When you’re on a tight budget, buying brand new furniture probably isn’t realistic. At least that was the case for me. After searching Pinterest for a creative way to make a TV console, I decided that a dresser makeover would be the way to go.
I found plenty of tutorials, but none that addressed some of the unique challenges I faced with this particular dresser—namely the fact that part of it was veneer and the other part laminate.
Which is why I’m sharing all the details with you!
I’m not going to lie, this was a big project. In my perfect world I would describe what I want and have someone else do it (haha). I’m more of the visionary, and less of the hands-on. However, budget has forced me to join the DIY tribe. So if you’re afraid to take on a DIY because you aren’t exactly Bob the Builder, no worries, we’re in this together.
Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and save yourself time and money.
Shall we begin?
Of course, we have to start with a before picture of the dresser.
I spent quite a bit of time searching for the right style dresser, and finally I found this guy on craigslist for just seventy bucks.
Beneath that not so cute 70’s style, I saw the potential. I knew that I could make this into a mid-century styled master-piece.
I definitely should’ve inspected the piece a little better because I thought that it was real wood, and only after getting it back home I discovered that this was pressed wood with veneer.
Oh, and later discovered the drawers have a laminate face. (Insert sad face.)
When you are looking for a piece of furniture, make sure you do your due-diligence and take a good look. You can tell if it’s real wood by the way that it feels, or if you look at the wood in the back it will typically reveal if it’s compressed or solid.
Things You'll Need
So, this was probably one of the biggest DIY projects I have ever done. Which meant that I was missing a lot of the necessary tools—ultimately extending the amount of time it took me to finish this project because I had to save more money.
The good news is: investing in tools will save you money in the long-run. So, if you’re going to continue with DIY it’s totally worth it.
I also want to be upfront about the costs of this project. That’s one of my biggest pet-peeves. I hate it when I’m looking for a ‘how-to’ and I find one that claims, “$50 Makeover” but then you read it, and the person is a professional with all the expensive tools, the furniture piece was a gift, and all they had to buy was a gallon of paint. (What?! How is that a $50 makeover??) THAT IS THE WORST.
I will never do that on my blog. I easily spent over $300 on everything, but as I mentioned I didn’t have any power-tools, so if you already have tools you’re in great financial shape.
- Electric Sander
- Electric Screwdriver
- Drill bits
- Large Flat Head Screwdriver
- Measuring Tape
*Note: all my tools are RYOBI. If you need a lot of tools then you can buy a kit, which should save you money. I found that out the hard way by purchasing individually.
- Sandpaper sheets 150 & 220 grit
- Screws – I used Spax Construction Screws 1.25″ #6
- Finishing Nails – I used Bulldog 16 guage x 1-1/2″
- Leg Plates
- Packet of Disposable Gloves
- Safety Glasses & Mask (for sanding)
- Liquid Sander by Clean Strip
- Spray Paint & Primer (if you want to paint legs) – I used Rust-Oleum
- Painter Tape
- Minwax Paste Finishing Wax in Natural
- Dresser Legs
- Wood for Boarder
- Behr Paint & Prime – I used pure white in satin finish
- Flow-Leveling Additive (to eliminate brush strokes) – I used XIM Latex extender
- Wood Stain – I used Varathane 1qt in Light Walnut
- Gorilla Wood Glue
- Elmer’s Stainable Wood Filler
- 2 Sponges with Handle
- 5 Rags
- Hardware – I found mine at K&B Hardware
The very first thing that I did was removed all the drawers and flipped the dresser on it’s top. This baby was crazy heavy so I did get help turning it over.
I removed all the screws on the boarder. Then using a flathead screwdriver and hammer I wedged the screwdriver between the boarder and the dresser. With a little leverage it pulls off quite easily.
I then measured for the new boarder, and used a jigsaw to cut the wood. Afterwards, I added some reinforcement across the bottom with the left-over wood I had.
Using wood glue, and small finishing nails I secured the new boarder in place.
Since the glue needed to set over-night I used some adjustable clamps to make sure that it didn’t move at all.
The next morning once the glue was dry, I drilled two holes on the top of the new boarder at each end. And then used wood screws to fasten it to the dresser. I then added the metal leg plates.
Be sure to measure the screws before you put any in, as you don’t want them to poke through.
After that, I used wood filler over the small nail holes, and in any gaps between new boarder and the dresser.
While the wood filler was drying, I wanted to spray paint the silver part of the legs gold. If you’re going to be using silver hardware, then you don’t have to do this. I just knew that I was going to use gold hardware and I wanted them to match.
I used blue painter’s tape to make sure that the wood part on the legs were protected.
I put paper towels in some coffee mugs, so that I could set the legs in them while they dried. I first used a spray paint primer that is for metal, to ensure that the gold spray paint would adhere.
I put down cardboard and just held the legs while I sprayed them. Be sure to stay about ten inches away when spray painting in order to avoid too much paint (it will drip if you do too much).
