering all surfaces of the dresser and its drawers two times with the light sage paint, letting each thoroughly dry between coats, I used new disposable paint brushes for each coat because I wanted to be really careful to get a fine finish on the surface.

Once the base coat was on, the real fun could begin. Planning a design is always difficult for me because there are so many options. A look at faux technique books and videos can give you an idea of how hard it could be to make a decision. I did have a basic idea in mind, and decided pretty quickly that I would go with various colors rather than monotones.

Using a stencil to help me decide on scale and draw part of the design, I filled in the pattern with a bit of whimsy in mind. Although the motif flows up and down the drawer fronts, each is its own vignette. Because I wanted the top of the dresser to be useful I did not carry the design over it, although that was my original plan.

While I used acrylics and brushes, paint pens would have done a good job with this project, and they might have made the work easier. Adding the band of green around the top edge and on the arcs along the bottom edges brightened this little dresser’s small amount of architectural detail.

Once the decorative painting was done, I used a white glaze to soften the colors of the design, and to give some depth to the paint’s surface. It changed the flat look to seem like it would have a velvety feel, but it’s an enhancement that you don’t quite “see” in a project like this.


See the Progression of My Painted Dresser Project

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sad little dresser could be cleaned and painted, then put to good use!Some of the drawers had to be reworked because they were warped.  Most restorations would not require this step.High quality paint is the key to a successful paint project.The fun part is the decorative painting.Small details along edges make a big impact with painted furniture designs.Small details such as a border along an edge give a frame work for the most prominent aspects of the painted design.A whimsical theme from nature is an often used design on painted furniture.Have fun when painting a little dresser such as this and let the child in you pop out!Right down to the bottom edges a border detail adds a finishing touch to the painted dresser.Paint a dresser to make it useful and add beauty to your home.
Sad little dresser could be cleaned and painted, then put to good use!
Sad little dresser could be cleaned and painted, then put to good use! | Source
Some of the drawers had to be reworked because they were warped.  Most restorations would not require this step.
Some of the drawers had to be reworked because they were warped. Most restorations would not require this step. | Source
High quality paint is the key to a successful paint project.
High quality paint is the key to a successful paint project. | Source
The fun part is the decorative painting.
The fun part is the decorative painting. | Source
Small details along edges make a big impact with painted furniture designs.
Small details along edges make a big impact with painted furniture designs. | Source
Small details such as a border along an edge give a frame work for the most prominent aspects of the painted design.
Small details such as a border along an edge give a frame work for the most prominent aspects of the painted design. | Source
A whimsical theme from nature is an often used design on painted furniture.
A whimsical theme from nature is an often used design on painted furniture. | Source
Have fun when painting a little dresser such as this and let the child in you pop out!
Have fun when painting a little dresser such as this and let the child in you pop out! | Source
Right down to the bottom edges a border detail adds a finishing touch to the painted dresser.
Right down to the bottom edges a border detail adds a finishing touch to the painted dresser. | Source
Paint a dresser to make it useful and add beauty to your home.
Paint a dresser to make it useful and add beauty to your home. | Source
Beauty from a Beast: My Painted Dresser
Beauty from a Beast: My Painted Dresser | Source

Protect the Finished Surface of Painted Furniture:

Once the white glaze was dry, one more step was required to finish the project’s paint phases. A water based poly clear coat was added to give a hard finish to the surface of the paint and protect it from scratching or chipping.

This step is important because the dresser needed to be as serviceable as possible. The bit of shine also gave a nice pop to the piece.

Once the clear coat was completely dry I used a wax brick and rubbed down the bottoms and sides of the drawers, as well as the insides of the drawer’s openings and supports because the old-fashioned way it was built meant that there were no drawer glides.

The wax makes the wood drawers slide smoothly on their wood supports. This wax process will likely have to be repeated in the future, but it’s no big deal.

Felt pad strips on the bottom four corners finished the project off. A lovely ending to this dresser's fairytale, don't you think?

Learning how to paint old furniture is fun! Now, I’m using this dresser in my dining room to hold small items that we want to keep handy, as well as to make my friends laugh with delight.


The Amazing Crackle Finish Works For A Painted Dresser

These Projects don't have a Fairytale but...

You might like to check them out:


• Paint an unfinished cradle for a toddler, or two!


• Painting baby bibs could become an addictive project idea when it's this much fun to paint them.


• A classy denim handbag project made by recycling a denim skirt.


• This crocheted edge baby blanket makes a lovely gift.


• A fabric bag sewing project that is pretty enough be a gift bag, then to be used as a tote bag.


• An easy paper craft project for making place cards to use during special meals.



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Do You Need Tips to Help You Paint a Dresser? 110 comments

Corin profile image

Corin 5 years ago

You did a really great job on this dresser. Beautiful hub :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey Author

Thank you, Corin


danfresnourban profile image

danfresnourban 5 years ago from Fresno, CA

Great hub and the timing is perfect, I have some chairs that I have to redo. I will be very lucky if they turn out anywhere near as good as your project


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

What an excellent job you've done on the dresser, I enjoy doing up old furniture and recently cleaned up and stained 4 chairs, it's a rewarding pastime! I love your stencils, brilliant!!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey Author

Thank you. Good luck on your project.


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