Updating a Vintage Dresser

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Hi!  A huge thank you to Lauren for offering me the opportunity to guest post today!  I am super excited to share a recent project of mine with you all.

In my little circle I am known as “The Paint Lady.”  I have been making over vintage or unwanted furniture for almost 9 years now.  My antique booth is always stocked with furniture pieces I have painted, and this past year, I also became a Certified Merchant for Fusion Mineral Paint.  So I get lots and lots of questions from both my antique booth customers and my blog readers about furniture painting tips and techniques.

Along with these questions also come the occasional comments about how great, old furniture is being ruined by paint. I certainly agree that not all vintage pieces need to be painted, and that there are many pieces out there that have been made less attractive (to say it nicely) by painting. But I also firmly believe that when done well, painted furniture can be really beautiful.

So I consider it one of my blog missions to help people learn how to use paint to bring out the best in vintage furniture pieces–how to really make a tired piece shine again and bring it back to life.  Sometimes that does involve covering an entire piece in paint, but sometimes it doesn’t.  There are lots of furniture pieces out there that don’t need a full transformation, just a little “makeup” added, if you will.

Case in point is this little maple chest I bought recently at an estate sale.




Overall, it’s in great shape.  The wood does have some discoloration and nicks here and there, but the piece is sturdy and is the perfect-size to drop in virtually any space in your home.

This little chest still needed something though to make it current and fresh, something to make it special again and give it a little more personality.  Personally, I liked the lighter tone of the wood–it had that farmhouse look that has become so popular these days and the perfect, aged patina.  But in its current state it just looked old and dated.

I decided that I wanted to put as little paint on this piece as possible, leaving as much of that great, aged wood showing as I could.  Paint would be used to enhance the natural appeal of this piece, not cover it up.

The first step in any furniture makeover project is to give the piece a good cleaning.




My cleaner of choice is Simple Green, which you can buy just about anywhere. It’s all-natural and does a great job taking off the grease and grime that can build-up on a piece over the years. To clean my pieces I spray on Simple Green and give them a good scrub with a Dobi sponge (also available just about anywhere). These sponges have the perfect amount of texture to scrub the surface well without damaging it.  After cleaning the piece well with the Simple Green, I wipe it down with a wet rag, just to remove any residue left by the cleaner.

I decided to add a simple, geometric pattern on the drawer fronts of this chest.  Using Frog Tape, I taped off the lines and painted on 2 coats of paint from the Fusion Mineral Paint line (this color is called Renfrew Blue). Any acrylic-paint could be used here, I used Fusion because I always have some on hand.




After the 2 coats of Renfrew Blue dried, I painted on a very thin shadow line (using Chocolate, also from Fusion) as well as a highlight line (using Bronze Metallic paint, from Fusion).




You can see up close that the shadow and highlight lines aren’t perfect, and that’s alright.  From a distance they blend in really well and do the job of adding visual depth to the blue lines.

After each line dried, I taped off the next lines to paint, working in stages so I never had to apply tape to wet paint.




You can see in the picture that I ripped my Frog Tape in half, lengthwise, to make it go farther.  That stuff isn’t cheap!

So after all the taping and all the painting, here is how the chest looks now:




What do you think?

Just by adding a tiny bit of paint, the whole look and character of the piece is different.




It doesn’t look blah anymore, but rather fresh and modern.  And all that great, farmhouse wood patina still shows through.




I love using chests this size as nightstands.  Those drawers are great places to stick all that extra stuff that always seems to wind up next to your bed.




So when you’re making over a piece of furniture, think about how to use paint to bring out the best in the piece. There will be times when that does mean painting the entire thing, but other times it may mean only painting part of the piece–like leaving the drawers or top unpainted.  Be creative and take your time to browse online for inspiration before you ever pick up a brush.  There are tons of ideas out there for how to take a boring piece of furniture and turn it into a statement piece!

I hope you enjoyed this makeover and my little painting lesson 🙂  Thank you so much again to Lauren for having me, and thank you for welcoming me!



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