It’s funny how inspiration comes out of nowhere and smacks you in the face. We knew we needed to give our grey dresser a major facelift, but we had no idea what to do with it. Here’s Old Grey hiding under a couple of wicker baskets:
We knew we’d fix it up right when we had the time and felt inspired. A couple of weeks ago, boom, we were inspired:
That’s the 1930s glass knob that lives on our bathroom door. It’s vintage and glamorous and sparkly and chic. In short: it’s a keeper. We thought it would be great to find a mini-version of the same knob to use as drawer pulls. I vaguely remembered seeing some at Anthropologie. And that’s when I remembered this Anthropologie cabinet from a few years ago:
It’s grey on the outside, but opens up to a bright and cheerful yellow on the inside. I loved the secret pop of color. And just like that, we decided to paint the dresser a crisp white with teal drawers and throw some glass pulls on it.
Now that we had a plan, we started gathering supplies. We scoped out Anthro’s drawer pulls:
Those bad boys are $8 a pop — not cheap considering we have to buy 10 of them — and they have mixed reviews. If we’re paying $80 for something, it better not be wonky, wobbly or off-color. And then there’s the whole brass thing. Not our style at all. Pass!
Next stop: the cabinet pull section of Home Depot. We found similar pulls for $3 each.
They look and feel just like Anthro’s version, and they’re bronze instead of brass. The catch? They’re acrylic, not glass. Not a big deal to us, since they looked and felt like glass. So we did a happy dance for saving $50 and walked out with 10 pulls. We also picked up a quart of paint for the drawers:
That’s Valspar Monterray Bay Teal in semi-gloss. One quart set us back $15. That’s all we purchased for this project. We had the rest of the supplies on hand: 220-grit sandpaper, wood putty, and half a gallon of the oil-based white paint we used as primer for our guest bedroom doors.
We dragged Old Grey up to the master bedroom (currently our workshop) and got to work. First, the before pictures:
That old thang has been through 2 moves with us. It’s survived being carried up to the top floor of a 3-story walkup, narrow staircase and all.
It’s definitely showing some signs of wear, though. Paint is chipped in some spots.
Hardware is still missing.
The black thingy on the left is actually an IKEA coat rack.
I needed a place to stash my necklaces because they were constantly getting tangled up. So I drilled holes in the side of the dresser and screwed the rack on. It wasn’t the prettiest solution, but this wasn’t the prettiest dresser either. Now that we have more space for storage, we can get rid of the rack and seal up the holes.
Bradley helped me prep the dresser for painting so I could take pictures of the steps involved. We started by taking the old pulls off:
The old pulls need 2 screws to attach to the drawer, but the new pulls only need 1 hole. So we used wood putty to plug up the holes we didn’t need anymore:
We’ll use the hole closer to the middle because it would feel more visually balanced. We also used wood putty to seal up the hole on the inside of the drawer:
Nobody would ever look for a hole on the inside, but we’re thorough like that. After the putty dried, we used our orbital sander to get all the old paint off:
A belt sander would also do the trick. So would a wood block wrapped in sand paper and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Either way, the goal is to remove as much of the paint as possible and get a nice, smooth surface to roll paint on.
Next up, we wiped down the dresser using a clean rag soaked with paint thinner.
Water would work fine, too. We just happened to have paint thinner on hand so we used it. Here’s our nekkid dresser, ready to be painted:
Bradley moved on to another project and I started painting. When it comes to painting furniture we have a few tips that always give us good results:
- Use an oil-based paint.
Latex is fine (we used it for the inside of the drawers), but oil is much more durable and long-lasting for furniture that gets frequent use.
- Apply paper-thin coats.
A lot of people are really skeptical about painting wood because they think it will show brush strokes or have too much of a crafty / shabby-chic look. The trick to getting a smooth, untextured look is not to glob on your paint. We always do 3 (or more!) paper-thin coats instead of 2 very thick coats. Yes, it takes a little more time, but you end up with something that looks way more profesh.
- Sand between coats.
This is absolutely essential to getting a super smooth finish. It also really helps with durability. Glossy paint doesn’t adhere well to glossy paint. If you don’t sand in between coats, your paint will eventually start flaking off. We use a 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding sponge before every coat. You don’t have to sand very hard — just enough to take the sheen off. Then wipe the dust off and paint the next coat.
- Let it dry completely.
We’re pretty impatient people, but we’ve trained ourselves to walk away from the paint. We let each coat dry overnight before we went back to sand and paint the next coat. That way the paint has time to cure and harden, and we’re left with a really durable finish.
Just in case you’ve never seen a sanding sponge before, here’s what it looks like:
It’s great for scuffing up surfaces without sanding too much. I used it this on the inside of the drawers and on the curvy parts of the dresser.
Here’s one more look at the before:
And here’s how our dresser looks after a new set of pulls, 3 rounds of sanding and painting, and 24 hours of drying:
Hard to believe it’s the same dresser, right? The crisp white makes it so much more charming.
Then you open a drawer and — BAM! — you get an unexpected pop of color.
We love it! And we’re still swooning over how the pulls look:
I took the after pictures on a pretty dark and gloomy day which is why they all seem a little dark. We can’t wait to see what the colors look like on a sunny day. And how the dresser looks in a room that isn’t a total disaster zone. Either way, it’s totally charming the crap out of us right now. We’re excited to put it in the guest bedroom and see what our visitors think.
- Dresser: $0 (found / reclaimed)
- Pulls: $30 for 10
- White paint: $0 (leftover from another project)
- Teal paint: $15
- Sandpaper: $0 (already had on hand)
- Wood putty: $0 (already had)
- Paint rollers: $5
Grand total: 50 beans. Whee!
In case you’re wondering how we reclaimed this dresser, it’s a case of NYC luck. We found it on the curb outside our loft building in Brooklyn at the end of the month. Leases end, people move, perfectly good furniture gets dumped. That’s when we swoop in and snatch up a piece we think we can work with.
We’re almost ready to move upstairs, folks. That means we have a ton more furniture-related updates coming up soon, including a pretty awesome IKEA upgrade. Stay tuned!