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Home Decor: Painting an Old Dresser (from the thrift store)


First of all, did you see the winner of the Silhouette CAMEO here


Also, have you entered the Hellmann’s/BlogHer giveaway here?  An easy $100 to spend on anything you’d like over at  Fantastic!

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Okay, onto other things. 


I know I have mentioned this before (maybe 100 times or so….haha!) but we moved from Georgia to Colorado over the summer for my husband to complete P.A. school and do some of his clinical rotations here.  We chose CO because I have lots of family who live here.  Oh, and also because my parents have a basement apartment that we can stay in.  You know, for a really big discount.  :)  The basement has 3 bedrooms (well, 2 1/2…..the baby is sharing a room with grandpa’s workshop) and a bathroom and kitchen.  It has plenty of room to live in but a lot less than we were used to.  So we have had to combine rooms and get creative with storage.  And since I can’t leave anything alone…….I am trying to decorate a bit and make this space our own.  We still have 4 or 5 more months here so it’s always nice to feel at home in your space, no matter how long you’ll be there, right? 


So, all of that to say that I will have several home decor posts coming up.  Because, well, that’s what I’m up to lately.  (And hopefully my parents don’t mind my decorating style in their basement. Ha.)



The first thing up?  An old Dresser makeover. 


Oh my, how I love turning old into new.  It’s seriously so rewarding.  I think that’s why I like re-purposing clothing so much as well.  (All re-purposing projects found here.)  Something you may think is junk, can be transformed completely, if you just look at it a little differently. It’s pretty thrilling.  And kind of addicting.


So here’s the old dresser that I found at the thrift store for $12.  (This photo is after we sanded it down just a bit, fixed the wonky drawers, and filled in the major gauges with wood putty.)



And turned it into this:



It became a great focal point on a bare and boring wall.  (And yes, that is a shoji screen in the background, dividing off some craft space that I share with the main Living Room.  More on that later…)




Want to see more of the process?



The drawers were all wonky and needed new stops in the back to keep them from going in too far.  We (my husband and I……bless him!) also sanded the whole thing down.  But we didn’t take all of the finish off……just enough sanding to make the surface smooth.  And the poor thing had gouges and scratches everywhere……so we added wood putty and then sanded that down after it was dry too.



And in case you haven’t painted furniture much……here’s what else I did, that worked well for me.


I have purchased super cheap paint in the past.  Which gave me super cheap results.  Using cheap paint always ends up bubbly, uneven, and then remains sticky for months for me.  I decided to spend a bit more on some higher quality paint, so that all the work would be worth it.  (I didn’t buy top of the line paint but this Olympic brand really gave me the creamy and smooth coat I was looking for.)  I also purchased the primer/paint in one.  I knew I wanted to prime the dresser, to seal in the old color and varnish, and using a 2-in-1 paint really cut out some of the layers of painting.  It worked great!   (The paint lady at Lowe’s told me that the Valspar 2-in-1 works really well too.)  


The other thing…….I purchased a more expensive paint brush.  Okay, not that expensive but I used to buy any ‘ol $2-$3 brush…….but decided to buy this $10 brush that had a great angle and really soft bristles at the ends.  The cheaper brushes made more lines in my paint……and I was tired of that.  (This brush has already been used on a dresser and 2 tables and is still in great condition.  I am assuming I can use it for years.)

 **The paint color I used is True White by Olympic and the paint brush is an angled brush made by Wooster.  I bought both at Lowe’s. 



I also added Floetrol to my paint while painting.  This kept the paint from drying too quickly while painting.  So I didn’t have as much trouble with drips drying too quickly before smoothing them out and it also helped with brush marks.  It seemed to really keep the paint wet enough while I was still working.  However, it didn’t take the paint days to dry either.  It was dry to the touch a few hours later, just like normal.  Then I painted the whole dresser in a clear polycrylic finish.  (This isn’t always necessary.  But I have kids and didn’t want the dresser to get nicked and scratched too easily.)



After a day or two of letting the paint and polycrylic really dry/set out in the garage, we moved this little beauty down into the basement.  (Though, I think it takes weeks for paint to really cure.)  I added some bronzy knobs I found at Lowe’s and then topped her with a big mirror I found at Ross.  I also added a few more things to the top that I found at the thrift store and some at Ross.  (I also put little pieces of felt underneath those decorative pieces, to keep it from nicking the paint while it really sets.)




