Mid Century Modern Dresser Makeover

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A cautionary tale: Mid Century Modern Dresser Makeover

My kiddos are hard on furniture.  They don’t go out of their way to destroy things, but at the same time I never expect anything to last for that long in their use.  Dressers seem to take the brunt of the abuse since my kids don’t hang their clothes yet.  Every clothing item is crammed into their dresser drawers and they are constantly opening and slamming closing the drawers until the poor drawers just give up and die.  I have been so against purchasing quality dressers for them for that reason.  I just can’t seem to justify the cost, knowing it won’t last forever.  I’ve had pretty good luck with Craigslist finds that I have refinished, except when it comes to my youngest daughter.  She has somehow gotten nothing but lemons.  We have been in this home for 5 years and she is now on her third dresser.  But considering the time that went into refinishing this one, I sure hope it lasts!  Here is my lengthy process:

dresser makeover

When I saw this mid century modern beauty on Craigslist my heart soared and I came up with all of these wonderful ideas on how to refinish it.  The listing specified that it was solid wood, so I planned to sand and stain it.  Unfortunately for me, we live in a small area and I had to drive well over an hour to pick it up.  When I got there I realized that it was not wood, but veneer (which apparently most mid-century dressers are, I’ve come to learn) and the drawers seemed wonky.  I was super bummed, but my little one was in love with the knobs and was ready to take a chance on it.  Ugh, I paid for it and loaded it up knowing I was in for a huge project.

dresser makeover

I headed to Lowes to pick up some chalk paint (I was too lazy at this point to prime it), but while I was there I found Valspar “Furniture Paint.”  It sounded like a perfect match for what I needed so I excitedly grabbed it and got to work (while watching the Olympics).

dresser makeover

Boy, was that a mistake.  It took forever to dry, so I had to wait 24 hours between coats and on top of that it needed four coats of paint.  I couldn’t believe it!  But when I was done painting it had the most beautiful, streak free finish I had ever seen on painted furniture.  I was sold.  Until I put three coats of polycrylic on and brought it into the house.  Just from the transfer from the yard (where I applied the poly) straight into my house the paint was coming off.  With the slightest touch, I’m talking your fingernail accidentally rubs it while you are walking by, the paint just fell right off.  I was heartbroken.  I had a week’s worth of time and $40 in paint and supplies into it at this point and it was totally not usable.

dresser makeover

I will NEVER buy that paint again.  Come to find out, there were tons of reviews mentioning the exact same problem.

After I dried my tears I went back to Lowes and purchased a pretty, light pink chalk paint (which was also Valspar, whom I love for everything but the Furniture Paint).  Three coats and some polycrylic later and I am in love with this dresser.  It is not at all what I had originally expected, but the classic lines combined with pink just make me happy.

dresser makeover

The drawers, thankfully, are not as wonky as they seemed.  Turned out they were all just in the wrong spot.  So a little bit of time to figure out which drawer fits best in each spot was all that took (big tip: label the bottom of drawers so you never have that problem!).

dresser makeover

And the knobs are still amazingly adorable.  The yellow ones did not match the look my daughter was going for, but thankfully I found some flowers at Hobby Lobby that matched the Anthropologie ones that were already on it.

dresser makeover

Two full weeks of painting this sucker!  What do you think?  Was it worth the effort or would you have scrapped it and bought a brand new dresser?  Are your kids hard on dressers too, or is it just mine?


  1. It looks fantastic! I’m sorry that the first round of painting was such a waste. I love the knobs and the pink SO much! My kids have never really had a proper dresser until we moved here to England. I had used those hanging shelves in the closet. I have to say the dresser is working much better though!

  2. This is clean and very pretty work. Much better than before 🙂

  3. sophie wilde says:

    This looks really good and those animal/flower door knobs are absolutely gorgeous..That style of dresser or ‘sideboard’ as we call them over here in England looks to me like it might be an Ercol or similar mid 20th century European ..I hate to tell you but just with a polish up with wax etc you could easily pay between £180-£350 so what’s that up to say $570 as it was in it’s original state..Scandinavian designed or even inspired items are reaching a huge amount of money now even in small antique shops,only 5 yrs ago a similar item could’ve been picked up at city dumps for pennies
    ..I like your website and thanks ever so much from stopping me ruining my Dansko pumps as I was just about to give it a go using coconut oil as a polish on them too!! I too btw use coconut oil from everything from salad dressings to a hot hair pack for my long hair..it’s wonderful !! Many thanks and good luck to you,luv Sophie Wilde x

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