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. Lalypop says

    I absolutely love this idea! I have a wood desk that I’m dying to paint white.. it’s not badly damage or anything… do you think I need to sand it, or can I go straight to the primer and paint? would appreciate the help :)

  2. Missy says

    That dresser should have been in the trash pile! I am so amazed and, yes, thankful that people like you exist to repurpose things that others think is trash. Truly inspiring! I really can’t believe my eyes.

  3. Dixie Lee says

    Sanding – I must say that one of the best investments ever was our little palm sander – 1/4 sheet – have used it on furniture projects like this one, to sand and paint our kitchen cabinets, the elaborate Chinese Chippendale style railings on our deck, etc – things go so much faster with it.

  4. YukonChick says

    That is an amazing transformation – you did a fabulous job. And who doesn’t love a chicken sticker on the side of a dresser? I’m pinning this for future reference, you did an excellent job to walk us through each stage. Thank you.

  5. Irma Camp says

    I too love hitting those Goodwill stores and found a beautiful china cabinet that had the same damages as yours but down the front drawers I have bubble water damage. Do I scrap open those bubble then sand and fill. Also I want to keep it the natural wood grain color how do I go about that. Thank you for showing the step by step process.

    • says

      That is one approach. If the veneer is still salvageable…then you can always squeeze a ton of wood glue behind the veneer and then use wood filler and sand the heck outta it. If the veneer is patched, then there isn’t a whole lot you can do for the natural wood grain except fake it with paint.
      xo – kb

  6. Wendy says

    I love this project , you did an AWESOME job! I have one question,.
    I’m thinking of doing this, but I’m afraid the paint will be ” sticky”
    How do you avoid this, do you coat it in clear wax, or does it not stick?
    Thank you,

  7. Sonia Steckert says

    Love the transformation. I am working on a large bookshelve media center units (4 parts) and I am nervous about picking a color. I think I’ll go with white like you did. It’s a crisp clean look . Thanks for the instructions on how you did this. Off to the store to buy the pain.

  8. Kristin says

    This is absolutely beautiful! I so badly want to go out and fix up a dresser now! Haha!

    The chicken sticker was a Pokemon btw! :P

  9. Samantha says

    I just bought a old dresser that I want to refinsh and it is veneered also. So when sanding does the veneer stuff come off??? It does need alittle patch work also so should I do that before sanding. Thanks you finished dresser looks great.

    • says

      If it’s really thin, it might! Veneer is just thin wood…think thick construction paper that looks like wood. Sanding too rough can cause issues. I would patch first and then sand and then prime and paint. Hope this helps!
      xo – kb

  10. Luzinete says

    Obrigada, Katie!
    Por dispor do seu tempo para ensinar sua técnicas. Era tudo o que eu precisava para começar a restaurar alguns móveis.

  11. Maria says

    I love this tutorial! Just what I needed to refinish our old dressers. Although, we don’t have the Pokemon sticker on the side :)

  12. says

    I loved this tutorial, and the crappy veneer inspired me to redo a bed in the same shape, AND 2 dressers that I bought!! Here’s my question…I’m a NEWBIE! I was told chalk paint would be better to start off with…have you used chalk paint, and what’s your preference between the two? Thanks!

    • says

      The great thing about chalk paint is that it sticks to pretty much anything. No sanding. But if you are redoing a dresser or bed and it needs some work, sanding is in your future anyway. There are some disadvantages to chalk paint though – the price, the fact that you absolutely need to seal it with wax or poly and the fact that in general, it looks best with the distressed finish. I have heard some people do a straight up no distressed with chalk paint but it is just my personal opinion that it looks better with some roughing up.
      xo – kb

  13. says

    This. Is. Incredible.

    I want to be you, now.

    I will be working on several furniture projects in the near future and channelling your JEDI ENERGY!

    Thanks for the inspo, girl!

  14. linda says

    I have the exact same dresser. Mind is in mint condition but was just trying to figure out what to do with it. Since I see what a great job you did by refinishing it. I think I’m going to give it a try.

    • Katharine says

      I have the matching nightstands and chest of drawers! Mine aren’t in mint condition, but they’re in a lot better shape than the dresser Katie started out with. I kept my stickers in my sticker albums …

      Nice makeover, Katie! Totally inspiring!

  15. Anithra says

    You really did an incredible job on this dresser.!I am in the midst of updating my entire house with Goodwill and Craigslist furniture pieces. I have been trolling the internet looking at every video and blog known to man that share tutorials detailing furniture painting techniques, and yours is the first one I just had to post a comment on. You saw the hidden beauty in this piece and you gave it life. You did an amazing job and have truly inspired me and given me a plethora of valuable knowledge. I am grateful for your tutorial. Thanks to you I should be able to stay on budget and create some amazing spaces in my home. Thank you again.

  16. says

    Thanks for showing me how to approach this task more decisively! Just got back from the hardware store and see what I can come up with. Regards from Cancun, Mexico! Visit my blog, it has nice photos of the Mexican Caribbean. Hope you like it!