I love how it turned out. 


And sorry mom, when we move, the dresser comes with us. ;)




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This post is sponsored by:




Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. eva says:

    hi. I love the dresser redo. I recently bought an old dresser from craigslist and i also want to paint it. But when we pull on the drawers there is nothing from stoping them. They just come all the way out. Can you please explain how you fixed that problem. Thanks. I love your blog.

  2. pt102 says:

    What did the old dresser look like before it was sanded? It may have been tiger maple. It may have been more valuable restored.

    1. Mason says:

      What kind of paint finish did you use? It almost looks like flat or satin.

  3. Raptorrunner says:

    I have a dresser (We call it “the bureau”) exactly like this. Yes the drawers go all the way in. It was about to be taken to the dump from an apartment I was about to move into 25 years ago and I said, oh you can leave that. I’ll use it.

    I still have not fixed the drawers, but I love the piece.

  4. Galina says:

    It is just cool ! )

  5. Lauren says:

    It looks awesome. I actually started a dresser today for the first time. Question – How do you make your paint so smooth and clean looking, especially on the edges? Mine looks so sloppy…

    1. Anonymous says:

      Hi did you sans after you primed you have to sand afetr prime, then wrap off then give one thin coat let dry over night check see ifs dry then 2 coat paint ,I roll my paint on make sure clean roller with tape before you use to paint with get all those far balls off ,nice clean paint job thank you bonnie

  6. Kim says:

    Hi, Thanks so much for the tips! I just started painting some old cheap pieces I have and experimenting with different brands of paint. I ALSO live in Colorado and it seems to be very different than painting in Michigan where I am originally from!!! Can’t keep the paint wet. . . . . .I was afraid the Floetrol would “yellow”. . . so I appreciate that you have used it and it turned out well. Also had read different comments on the paint and primer in one but that would certainly save a step. I used a foam roller on one piece and was not too happy with the finish, bubbly looking. I am looking for that creamy, smooth finish-but also taking into consideration the condition of the piece I start with !!!!

  7. Courtney says:

    geez, how long does something like this take? It looks like a saturday afternoon but i have a feeling much longer

    1. Ashley says:

      Hmmmm……I spent several hours but split it up to let things dry and such. The sanding, fixing things up, and adding wood filler took about 45 minutes but then I had to let the filler dry. So the next night I painted one coat and let it dry…..and that took about an hour. And then another hour the next day to do the 2nd coat…….and then another 30 minutes to do the clear coat. So, because I wasn’t sanding the whole thing down like crazy and then staining, etc…… really didn’t take too long. It’s just waiting in between coats that takes a while. But about 3 1/2 hours total was worth it. :)

    2. Courtney says:

      wow, i really need to start doing things like this. i just married into a family that owns the biggest antique warehouse in america i’m pretty sure and there is SO much amazing stuff DYING to be updated and put to use

  8. Lizz says:

    Ashley, you forgot to mention the name of the color you used on the dresser, please! And the brand/type of the paint brush if you remember it would be helpful, too.

    I’ve heard of a polyurethane called “Safecoat Acrylaq” that’s supposed to be minimal VOC, which you probably know is super kid-safe…and also a lot less smelly. Might be something you want to try next time?

    1. Ashley says:

      Oooh, you’re right. So sorry about that. The paint color is True White by Olympic and the paint brush is an angled brush made by Wooster. I bought everything at Lowe’s. Hope that helps.

      And thanks for the Safecoat tip. I’ll have to look into that for next time! :)


  9. Amy says:

    The legs on that dresser are so sexy! It makes it work great in any room. I want to find something similar to put in our living room as a buffet. I am needing some extra storage in there and it would be a nice place for seasonal decorations. I love that dresser! I will probably refer back to this post when I find mine to paint. Great pictures!

    1. Ashley says:

      Haha…..I totally agree! :)

      (And yes, the drawers are great for storage. I have put extra craft supplies in there already.)


  10. Paula says:

    Beautiful job on refinishing and painting the dresser. It looks fantastic and you were right to use a high quality brush. Makes all the difference!

  11. Shirley L says:

    How inspiring! It looks amazing!