Once everything was dry, I added the legs and put the dresser right-side-up. Since I was alone this day, I had to be creative in getting this thing on it’s feet. I flipped it on one of it’s sides, then added cardboard as a wedge so that the new boarder wouldn’t have any pressure on it. Then I very carefully got it to it’s feet.
While it’s possible to do this on your own, I do recommend to get some help with this if you can. Because you are risking tweaking the legs.
Now this part was where the challenges began. As I mentioned before, the dresser body was wrapped in a thin veneer (which is real wood but you have to be careful when sanding). And the top already had deep scratches in it when I bought it.
The other dilemma was deciding on the dresser color. My boyfriend loves bold color and patterns, and naturally he wanted the dresser to be bold. His vote was for bright orange, but I knew that the mono-chromatic girl in me would probably die a little inside after a month, so we compromised with an orange-ish stain.
Originally, I wanted to paint the frame white and stain the drawers, but when sanding I discovered that the drawers all had laminate faces. And in case you didn’t know, you can’t stain laminate. SO I decided to do the reverse.
I’d stain the frame and paint the drawers.
I plugged in my electric sander, started with 150 grit sandpaper, and I took off the spotted 70’s varnish on the veneer.
Make sure that when you’re sanding that you move in the direction of the grain. DO NOT do circles. Additionally, take care when sanding veneer. Since it’s thin do not be too aggressive in sanding.
Then, I finished with 220 grit sandpaper. I did have to sand by hand some of the grooves around the the edges.
Once I had the frame nice and smooth, I used a clean rag to wipe the dresser clean.
Then I put on some disposable gloves, grabbed a sponge and another clean rag then began staining the dresser. Do make sure that you rub in the direction of the grain.
The veneer didn’t stain completely even, and perhaps a wood conditioner would have helped with that but I don’t mind the unevenness of it. Particularly, because stuff will be sitting on top of it (like a giant TV).
Once the stain was dry, I used Minwax paste finishing wax to protect the stain from scratches.
Next were the drawers. Aw, yes. The drawers. These were really the bane in my existence. However, all my trial and error should make it a lot easier for you.
On my particular dresser, all the details on the drawer were laminate, and the base was veneer—two very different materials. There were also a bunch of grooves which just made finishing it that much more difficult.
I tried a lot of things. I tried sanding by hand and machine (worked on veneer, but not on the laminate), I tried Minwax® Antique Furniture Refinisher with steel wool balls, but I was having no luck getting that dang finish off. And I wasted the better part of the day.
Finally, I found liquid sander. This stuff is like magic! I simply followed directions on the bottle and it was much smoother sailing from there.
(In the picture below: the drawer closest to the wall was the drawer where I tried sanding and all the other stuff. The middle drawer was done with liquid sander. The last drawer is untouched.)
Once the liquid sander worked it’s magic, I had to use the wood filler I’d used before to fill the holes in the drawers where the old hardware was.
Once it dried, I hand sanded with 150 grit and 220 grit sand paper over the filler. I found that it didn’t make any difference if you use the filler first and then liquid sander or vice-versa.
In a time-saving effort, I did half of the drawers with wood filler, and while that dried I liquid sanded the other half. Then I swapped them to finish the process.
Once all of that was completed, it was finally time to paint the drawers.
Now, I would like to mention that you probably could first drill your new hardware holes. I, however, did not have my hardware yet (and I was so ready for this project to be done).
Make sure that the drawers are completely free of dust before you begin any painting.
After I wiped them clean, I used a paintbrush and Behr’s Primer & Paint in one.
Quick side note: I’ve used this paint a lot and I absolutely love it for furniture projects! Anything that makes my job easier and faster I’m all for it.
However, on these drawers I probably did like four coats of paint because it was leaving brush strokes really badly.
My mom is a big DIY-er, so I called her up and was like, “Help! I’m about to throw these drawers off my balcony, and call it quits.”
She told me about another incredible product called Floetrol (that’s just a brand name, I ended up using a different brand as I mentioned in the supply list above). I added a little bit of that to the paint, mixed well, did another coat, and voilá! brush strokes gone.
Since I don’t have any little ones I opted not to do anything over the paint. However, if in the future the need arises I would use a polycrylic protective finish in crystal clear.
Once you let the paint completely dry, it’s time to add the hardware.
As I already mentioned, I hadn’t received mine yet so I wasn’t able to drill holes before I painted. But once I got them, I used a piece of printer paper to make a template for the holes.
This made it so that I only had to measure once. Then I would just place the paper on the next drawer, mark the holes with a pencil and drill.
I really dislike measuring, so this was wonderful.
I ended up having to spray paint the original hinges and circled hardware gold. I used the same method as I did on the legs.
The dresser handles, are actually cabinet pulls that I bought from K&B Hardware. They’re in brushed bronze.
Dresser Makeover Final Results
This project took me over a month to complete because of all the issues I ran into. And there is quite a bit of “dry-time” in the various steps.
However, I think that you could easily do this in two weekends or maybe one weekend if you have help.
All in all, I’m blown away by how amazing this dresser turned out! I hope you have great success with your dresser makeover, and hopefully got some great insight from this post!