Dressier Dresser

You guys didn’t think that we used an entire gallon of paint on our new bed, did you?

Oh no. We are much too thrifty to let perfectly good paint go to waste. That is why hours after we finished our new farmhouse bed, I frantically walked the rooms of our house looking for something else to ‘brush up’. When I didn’t find anything…well, color me frustrated.

Then a couple days went by. And I made my weekly visit to my local Goodwill. That’s when I saw this beauty:

I remembered the piece that my girl Holly redid that I posted about long ago in an ironic how-to about Goodwill shopping tactics. Here’s Holly’s dresser after she got her amazing paint-spraying-mits on it (prayin’ for you girl as you recover from your surgery!):

Looks pretty close to me! You know…except the color and knobs and overall condition. It’s like the ugly sister.

But every ugly sister can get a makeover and then turn into the gal that Prince Charming wants to marry forever and ever. All you need is a little magic and a fairy Godmother (in this case, her name is True Value because that is where we scored the paint, the wood filler and the tools to make over this ugly duckling).

Here is how we did it.

First, I assessed the situation.  It’s like lifeguarding…you don’t just jump into a lake if someone is drowning.  First, you check for alligators in the water.

It had quite a bit of damage on the sides to the veneer and especially at the bottom.


After my assessment, I took off all the hardware.

Then I decided to sand the entire thing lightly. Since it was veneer and I have primer that sticks to just about anything, this step isn’t always necessary but in this case, I thought it was a good idea. You see, it was plagued with sticky stuff. Some visible. Some not so much.

I could tell some of them were leftover stickers. Like the fully intact chicken sticker. Nothing jazzes up a dresser like a chicken sticker. You can quote me on that.

Sand sand sand sand sand.

Sanding it would allow the dust to settle onto the sticky parts – making them all visable.  Then I used my trusty mineral spirits spray bottle (yes, it is a Pantene Pro-V detangler bottle that says Paint Thinner but it provides the perfect fine mist and that my friends is priceless) and a scraping tool.

Just spray spray spray. Scrape scrape scrape. rinse and repeat till all the chickens are gone.

Then it came to cleaning it up. I just wipe all the pieces down to get all the bits of dust and dirt outta there.

Since the veneer was so badly damaged, it needed quite a bit of patching. Enter Elmer’s wood filler.

I have loads of this stuff because I love it so much. It is perfect for painting projects because it dries fast and it is easily sandable. You just shmear it onto the places you need patching and wait for it to dry. Then you sand it till it’s smooth with the other parts of the wood.  I use medium grit sand paper.  Nothin’ fancy here in redneckville.  I also filled the drawer handle holes but then later I realized I didn’t need to on the one-handled ones. Oh well…live and learn.


After patching, waiting, sanding, you gotta clean up again. This is when I had to assess some of the other damage to the piece.  Back to lifeguard analogy – so there was only one little alligator and now you must navigate the waters to avoid the toxic waste floatin in the water :)

The bottom of the sides were so badly beat up, I knew that my patch job would never look great. That’s why I decided to raid the scrap pile in our shed. I knew that there had to be a piece in there that would kinda look ok but look way better than the jacked up sides.

I found some leftover trim from a kitchen project that looked very similar to the front piece with it’s little curvy lines. So I just cut a could to the same depth of the dresser and tacked them into place.

I actually did it to both sides.  You know…so this girl wasn’t lopsided :)

Then I had to tackle the bottom left hand side drawer slide rail. It was coming off. I just removed the piece (WITH MY BARE HANDS! I know…I’m such a beast) and then hammered out the old staples before jamming it back into place and securing it with a couple new staples.


Time for priming! I love love love this Zinnser shellac based primer. It’s unbelievable. It dries uber-quick (perfect if your project time is only as long as an 8 month old’s nap) and it sticks to everything.

After priming, I painted it with my semi-gloss Antique White that I had color matched at True Value. At this point I realized that I wasn’t getting the same even coat that I wanted…so I switched to a mini roller. It worked way better. I kept using the brush for the edges and curvy parts…but the mini roller worked great at applying a more even coat.  Then came time for hardware.  I was torn about the hardware decision but ended up going with the new Martha Stewart line of knobs and handles.  I love the worn-in look on the finish.

It was at this point I realized that I didn’t have to fill all the holes for the handles.  These ones fit perfectly in the existing holes.  My bad uglyducking dresser.

Okay…so are you ready for the afters?  Here she blows:


We moved it into the kitchen (obviously Katie!) because the other black open shelving unit was…open.  And we officially have a mobile baby.  So this was the first big step in baby-proofing our first floor.


Now Will can’t get into the breakables PLUS I was able to move in our corkboard (the same one from last year’s advent calendar project) so that we can see our calendar, our christmas cards, and our appointments.  And surprisingly, I didn’t lose any storage space.  In fact, this white dresser holds everything that the black shelves did and then some.  I still have two drawers to fill!

So now for the breakdown – the dresser cost $15.  The paint, primer, filler, scrapers, and sandpaper was FREE (leftovers from our master bed building project – curtesy of TRUE VALUE (hollah if you love em – WHOPWHOP!) and the hardware was $28 (Ouch I know).  That brings the total to….drumroll for those of you who can’t add quickly….



Not too shabby, huh?

Or maybe you think so?  Maybe you think the hardware was totally overpriced?  Or you have a better wood filler?  Or you like a different primer?  Or you would have fixed the side veneer issue differently?  Or maybe…just maybe…you love the transformation?  Maybe…just maybe…you think that this ugly duckling got her wings?  Maybe…just maybe…you are frothin’ at the mouth to head to your own local thrift shop to pick up your own princess-in-the-rough?  I’d love to hear your answers.