  12. Bethany says:

    Beautiful. I need to find one of those and make it so pretty now… :)

  13. Mel says:

    Love the dresser, but I was going over and over trying to figure out what you meant by gauges?? I finally got it! You mean gouges. Sorry but I just had to laugh because after a year of following, I don’t think I’ve found a grammatical or spelling error. Well done with all the hard work you constantly put into this blog.

    1. Ashley says:

      Haha…….ooops! And yay, I’m glad you’ve never noticed any of my other errors!! I must find them before you see them!! ;) Thanks again! Let me know any time! :)


  14. Hannah from Plumbs says:

    Stunning transformation!

  15. Cameron says:

    I’m inspired! My son’s dresser has a dark cherry finish that matches …his crib. Which he will soon grow out of – so now I know I can make it look new and match his big boy room! Thank you – oh, and my husband swears by quality paint brushes . . . turns out he’s right!

  16. Emily says:

    Great job! Love how it turned out. I’m excited to see more projects. :)

  17. L K says:

    Just used the Olympic paint/primer in one too. Not loving the smell compared to the no VOC separate paint and primer BUT it really is a one coat combo that I love-th

  18. Kristina Noall says:

    Looks great! My husband and I sanded and refinished a wooden table, and it indeed does take awhile for that stuff to really set. I got out my sewing machine and set it on the table a couple days after we moved it inside, and when I picked the sewing machine back up to put it away, one of the legs (or whatever you’d call it…) took a little bit of the finish with it and left a spot :( So yes, be very fastidious about putting anything on top of your beautiful new-old dresser!

  19. Maureen M. says:

    You are indeed my kind of gal…I have to agree 100% about the paint tips. I consider myself to be one who loves a great deal and am pretty thrifty/repurposing but you are totally right about paint and brushes. It does not ever pay to use cheap paint. And a good brush totally ends up paying for itself in the long run. I was amazed how much easier trimming a wall is when I started using a good angled brush instead of a cheap one. Way to go…it shows in the beautiful results!

  20. Natalie says:

    LOVE IT!!! And I didn’t know you were in Colorado, too! What part are you in!?! And I have GOT to find some of that stuff, I had no idea it was out there! *so excited* :)

  21. Becky H says:

    Ashley, I LOVE this dresser! Awesome job. Thanks for the tips. I always think of doing this but have never had the guts because I didn’t know how easy it could be.

  22. Erica says:

    So beautiful! Do you have a sander, or do you sand by hand? I would love to take on a project like this but the thought of sanding something this big by hand is pretty daunting. Perhaps I’m overthinking it?

  23. Anna says:

    THank you so much. I needed these tips. My sons fell apart, its all wood so I figured instead of buying a cheap particle board one or such we should fix it. This is great inspiration. I have used the Japanese dryer before and it works like a charm (floetrol)

  24. Edie says:

    nice job, love the old style with a clean finish… very pretty

  25. jennifer says:

    i have been wanting to find an old dresser to go in our kitchen by the door to the garage to store stuff like seasonal placemats and lunchbags. we also need somewhere other than the kitchen counter to deposit our keys and mail. i was just looking on craigslist last night for a piece that might work, and i’m taking this post as confirmation that i should go forward with my idea…. thanks ashley!

  26. Starry says:

    I love it! One day when we have a house of our own….

  27. Anonymous says:

    You are a genius. I absolutely love checking out your website everyday!

  28. Rhiannon says:

    Gorgeous! Thinking the style would look gorgeous in our home! I’ll have to keep my eyes pealed :)

  29. dannyscotland says:

    Wow, that is gorgeous. I have done some furniture refinishing (ha ha if you can call it that) but now with my daughter, I don’t get to it much. I should though, because you’re right, it creates such great results!

  30. Esther says:

    I just love doing up old furniture ;-)

  31. Zerique says:

    love it!!! That looks great!!!

  32. Lynette says:

    I love the old-new look of the dresser! And I love those vases next to the mirror. Very pretty! Thanks for the tips on making an old dresser new. We will probably be doing something like this for our first little one coming in april.

  33. brittany says:

    beautiful! I love the new look

  34. Erin @ Small and Simple Things says:

    It looks fantastic! I have an old dresser that I need to spend some time on…

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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