This is a story about a tall dresser that was too tall. And very ugly. And was beheaded…
Once upon a time, there were two laminate dressers. A tall bulky one and a short, longer, bulky one. Both of them were in need of some serious nip tuck and a heavy dose of permanent make up. If they wanted to stay in our bedroom that is. One day, I braved myself and decided to try my hand in furniture makeover and in true queen of hearts fashion, I exclaimed “off with its head“!
And indeed, the tall dresser got a bit shorter but also got a pretty paint job and brass knobs that look like beautiful golden jewelry – which was totally by accident and you can do it too!
It’s probably a good time to say, the dresser (and its sister) were kind hand-me-downs (which we really appreciate!) or you’ll wonder why I kept them in the first place. For zero cost, we had more than doubled our bedroom’s storage and that was pure win on its own.
However, the “ugly factor” was there to greet me every day and I steadily grew to intensely dislike the dressers (which made the beheading a happy moment). Now, I know, it is a matter of taste. My mother for example, liked them and the detail she liked the most, was exactly what I hated the most: the dark oily green and orange florals painted on a curvy, mirrored insert.
I give you (drum roll) the BEFORE (I had turned the flowery insert inside-out just so I don’t have to see it):
[Pssst? Ignore the missing window trim – it will be magically fixed by the end of this post 😉 ]
This is how it turned (hello there beautiful!):
Not bad at all! You may wonder why I beheaded the poor dresser instead of just painting it. Well, besides the aesthetic issues, the dresser had exactly one spot to fit in our bedroom and that spot was right by the single window of the bedroom, effectively blocking half the light coming in. It was simply too tall (just look at the following picture and you’ll see the problem) and it was time to bring out the power tools and fix that!
Problem no 1: dresser not exactly our preferred style. Especially the top drawer (curvy insert with oily flowers).
Problem no 2: dresser blocking the window and overpowering the room.
Problem no 3: scalloped base trim – which can be very pretty but, not for our bedroom.
Problem no 4: the hardware…not.really.my.thing (my mom loved it – naturally).
Since we are budgeting for other expenses, the dressers had to stay but, they really had to get prettier. I started with the tall one.
For a fabulously low cost makeover (under $9 – and if we had the paint it would be under $2) we did these:
1. Removals: Removed drawers, hardware and the cardboard backing. Then, using a scrap piece of wood (so we don’t break the top) and a hammer, we removed the top. (This is a royal “we”; it was hubby who did it.) All additional decorative trim and the baseboard were removed as well.
2. Now it was my turn: Power tools time! With my
husband’s skill saw I cut the top, flash to the support. I also shaved off a slice at the “feet” side, to accommodate for the trim we added – as it was shorter than the old scalloped trim. Just straight cuts with a skill saw, nothing too difficult.
3. Once cut to size, we re-attached the top using 4 corner brackets. There was a wide flat area between the two bottom drawers and the top so I filled it by adding a window blind as minimal trim at the middle of the dresser, using wood glue and clamps.
and added a simple but neat baseboard,using 1 x 4 pre-primed boards (like the ones we used to make the bookcase ledges for our nursery) which I cut to size with my favorite tool, the same one I used to DIY our own wooden toy blocks.
4. Filled holes with wood filler and sanded. Dum, dum, dum (or should I say “doom, doom, doom”?). Well, it actually was minimal sanding – happy me. Because the dresser is made out of laminate chipboard, I only needed to rough the surface just a bit, for the primer to work.
6. Primed and painted. Since this is a bedroom furniture, I did not want to use any stinky primer. I used the – rather pricey – but worth every penny in my opinion – zero VOC Harmony by Sherwin Williams.
Once the primer coat dried, I followed with high gloss white paint. It kinda counter-argues the point of using an expensive, super duper no voc primer but, surprisingly – at least to me – there was minimal smell, really minimal and once dried there was no smell at all. And high gloss paint cleans easily – which is always a plus.
And then, disaster occurred.
Somehow, I lost my balance and reaching for support, my hand glided hard, across the freshly painted surface.
After I had painted the 5th coat…
A chilling cry carried over our neighborhood:
I had just finished painting! And now all my hard work was destroyed as I had swiped away a whole lot of paint. At that point, my world turned a little darker and thunder storm clouds formed around me as I was realizing it was all for naught.
However, it was for the best! You see, I had used a paint brush to paint the dresser. Which I can tell you right now that it is a bad idea if you are working with MDF/laminate and want a smooth surface. The dresser’s top was all brush strokes, even though I sanded between coats (and that’s why I had done 5 coats). It was pretty bad.
I let the disaster dry and the next day, I run a knife around the edges of the dresser top and…peeled the rest of the paint away. Came out as easily as the popcorn treatment from our ceilings. The primer remained on the dresser and this time, I used a roller and the top became so smooth and perfect, it was pic worthy.
And indeed I took an extreme close up photo:
Once the paint dried well, I cut the hardboard backing to size (just a straight line using a utility knife) and stapled it on the back. The pretty shorter dresser had gotten a new life and was ready to be used.
I have something pretty cool to show you, straight from instagram:
I know it’s hard to tell in this photo but the left knob is quite rusted and not at all as shiny as it looks. The 3 knobs on the right are gently sanded and gosh guys, they look so good up close! Like finely sandblasted pieces of jewelry (*swoon*). I used the same battered and rusty brass knobs that were already on the dresser (plus “stole” two more from the fat sister dresser) and I have a suggestion/tip if you have similar knobs. Don’t buy new, don’t paint them either; just sand them first – you might love the result.
Use a soft grit sandpaper and gentle pressure. It will give a new life to those old knobs (just don’t sand too hard as they usually are made of some silvery core and it will show through).
Granted, I played it safe painting the dresser white. But, I had two good reasons for that:
- It’s hard to go wrong with white.
- The room can use all the light it can get and bounce around. The bright dresser really turned that spot from dreary evening to happy morning.
- This piece of furniture had already too much going on with all the different styles of its drawers. A monochromatic makeover, made a lot of sense.
Do I miss the lost drawer? Nope, it was getting stuck and I wasn’t using it anyway. Now, I get all the light in from the window and have the pretty top to decorate, at the right height.
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Total cost for this drab to fab furniture makeover was under $8, which includes the 4 corner braces ($1.97) and half a quart can of paint (< $7). We already had the primer, the rollers, brushes, wood glue, tools and the wooden baseboard. In fact, we somehow ended up with yards and yards of these boards, so if you need any, just stop by our basement!
And the window blinds; don’t forget the window blinds! There is always something really cool to do with them. 😀
Ps. If you are curious about the hated insert with the orange flowers, stay tuned. Once the weather gets warmer, I will tackle the fat sister dresser, which also has a curvy, flowery insert (and which is also turned inside out so I don’t have to look at it).