transformation

I spent the better part of my days in May and June behind my computer, writing cover letters, sending out my resume, searching for jobs.  In July, it felt like I spent hundreds of hours on the phone answering questions in interviews (my cell phone bill recently confirmed that I did in fact spend this much time on the phone).  My efforts paid off and I now have a job!  While I have lots of logistical details to take care of before I move to Boston, August the month to enjoy what's left in the summer.  I've been taking long bike rides (and have the sunburn to prove it), reading outside, and going on hikes. Last week, I tackled a furniture refurbishing project.  And believe me, it was a project... When I left Seattle a year ago (wow, has it really been a year?), I sold my IKEA dresser that had served me well for 4 years.  It wasn't the sturdiest dresser and had already survived a move from Brooklyn to Seattle, but it didn't seem worth transporting from Seattle to Denver to....  All that said, I needed a new dresser to bring with me to Boston, so I began scouring craigslist for something I could refinish.

And I found this.

The dresser is very heavy and sturdy and made of real wood (pine, I think).  But as you can see, it needed some serious work.  I bought it from a woman in her mid-60s who told me that her recently deceased Mother had owned it her whole life.  So it's pretty old, but I thought it had good potential.

Step 1

I needed to get rid of that crusty, white paint on it.  After washing the piece off (it was dusty and had cobwebs) and removing the knobs from the drawers, I covered it in paint stripper.  I discovered a few things while stripping.  1) There were at least 2 layers of paint over a stain that needed to be removed to get to the original wood.  The paint came off pretty well, but the stain was very hard to remove.  It took a few coats of the stripper, plus some paint thinner, plus lots and lots of sanding. 2) There was a layer of ply board on top of the dresser, nailed to the wood.  It was fairly rotted out by the layers of paint and stain and chipped off in some areas.  I decided to remove it completely and see what the wood underneath was like.  I used a chisel and hammer to remove it.  The wood underneath was much better than the ply board, but did have some uneven parts.

ply board coming off
ply board coming off

Step 2

After most of the paint and stain was removed, I sanded the piece.  I don't have a sander, so this was all done by hand.  I also used wood putty to fill in some gaps in the wood.  There was one area that had a gap between the wood.  I considered using some small nails to close it, but then decided Gorilla Glue would be easier. After filling with wood putty and gluing where needed, I did another round of sanding.  Finally, I washed it all off to get rid of dust and other particles.

Step 3

Some pieces of furniture don't need primer, but since I wasn't able to remove all of the brown stain from the original wood, I decided it was best to prime first.  In fact, I put on 2 layers of primer to make the dresser nice and white.

Step 4

After the primer dried overnight, I started applying the paint.  I put on a very thin first layer and after it dried, applied a second...and third...and fourth coat!  Finally it looked even and the primer was covered.

Step 5

To finish off the piece, I used wood stain.  I read online that you can stain painted furniture with a chestnut colored stain and it provides a nice finished look.  I was a little nervous about applying a dark brown stain to the paint, but really liked the results.  It doesn't soak in completely to the paint like it would to an unfinished wood surface.  After you let it soak for 10-15 minutes, you merely wipe off the excess.  It made the color a deeper and darker teal and gave it a nice finished look.

Step 6

The insides of the drawers needed some attention, too.  I primed inside to cover up the brown stain.  Then, I painted the walls of the drawers a dark brown that was left over from another project.  I lined the bottoms of the drawers with paper.  The paper is normal, scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby.  I cut it to size and then secured it on the bottom with double-sided tape.  Then, I used Mod Podge and a foam brush to cover the paper.  It seals the paper so it won't rip or get water damage.

Step 7

I replaced the original wood knobs with some new ones I found at Hobby Lobby.  I used to think that Anthropologie was the only place to find fun and artsy knobs, but Hobby Lobby has a great selection for half the price.  Even better, there was a 50% knob sale on the day when I was there.  The top drawer is curved and a little different from the others, so I chose different knobs for it. (The knobs and paint sample are sitting on top of my comforter cover for the room where the dresser will be.)

Step 8

The last thing I wanted to do was find a way for the drawers to slide in and out easier.  (There are no metal parts, just wood on wood.)  Sanding helped, but it was still a little rough.  The helpful salesperson at Home Depot suggested that instead of buying one of their products, I should try melting a normal, household candle on the surfaces that rub.  I tried that today and it worked great!  They slide in and out with ease.  I imagine that the wax will need to be replaced from time to time, but it was a simple and easy solution.

I'm excited to put the new dresser in my new apartment in Boston in a few weeks!  Hopefully it gives it just the pop of color that my neutral color scheme needs.

{Many thanks to The Frugal Girl, My Romantic Home, and Design*Sponge for helpful tutorials and tips!}