  17. Lorie A. Blasky says

    well done!! working on a small dresser and a credenza right now…you are completely on the money about Zinsser primer…LOVE IT!! Before I sand, I use a strong mixture of Simple Green to scrub down any peice I am painting. I let it dry completely ( I have a good sized fan in the shop). Keep up the good work!! Glad to find your site!

  18. says

    I just discovered you through pinterest! I love doing stuff like this when I have time and when I find a dirt-cheap little treasure that’s just begging to be done up. I’ll be ‘re-visiting’ our site for more advice or just out of curiosity. I really enjoy the style in which you wrote this post, I haven’t yet read any other ones.

  19. Adriene says

    AMAZING! I have a similar project going and I am having more veneer issues. Like there is none on one of the sides, what do I do???

  20. Angie Owen says

    I did one exactly identical to this piece only I use small egg shaped drawer knobs. I wish I could post you a picture. ..

  21. says

    Love your transformation. I think it takes a special talent to be able to see past the damage and styles of furniture years gone by. Even more? I love that there are others that don’t DISTRESS! The distressed look distresses me! Ha! I can’t imagine going to the amount of work it takes to clean, fix, prep, prime and paint, just to scratch some of the paint off!

    And I love the hardware! I just used some very similar handles on a vintage dresser that you can see on my website (http://onmycreativeside.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/done-done-done-done-and-done/).

    Love your work!!

  22. Jessica says

    I am so happy I found your blog! I actually have a dresser from when I was a child that I was going to refinish over the holidays with my oldest so he could have it in his room. We are heading to Lowes tomorrow!

  23. Ashley Elliott says

    I absolutely LOVE this piece!! Girl.. You have NO idea what you just did for me and my house!!! I have been wanting to do this for a long time and I finally know how because of you!!! Thanks so much.. You can find me in Facebook under Ashley Elliott, I’m from Andrews, SC.. Peace out!!

  24. Tango Romeo says

    Lady, your amazing – you know what I like the best is that you knew what you wanted and then turned out something great from nothing.

  25. Elizabeth says

    I bought what look like the cousins to this piece. One tall dresser and one really long dresser. I didn’t even know maple pieces came with veneer, so I paid way too much from a guy on Craigslist. His idea of excellent was my idea of well-worn, but I couldn’t pass up the set. I’m so glad that I found your post. It will definitely help with the huge project I have ahead of me!

  26. Judy says

    So funny to see that dresser. My parents purchased the same set (multiple pieces) in 1967. I have three of those dressers that I refurbished a few years ago. At the time I didn’t know how to do the laminent top, so I did a glass mosaic on the top. Turned out nicely, love the new look you gave it!

  27. Cheryl says

    You did an amazing job on that dresser! I have one almost identical, only in great shape. That inspired me to give it an updated redo!
    Also, about to redo another dresser for my daughter to put in her nursery. Your diy instructions were on the money! Clear, concise and humorous! Love it!! Off to try the product you recommended. Had not heard of it before. Thank you!!

  28. Lacey says

    I have that same old dresser, and have been looking at it and thinking how much potential it has. Just the inspiration I needed!

  29. Leslie says

    Great work! I have 2 dressers that need some work, I was going to trash them and get new ones but you have definitely changed my mind about that!

  30. katie says

    I have the exact dresser but it’s missing the legs and front squiggly part. Do you know where I can find it?

  31. says

    You just saved me a few thousand dollars….. I had this elaborate Ikea set-up in mind for my living room media centre, and I was stubbornly set on getting it. Now I’ll be on the hunt for a decent-quality dresser and perhaps some sort of kinda-matching cabinet to refinish instead (sorry Ikea!). Which will probably extend to the rest of the house afterwards. My coffee and I haven’t left your blog all morning. :)

  32. Kim says

    How did you get the top drawers to have those lines on them? Do not see that part in the tutorial… great job btw! :)

  33. Cendy Orr says

    Wow! Great DIY tutorial! I have several old family (read – scratched, well “loved”) pieces, plus some flea market/yard sale pieces that I am hoping to get to this summer. Thanks again for the step by step instructions!

  34. Karen Vanrhyn says

    Wow this is amazing and so inspirational! Thank you for sharing. I love the step by step guide too, very helpful! I go to my local Salvation army almost every week and will definitely be looking at old furniture differently now!

  35. Marianne says

    I just found a dresser that is almost identical to this one (except that it is in better condition to begin with) and I’m going to give it a make-over just like yours. I hope you don’t mind. I’m so excited!!!! I’m going to use it in my living room as an entertainment center. I hope it looks as good as yours when I’m finished.

  36. Cyndi Watt says

    You absolutely made the right choice on the hardware. I just remodeled our kitchen and after tons of searching I settled on the same Martha Stewart bin pulls and knobs for our new kitchen cabinets. They are very well made and have that vintage look with a great design. They come in brushed nickle and polished nickle(which we used). Very well worth the price for our project. And, obviously, for your project as well. Great job!

  37. Loretta says

    Amazing! As much as anything, I admire your vision for what appeared to be a piece of junk. I wouldn’t have given that dresser a second look. You turned it into something beautiful. I’m really amazed at how well those strips of wood on the bottom sides turned out.

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