before and after

before & after: michael’s kitchen + chroma lab’s dresser

by Grace Bonney

our next before & after comes from michael musser of anticipate invitations. michael recently moved from the beaches of los angeles to marietta, pennsylvania and wanted his kitchen renovation to have a classic, farmhouse feel. i love the countertop choice and that gorgeous yellow and white curtain- i’d be happy to cook dinner in there any day. great work, michael!

[have a before & after you’d like to share? just shoot me an email with your images right here! (low res, under 1M total, please)]

CLICK HERE for chroma lab’s technicolor dresser makeover after the jump!

the talented team at chroma lab (alicia and tony) sent over this colorful dresser makeover. one of their clients is expecting her first baby and asked chroma lab to custom paint a dresser for the nursery. using custom mixed colors from the low-VOC benjamin moore line, alicia and ton created this colorful geometric design, inspired by a watercolor painting that will hang in the nursery. the new look is so cheerful and happy. great work, alicia + tony!

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  • What a shame to paint that beautiful dresser! The wood was so beautiful and the style was classic and charming. The new version will be outdated in as little time as it takes for the baby to get a bit older and then you are left with a pretty unforunated dresser….

    • zoe

      that’s assuming that the child/parents don’t like it….if they requested this custom piece i have a feeling this style isn’t something due for “outdated” status for this particular family.


  • i love what chromalab does! they take “ordinary” pieces – classic or not – and make them extraordinary. they always live up to their name, experimenting with color in new & interesting ways – fabulous.

  • Great job… Fabulous kitchen update – what a difference the painted cabinets make! And the painters of the dresser have the patience of a saint – impressive! Love that they used low-VOC paints, too.

  • I’m typically on the “Paint the Wood” team. And I ‘m not saying that Chromalab’s didn’t call for it, but I’m not a fan of the after result only because it seems completely random, but at the same time trying to have some kind of order. I think I would have liked it if the stripes were continuous or analogous colors for each layer (and even less or no yellow) as the eye moves down the dresser. But to each his/her own and I’m sure the family is happy with their custom piece.

  • This kitchen is an inspiration! So fresh and clean – and whimsically charming!!

    I also have to say I love this dresser. It’s a great piece, especially for a child’s room – or even an adult looking for something a little funky to brighten up the room. The clear knobs definitely make the piece. Nice job!!

  • The kitchen is great! I love seeing how someone can completely change the look of a room without having to completely gut the place. A+

  • Wow, I love that kitchen! I have similar cabinets and it never occurred to me to paint them — what a difference it makes!! And the backsplash is perfect. Now I have some fantastic and inexpensive ideas to makeover my kitchen!

  • I love the kitchen update too! Just beautiful.

    What is the best kind of paint to use on wood cabinets to get a nice smooth finish?

  • i LOVE chromalab’s work! their deep sea dresser was a big inspiration when i painted my son’s dresser (i bought a new, unfinished one, for those of you against stripping beautiful vintage wood). i agree – the glass knobs make the piece.

  • Wow, I really love that dresser! Those stripes just pull you in, and I sat here for at least 15 seconds marveling at the interesting pattern. Fun.

  • Way to breathe such life into an otherwise ordinary piece of furniture! Such a cool concept, well done. Beautiful kitchen too, I’d love to start my day in such a bright space.

  • Great kitchen remodel. I have seen that light over the sink somewhere else and I really like it. Where is it from? Does it have a switch to turn it on at the base? We are looking for a light like that for our kitchen.

  • Can we find out where the kitchen lights are from–both the one over the sink and the other pendants? Thanks!

  • The counter top in the kitchen is fantastic; I have really been enjoying the exposed wood look lately and to top it off, it was paired with the grey tiles… round of applause please.

  • great kitchen! i always love warm white cabinets with butcher block counters. i especially like how this still feels modern, with the gray & yellow color combo and the industrial feel to the lights.

  • Get job on the kitchen Michael. Just from the pics you can feel the difference. Much more open and welcoming.

  • I’d love some more info on painting cabinets. Is this usually pretty successful, or it is a risky thing?

  • The kitchen is gorgeous! Love, love the transformation. I’m a white cabinet gal all the way. It just seems fresh and clean and sunny. Would love to know the manufacturer of the glass tile backsplash and the paint color on the walls. Did you marine varnish the butcher block counters?

  • @Amy: As far as i can see we have exactly the same pendants. They are from IKEA .

    I’d prefer this cheerful dresser version anytime for a nursery. And honestly, one can always strip the paint off again – no harm done. Not all patina is good patina is what I learned from the time I worked for a furniture restorer.

  • Thanks everyone for the positive comments! It does make mornings refreshing. We were on small budget so we did everything ourselves except the tiling and the half wall we knocked down between the kitchen and dining room (first pic). We also redid the floor from a light tan vinyl to a dark grey tile.

    The curtain is just a yard of hemmed fabric from IKEA that I’ve folded over the top bar of the blinds.

    The tile is a sea glass blue-green glass tile from Home Depot–a steal at $4.99 sq/ft. It matches the color of our adjacent dining room.

    All the lights are from IKEA. I don’t know if the one over the sink is still available. It was bought in 2006.

    The paint color is a pale yellow since my wife wanted a subtle lemon motif. Morning Sunlight from Behr.

