before and after

before & after: barb’s dressers

by Grace Bonney

i’m always excited to see an email from barb at knack studios in my inbox- because it usually means a beautiful furniture before & after. and today she didn’t disappoint with these beautiful dresser makeovers. i love the “buttercup” jessica gonacha wallpaper (done specially for knack) one the first dresser and the beautiful blue on the second. click here to see more of barb’s work at knack…

[have a before & after you’d like to share on d*s? just shoot me an email right here with your pictures!]

[ps: wanna catch a peek at some of the vintage items i’ll be using in my wedding? click here to check out my new martha stewart post today, all about incorporating vintage items into your big day]

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  • What IS IT about transformations? I can’t get enough! They are so fulfilling, somehow. Maybe it’s because so many things are neglected and don’t live up to their potential… I especially like the use of wallpaper in the first dresser- adds nice character.

  • this dresser project is lovely.

    the combination of the red and blue is striking, and the petal knobs look like beautiful little bows!

  • Could anyone please tell me how they got the wallpaper on the drawers and were able to cut off the excess with such precision? I tried it on a nightstand and made a total mess.

  • I love both of these transformations, especially how Barb did not make them too perfect, but instead left a little wear and tear on them. The knobs and wallpaper are like jewelry that accessorize an outfit just right!

  • BARB! You know I love what you do always, but you have outdone yourself with those white knobs. Are they bone? Whatever they are, they are gorgeous against the black paint.

    Stephanie: Try using an Xacto knife with a brand-new blade and a metal straightedge to trim the excess. (And Mod Podge is great for adhering/sealing!)

  • Oh adorable, especially the black one. I already liked the before version of that dresser, so beautifully aged, and I really like it that the ‘after’ version isn’t redecorated ‘too much’. I often see make overs that make an old item look like brand new again, but this make-over really shows respect for the old furniture. So well done!

  • What a great paneled wall (set of doors?) behind the blue dresser!! I really want to do that now. I’ve been thinking of using a dark dark grey on a wall somewhere but I wasn’t totally sure I’d like it. The chalk drawing and birdies are the perfect way to liven it up.

  • Thank you so much to all of you for the knack love!

    I will go down the list here :

    Miss Anna, you are too great!! YOU are the queen of redo…are you kidding me…. your house is amazing!! to answer your question though you are spot on about the knobs!

    The turquoise color is a custom mix of mine that doesn’t have a name {maybe I should give it one} …. a girl’s gotta have some secrets right!!

    The question about the paper application …. Anna did a great job answering it for me! {thanks girl!} There is also one more way to do it but only if you have a very precise sharp edge and that is to take your orbital sander held at an angle and just go right along that edge. It takes any extra off quickly and easily! Just make sure that you have given your paper plenty of time to dry or you will have an uneven torn mess on your hands!:)

    Naomi…. the “wall” behind the turquoise piece is made from 5 old paneled doors painted with chalkboard paint …. I do love the versatility of changing up the scenery every now and then!

    I hope you all go from here and create your own pieces to love and adore for years to come! xoxo

  • These are so pretty! How do you get the paint to have that sort of worn, vintage-y look?

  • these are beautiful — I concur about the turquoise being my fave. One more question about that striking wall in the background — are the birds done with chalk also, or painted, or something else? It looks like they might have some relief to them? thanks so much for the inspiration!

  • hey kelly,

    Thank you so very much!

    The birds on the wall are actually paper cut outs from magazines I had laying around. I just made a template of the bird I liked and cut away ….choosing patterns and colors that tickled my fancy!

  • I’m probably the only one, but I actually like the BEFORE on the black dresser better than the AFTER. I think with some new knobs it could be fabulous. I like the stripped wood combined with the chipped cream paint. The piece has lovely lines.

  • Stunning. I’ve only recently discovered d*s and am already obsessed. Thank you for featuring wonderfully talented people like Barb! Oh my, that turquoise dresser takes the cake! If I ever make it to the opposite coast I will try to make a special stop by Knack Studios…love your work!!

  • I love the turquoise, such an enlivening color for any room. That, and robin’s egg blue, will never go out of style for accent colors.

  • The turquoise dresser is amazing! It really pops. I wish the black dresser didn’t have the printed paper on the top two drawers. I think it could have been striking without those. (actually I kinda like the white and wood of the ‘before’ on that one!) But kudos for some fine work!

  • I’ve been waiting for another Knack post for a chance to get the “how-to” — and I’m grateful for the link. But the thing I’m most wondering is how you get that intentional, I’m sure, weathered look? Do you sand certain spots after painting? I love it.

  • I really love the blue chest of drawers. Lovely how it looks like it hasn’t just been plastered in paint to look new but carefully painted and highlighted to give it that worn feel. Beautiful work.

  • I would die for the blue dresser… Its an amazing accomplishment for a before/after. I wish I knew how to do that!!!

    The black one just looks sorta old and beat up. I wish she had used a more interesting paint on it.

  • I’m going to chime in on this one too. I’m normally a lurker, but I have to say, when I first saw the before shot of the blue dresser, I thought I was going to be on the pro-natural wood team for this one. I loved the detail, and the color.

    Then, WOW, what an awesome job. And I usually think the whole painting wood furniture as a makeover is a little overrated. Just beautiful; wonderful color, distressed – but not too much – and the knobs were a great pick.

  • I’ll agree with CLF and say I much referred the older dresser before, and I think it would have looked much more chic with just a bit of tung oil and some nice, small green glass drawer pulls from Anthropologie or something. I’m not trying to be snarky, but I feel like the redo, with the big pulls givings a sense of Early Americana, the black paint feeling like Gothic Revival, and the patterned drawers feeling like 1940’s-70’s? just creates a mishmash of styles that obscures the lovely wood and graceful lines of the original piece. The second one looks much better after, but it incorporates many fewer styles..I guess I’d say Im a purist and think that generally cheap modern pieces look better painted while lovely older pieces should be refinished or left alone.

  • Sarah,

    To get that look I do sand the paint off in places ….. Depending on how weathered you want it to look you can either hand sand it or use a power sander!

    I’m so glad you like my work…. Thank you very much!

  • hey- i love these, especially the blue one! where are the rosebud knobs from?? they were the perfect addition…

  • corey,

    I bought the rose knobs through one of my trade vendors ……… they were being discontinued and so I bought a TON.

    I have them in yellow, green, red, white ,pink, lavender,& blue.

    If you would like some let me know.


  • love love love the turquoise dresser. well done! after you distressed the paint by sanding, what did you use as a top coat on this particular piece? i hope to achieve a similar effect, but i plan on using a vanilla color paint. thanks for any words of wisdom!