How to Decorate an Old Dresser in a Living Room


Decorating an old piece of furniture can be a tricky home improvement project because the authentic value of the original piece must be updated to fit a more modern interior design. Some decorating ideas can transform an old dresser into a contemporary living room showpiece. Heirlooms, old pieces of auction furniture and antique store relics have an intrinsic value due to the history of the piece. Some careful staining and decorative accessories can bring new life to an old piece of furniture. With a little tender loving care, a decorated old dresser can become one of the most prized possessions in the home.

Things You'll Need

  • Mahogany wood stain
  • Brown glaze
  • Wrought iron hardware
  • Decorative place mat
  • Table lamp
  • Stain the dresser. Purchase a small can of mahogany wood stain and a small bottle of brown glaze from a local hardware store. Place plastic or painter's cloth under the old dresser. Preferably, the project should be done outside because spilled wood stain is difficult to remove. Put approximately one fourth of the can of stain in an old plastic mixing bowl and add about a half a cup of brown glaze to the stain. Mix the two mediums together with a paint brush or wooden mixing stick. Use an old soft rag and dip it in the mixture and begin to lightly rub it on the old dresser. Apply a second coat to the dresser if more coverage is needed. This technique will preserve the natural beauty and ruggedness of the wood. Sanding, heavy staining and painting will remove some of the authenticity of the piece. Let the old dresser dry completely.

  • Replace the rusty and broken hardware. If the old living room dresser has sustained damage, replace the hardware with simple rustic hand knobs or pulls. Rusty or damaged hinges can also be replaced. Carefully remove the broken hardware, without splintering the wood, and add the new knobs or pulls. Wrought iron tends to have a weathered and rustic appeal that will blend with the antique dresser design.

  • Choose a decorative place mat or table runner for the top of the dresser. To help protect the top of the dresser from being scratched or damaged by accessories, place a decorative place mat, table runner, or doily on the surface. For a modern rustic living room appeal, select a beige linen place mat or a patterned mat that matches the living room decor. The place mat should go in the middle of the dresser without the ends hanging over the edge.

  • Select a table lamp. A brushed nickel, wrought iron, or metallic table lamp can be placed on the left side of the place mat. Choose a tan, black, or brown lamp shade to bring focus to the dresser and not to the lamp. The lamp should be a medium height without looking too big or demonstrative for the piece. It is important to decorate an old dresser in a living room with table accessories that blend the design of the dresser with the decor of the living room. Depending on the living room motif whether it is traditional, country, Tuscan, French, or Victorian, a designer lamp can be chosen to fit the interior design.

  • Add decorative accessories. An old dresser that is decorated to incorporate into a living room design needs to have a table top accent that brings attention to the piece. A wrought iron or brushed nickel candelabra with three candle places will add a touch of modern elegance to the old dresser design. Additionally, it will complement the design of the rustic wrought iron hardware on the dresser. Place the candelabra slightly in front of the lamp but on the opposite side of the place mat. Keeping the lamp and candelabra on the place mat will keep the old dresser from getting scratched.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the old dresser is a valuable antique, take it to a professional restoration expert. This technique is for lightly retouching a dresser that has faded and is worn out due to age and distress. It is not a professional restoration procedure that an antique artisan might use.
  • Wood stains have a strong odor and intense staining capabilities, so wear protective gloves while painting the dresser. Make sure that this project is done in a well ventilated area.

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  • Photo Credit furniture over white image by Lars Christensen from aged wood wall image by Slyadnyev Oleksandr from drawer handle image by jovica antoski from rubber place mat image by poGosha from Lamp image by Emil Maga from black candlestick image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from
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