    Painting cabinets is a bit of work, but an inexpensive way to freshen things up (and fix two different wood tones going on). We used one coat of oil primer that did not require sanding (a HUGE plus) and 3-4 coats of latex paint. Looking back I might have done 2 coats of primer.

    We took all the doors and hardware off, and did 1-2 coats a day. Allow them to dry at least 1 day before putting it back together. We also did the insides of the cabinets which gives a more complete look. Make sure you get a semi-gloss to help with cleaning in the future. Oil-based is usually recommended but the latex is easier to work with and has proven just as durable and cleanable so far. It’s all about the oil, no sanding primer! We used brushes for the doors and hard to reach places, and a small foam roller for the inside. The brush gave the smoothest finish while the roller gave a slight texture that will be more durable for the insides.

    The countertops (also IKEA) are real oak and they’ve been sealed with Waterlox. It turned out to be time consuming as each side needed to be coated 3-4 times and allowed 24 hours to dry between coats. The finish is worth it though and water just beads on it.

  • I agree – cabinets look great – I’d like more info on painting them as well. We also have wood doors we are thinking of painting so tips for a successful transformation would be great!

  • I really appreciate that they didn’t replace the cabinets in the kitchen remodel, very nice to see people working from what is already there.

  • OMG, I love your new kitchen!!! Looks nice, clean and lovely!! Love yellow in the kitchen…the pop of yellow brightens up the whole room!

  • Mike, your kitchen looks beautiful! It’s no small thing to paint cabinetry and tackle all those other projects, so our hat is off to you.

    Thanks for all your kind comments on our dresser. We had a lot of fun with it and can report that our client is very happy with it, too!

  • WOW! I’m sending this to my parents, STAT. The “Before” looks exactly like their kitchen, and the “after” is what I want to do to it! Maybe this will help convince them :D

  • Can you please redo my kitchen. It’s much worse than your before pic. I love wood counters too. They are really “in” right now but I love how warm they look.

  • @Jeannie: Here’s another before shot of the other corner and and after shot that shows a little more of the wall knocked out. All those base cabinets we added ourselves.

    @Amy: just to clarify, the small pendants lights from IKEA are not sold hardwired–we changed them ourselves and added a ceiling canopy for them.

    @caroline: a great resource and one I read before beginning to paint our cabinets. It’s not difficult but it does take more than a weekend.

    @Megan: the manufacturer is Premium Mosaics and the color is Arctic Ice. The countertops are sealed with Waterlox, who makes a marine finish, but this one is food safe (although we don’t plan on cutting on it).

    Although we would’ve loved to splurge on stores like Restoration Hardware, IKEA just can’t be beat for a low cost makeover. We’ll be on the hunt for flea market finds to keep it from looking too catalog.

  • I’m sorry but I think that you totally ruined the dresser! It was much nicer wooden!

    Nice job on the kitchen though.

  • I am more and more leaning towards a wood counter, they just bring that added warmth to the kitchen. And, I love the bar handle hardware on the corner cupboard looks really good and just adds a little extra detail!

    The dresser is a great touch of whimsy for a nursery and really if one day they want to bring it back to a wood finish it’s pretty darn easy to strip wood!

  • does chroma lab still have those wood knobs from the dresser? i have a jackson press from the mid-1800s (from tennessee) with the same wood knobs and one is broken.

  • Generally I’m a paint-the-wood fan, but that dresser was so charming as it was. Quality is never “ordinary.” I think the new knobs are too tiny too. I’m glad the family is happy though.

    My parent’s kitchen looks just like the before as well!! They are getting this link!

  • Feels like a nice by-the-book Ikea rework. I think these counters may even be ikea. Nice. Cheerful. Cute. Not inspiring. No new ideas here.

    My kitchen is very similar to the ‘before’ picture from Mike. I already started our redecorating by painting a light blue color and putting up a really cheerful red roman blind with fabric I found in a fantastic quilting shop. But I haven’t done the cupboards yet. Having seen this before/after, I am inspired to put it a bit closer to the top of my ‘do’ list. Maybe I can also splurge on some tiles…..
    Love it! the whole look is so cheery and light.

  • I hate the dresser both before and after. If it was mine, I would have painted it just not that way. I appreciate the effort that went into it; just doesn’t do it for me. Too much yellow maybe.

  • Just have to weigh in, that i LOVE the dresser painted in lively colorful stripes. It’s perfect for a nursery/child’s room…and of course, it can always be reworked if the family does tire of it. (although i think i would LOVE it forever).

  • Hi – I’m the expecting mom who asked Chroma Lab to paint our dresser/future changing table and we love it! To really understand the pattern on the dresser you have to see it with the watercolor that it was inspired by. The colors in the top two photos are also more saturated than it actually looks in person.

    The dresser was not a high quality piece before (made out of pine and pretty beat-up) and we appreciated how Chroma Lab could give it a new life with paint and make it much more appropriate for our nursery!

  • Mike,

    Gorgeous, gorgeous kitchen. Do you happen to know the brand of that sea glass tile? I showed a pic to the guy at Home Depot and he acted if I were cray! I’m hoping I can find it somewhere else, it’s exactly what I want for our bathroom but can’t afford at the standard $21/sqft.


  • The kitchen makeover is amazing but that dresser makeover is heartbreaking. The same striking thing could have been done with a new, unfinished piece (or even a truly unattractrive one) rather than a well-made, dove-tailed semi-antique. I’m glad that the owner is happy with it but it really just seems a waste to use something that someone else would have loved as-is.

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