How to Redo a Dresser


Old dressers go out of style, but they are blank canvases for a simple redo that will save you money and keep a perfectly good piece of furniture out of permanent exile to the attic or a dire fate in the landfill. An orbital sander is your friend for skipping through prep time. Hardware and online shops have a wealth of reproduction and designer knobs and pulls to update a tired design.

A Touch of Ombre

  • You can repaint an entire dresser in a single ombre color, starting with the deepest intensity on the bottom drawer and gradually going lighter as you go up. The bubblegum princess might love fabulous girly pink fading to pale blush with pink crystal knobs. But a shortcut with a more subtle effect happens when you sand the old dresser to remove dark stain or crazed paint, repaint it in chalky white finished with a coat of non-yellowing furniture wax, and add decorative molding "frames" to create faux panels on the drawers. Purchase premade decorative overlays and paint them separately, using samples or hobby paints -- dark charcoal, then pewter, medium-gray, dove-gray and matte silver. Industrial strength adhesive glues the fake molding to the drawer fronts -- darkest color at the bottom to lightest silver-gray on the top drawer.

Modern Message

  • Haul the hand-me-down dresser from the attic to the garage; remove the hardware and the drawers. Then sand everything, and give all exterior surfaces a coat of primer. Paint the visible dresser -- the drawer fronts and exterior -- a smooth, opaque color to work in its new space. Coral is stunning and so is teal; lemon yellow is as unexpected as raspberry; cream or white are safe choices; lilac and mint fall somewhere between pretty and pow!; high-gloss enamel licorice-black is delicious. Cut beautiful patterned wallpaper or thin fabric to cover the drawer interiors; glue it in place and give it a coat of clear polyurethane or lacquer to preserve it. Stencil or apply decal letters, in a color that contrasts with the paint, to the front of the dresser to spell a message, identify what belongs in each drawer or just form an interesting graphic pattern.

Engineered Dresser

  • The young mover and shaker is obsessed with all things transportation and would happily live in an earth mover or dump truck if you let him. Reconcile him to his ordinary life by transforming the pedestrian furniture in his room into magical movable things that go, starting with an old-fashioned rounded-edge dresser. Paint the feet and bottom panel smudgy flat gray to look like the metal wheels and undercarriage of a train. Paint the two bottom drawers and the dresser all the way around a nice bright color, like teal, to go with his room. Add transportation symbols, such as the car number and the local transit authority logo. Paint the entire top and smaller top drawers white, and add a gray window on each drawer and each side, with contrasting frames. Dab dark smudges sparingly on the entire dresser to simulate the soot and dirt of a working train.

Bargain Island

  • The castoff dresser has enough life left in it to play a starring role in your eclectic kitchen. Paint the dresser in medium-gloss hyacinth, a rich purple to glow in the center of the room. Add a wood paper towel holder on one side, painted to match the dresser, and a row of decorative hooks to hang cooking utensils -- ladles, spatulas, whisks and strainers. Source a slab of leftover marble from a kitchen counter installer or local stone warehouse for an upscale, low-cost surface. Custom counter jobs always leave unused pieces of extra stone you can pick up at a steep discount. Reproduction white porcelain or marble drawer knobs and the addition of locking casters give you accessible storage and flexible placement options. The island floats easily to the pantry, a corner of the room or even the dining room for a stint as a buffet sideboard.

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