Love this makeover? Check out our coffee table makeover!

“I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”



  1. Debbi Garza says

    I say you are amazing! When I saw the “before” picture, I could not imagine that dresser ever being used again. Wow! Just…WOW!

  2. Laurence says

    This is amazing and you are actually right… I can’t wait to dig into the treasure chest of our community thrift store!
    Thanks for this contagious empowerment!

  3. Brandie says

    Thanks for the step by step. I am taking on my first painting job this weekend. My son has my old dresser I had as a child and it needs a total do-over. After seeing this I feel much better about starting the project. Your dresser looks amazing. Thanks again!!

  4. says

    After seeing the dresser and the easy to follow steps, I feel empowered to try it on an old dresser I bought many years ago at a local antique store. It has seen better days and the top section is scratched up. The wood color is similar to your piece and I feel very confident I can refurbish it making it look splendid again. Either that or the trash and I usually refinish things right before considering putting it in the trash.

    You did a wonderful job and I am so glad I stopped by to see your dresser. It is fantastic.

  5. David says

    Love it, but I would use Durham wood filler. It is dramatically cheaper and at least 5 times more. It is a powder you mix at a 3 to 1 ratio with water. It dries harder and is easier to work with.

  6. Linda Weeks says

    Dagnab! That is one good deal you got here! And that piece can be in your family for years and years – all the while, you knowin’ that you virtually made it from scratch! I’d have done the same thing myself! I’m learnin’ and buyin’ and havin’ a great time with my furniture rehabs!

  7. Portia Butler says

    Loved this one. I did a similar job on my kitchen cupboards. Just wish I had seen this first. I would have used Elmers wood filler instead of one in a tube. They came out great anyway! Yours is amazing!

  8. Linda says

    Nice job! I am working magic with pallets at the moment but I am always on the hunt for great projects like this one. You did a super nice job.

    Also, since I am new I read your bio and good luck with those boys! I had 4 before I finally had that little girl myself and it was a daily adventure. They are all grown now with the oldest 48 and the youngest 40. Time fly’s so enjoy every moment. Good luck to you and your beautiful family.

  9. Melanie says

    Amazing!! Did you use oil based or latex paint? I’m working on a big old wooden desk right now and have been following your tips. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Stephanie says

    I love how this piece turned out! It’s beautiful. I have a nightstand that needs a lot of work but I’m not sure where to start. When you say you tacked the trim to the dresser what kind of tool were you using? And what did you use to know the tacks went through the trim and the dresser?

    • says

      It’s a brad nailer…you can use different lengths of brads to make sure it goes through all the boards…Ryobi makes a great hand held version that doesn’t require an air compressor!
      xo – kb

  11. Karen Iffert says

    Love the dresser redo, but why not spend just a little bit more and add knobs so it looks like 8 little drawers on top?

  12. Kim says

    Love this dresser. I have one like it only mine has 4 drawers on each side am thinking about doing something the same with it

  13. Ericka says

    Absolutely beautiful! Your step by step instructions were detailed nicely. It is inspiring. I have a few things I wanted to do and you inspired me.

  14. Carol Fryer says

    Thank you so much for this. I bought an old vanity table with drawers in the sides and a space under the center for a chair. The mirror is gone and broken. It has that same bad damage on the sides though as your dresser did. I really needed this information. I refuse to get rid of the old thing. Its so classic. But now I can actually fix it completely. The whole thing is in perfect condition except the paint, the sides are bad and the big round mirror is gone. I do have hope for it now…lol.

  15. Donna Graham says

    Love this project. You did a great job. I’m painting kitchen cupboards right now. I tried using a foam mini roller with no success. Did you use a foam or regular short nap roller? Any suggestions? I’m using expensive Benjamin Moore paint and still getting slight brush strokes. Again, great job.

  16. Tippy says

    I’ve just started refinishing some pieces myself and have been looking online for tips from others like yourself; I couldn’t believe it when I saw your post though, because the next piece I plan to refinish is the exact same dresser! Mine is in better condition and was originally my mother’s, and I used it as a young girl. In fact, mine has a scratch and sniff papa smurf sticker firmly attached to one side, which I put there myself a couple decades ago and will have to deal with. Mine also has a mirror, but otherwise it’s the same, though we always kept the different drawers at the top as you now have. Anyway, yours looks great, and I’m so glad to read your post!

  17. says

    I wanted to thank you for this post. I bought a set of dresser that I really liked the shape of but were a bit beat up. I followed your advise and the dressers turned out wonderful. Great post!! Thank you sooo much!

  18. June Jordan says

    This looks great. These make great islands in a kitchen with a top that overhangs in the back for a space for two stools. Have had one in our kitchen for 20 years and couldn’t do without it.

  19. says

    Congratulations to your rehab project. I’m envious of your ability to see the beauty within the piece when it was in such rough shape and then turn it to such a beautiful dresser. Truly fantastic.

    However I noticed how much trouble the stickers were and wondered whether anyone had mentioned that most stickers come off easily with a little spray of WD 40 – allowed to soak in for a few minutes. In most cases stickers just lift off like as though they were just laying on top of the item. WD 40 works by softening the glue. The glue then needs to be wiped off with a dry paper towel. It’s so easy.

    Thanks for offering your post. You’ve inspired.

  20. Sheila Kaperak says

    I am redoing a dresser for children. Do I need to put a coat of poly on so that it won’t chip and if they leave a ring Mark from drinks. If so, how many coats and what brand do you recommend. Thanks for your help.

    • says

      You can use Rust-Oleum’s triple thick and I would do multiple coats. If you take a high grit sandpaper and lightly sand between coats, you’ll have a super smooth finish.
      xo – kb

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