Before and After: Taking a Dresser from Old and Ugly to Sleek and Stylish in an Afternoon

This winter break didn’t quite shape up as I had planned. We were going to head down to Florida to get some sunshine, but I got sick right before we were set to leave. The end result was that we stayed up north in the sub zeros for two weeks. The up-side to this, however, was that we actually got a few things done around the house. We were able to finish some projects in the bedroom and finally hang some window coverings (Yay!). It made the bedroom feel like a retreat amongst the chaos of the rest of our construction zone . . . er, I mean house. Still, we were missing one important item, Michael needed a chest of drawers for his clothes. Luckily we had an old one, but it had been gathering dust and almost went out to the curb on multiple occasions because it was in such bad shape. I really liked the dresser’s overall lines though so I decided to see what it would look like with a new coat of paint.

Before and after: A completely transformed painted dresser.


First of all, I have to stress again just how ugly this dresser was before being painted. it had two visible shades of paint in blue and pea green. It also had an assortment of mismatched wooden knobs that sported multiple paint colors. On top of this, there were marker stains, peeling spots and a good covering of grime from being stored in the garage. The best part to all this was that I really didn’t have to worry about making it look any worse.


How to transform furniture with paint.

This dresser was such a mess, it almost went out to the curb, but I liked it’s lines and thought it might clean up well.


I set to work cleaning and spot sanding first. I used Simple Green cleanser, which works extremely well to prime surfaces for painting. I also used a low grit sandpaper to take off peeling paint. I then removed the knobs and tried to match them up by size. Luckily there were two of each different size so they could stil be used on the drawers as sets without looking like they were completely mismatched. They also got a quick once-over with the Simple Green.

I didn’t spend a single extra dime on this project because I used leftover paint. I had old semi-gloss paint that we had used to paint the kitchen cabinets in our rental last summer. It was a nice light shade of gray that would be perfect for our bedroom. I did have to think a bit about what to do with the knobs. At first, I thought about painting them with white semi-gloss, but I thought they would still look like cheap wooden knobs. Then I remembered that I had a can of Oil-Rubbed Bronze spray paint in the basement. I wasn’t sure if that look would translate well to the wooden knobs, but they were in such bad shape that I wasn’t worried about ruining them. We could always buy new ones.


Transforming an old dresser with paint.

There were two shades of paint visible on the dresser.


I used a weenie roller to apply light even coats of paint to the flat surfaces. A weenie roller gives the furniture a smooth and professional finish. I also used a brush to cut in on corners and trim. I made sure to take out all of the drawers so that I could access the interior of the dresser and so that it would be easier to coat the edges of each drawer. I didn’t use a primer, so I ended up painting three light coats of paint which provided excellent coverage. Even disassembled and without the knobs, it was starting to look dramatically better.


Using a weenie roller to paint a dresser.

I used a weenie roller to paint over old marker stains and to create a smooth, even finish.


Paint an old dresser to look like new.

Use a brush around the drawers and in non-flat areas where the weenie roller won’t work.


Using semi-gloss paint to coat drawers.

Take the drawers out and lay them face up for easy painting.


I took all of the knobs into our unfinished basement and laid them in an old shoe box to keep any paint from getting on the floor. I started with the back ends of the knobs facing up. I then sprayed them with a light coat of the metallic Oil-Rubbed Bronze spray paint. I sprayed them three times on this side, making sure to cover every angle. I would let each coat dry while I was applying the next coat of paint on the dresser and drawers. I then flipped them right-side up and repeated the process on the tops of the knobs.


Old wooden knobs placed in a row to be spray painted.

I laid the knobs in an old shoebox that helped keep the spray paint from getting all over the basement floor.


Spraying hardware with metallic spray paint.

I used Rust-Oleum metallic spray paint in Oil-Rubbed Bronze to make the wooden knobs look like metal.


Oil-rubbed bronze spray paint on wooden cabinet knobs.

After one coat of spray paint, the knobs already looked dramatically better.


I let the chest of drawers and the knobs dry for 24 hours and then I moved them upstairs and assembled them in our newly-finished bedroom. I started by grouping the similar knobs together so that each drawer had a set that matched. I put the smallest knobs in the top drawer and the largest in the bottom. After they were installed, I slid the drawers back in place and stood back to admire the result.

I have done enough painting to know how transformative it can be, but sometimes I am still surprised by the dramatic before and after. This old dresser couldn’t have been more of a mess and now it couldn’t be more charming, all because of some leftover paint.


Putting drawers back into an old dresser after painting.

After the paint had dried, I put all of the knobs back into the drawers and then placed them back in the cabinet.


How to paint an old dresser to look like new.

The final color helps you see the nice lines of the furniture.

Leave a Reply