before & after: barb’s dresser + alicia’s patio set

the amazing barb at knack studios is at it again, and i am very happy to see what she’s been up to. much like the other projects from barb that we’ve featured (this dresser project and desk makeover are some of my faves), this old dresser is an amazing display of what some imagination and a coat of paint can do. thanks barb!

[have a before & after you’d like to share? just shoot me an email with your images right here! (low res, under 500k per image, please)]

CLICK HERE for alicia’s patio furniture makeover after the jump!

i’ve never wanted a backyard and patio so badly as when i saw this makeover from alicia. even though this furniture set had been through a fire, alicia saw great potential in the shape and decided to tackle the set with paint and fabric (and a lot of elbow grease). i love the fresh cheery yellow she chose, and the clever pairing of the bright color with dark graphic upholstery…perfecto! great work, alicia!

  1. Jacquelyn says:

    As much as I completely share the pain here on the subject of painted wood – anyone who actually has *done* any refinishing, knows that some damage is too much to ignore – especially with veneer. Veneer can be brittle and very unfriendly. If you look hard in the photo, there are parts that are simply not there. And replacing veneer can be challenging at best. In all honesty, half of the reason beautiful antique wood furniture is available TO refinish is *because* layers of paint preserved those antiques for years and years.

    But hey – if nothing else, this generates conversation, huh! :)

  2. Courtney says:

    Oh gosh, I gasped too. Loved the inlay and the little bit of damage. So sad. But, cute patio set! And I don’t even love yellow.

  3. Jen O says:

    I am looking forward to designsponge taking on the task of writing tutorials about furniture re-finishing. I assume that only ‘green’ products will be used? For me, the new products are so slow and labor intensive that they bring even more meaning to the “paint over wood” discussions.

  4. Jackson says:

    Count me as another horrified reader. What a shame to splock black paint on that beautiful wood. This is exactly the type of “mistake” I look to strip off when I do my own projects.

    1. grace says:


      i understand not liking the after, but i think what barb did is far from “splock”ing. it takes skill to finish a dresser like that, whether you like the look or not.


  5. Julie Buck says:

    I’m so happy to see I’m not alone in being aghast at what was done to the dresser. I usually LOVE the before and afters, sometimes only Like them, but this one left me feeling sad. A long time ago, an artist chose the wood, lovingly placed it so the grain was the star of this dresser and proudly offered it up. I know it wasn’t in the best of shape, but I’d rather see it just really well cleaned and oiled or waxed and left to shine with the patina it has acquired through being used…


  6. sarah says:

    let people be honest with thier opinions. if a person believes that the dresser was “splocked” then let them, instead of having to watch every word they say lest they offend the designer who has offered her makeover for display. Im sure everyone knows the designer is very talented, but a lot of people just didnt agree with particular makeover for a reason I think was understandable.

    1. grace says:


      people are allowed to be honest with their opinion, and so am I. me expressing my opinion doesn’t disallow someone else from leaving theirs. I always find it odd that people expect me to produce content and never say a word about it, or about people’s comments on it. the comment section should, and does, go both ways


  7. Kirsty says:

    Really looking forward to the furniture stripping how-to-series from Barb. I find it hard to find good, reliable and well written information on furniture stripping online. If you know of any good websites, please pass them along!

  8. kelly says:

    LOVE, LOVE! the black dresser. Personally, I think the transformation is this dresser’s “Little Black Dress.” She’s been updated and very chic.

    Fabulous and brave is your artistic eye. Thanks for refreshing inspiration.

  9. Suzy Pie says:

    The unpainted dresser may look good from afar, but look again. There is a big loss of the veeneer to the lower drawer, chips to drawer edges and then loss of molding to the top drawer. The rubbed black paint gives a it a purposeful tattered Gothic feel. I like!

  10. Nancy says:

    While I don’t always like everything everyone does. I do deeply appreciate the whole creative process. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to cover something with paint or strip something else away but it’s so creative and it serves to remind me that it’s such a personal style.
    Thank you leaping and sharing :^)

  11. Nicole says:

    I LOVE the dresser and think Barb did a beautiful job! Patio set is super cute, too.

  12. Emma says:

    Love the table & chairs but the dresser looks SO much better before the “improvements” !

  13. Tanya Riches says:

    I think I must be insane – the team wood comments are overwhelming… but I LOVE the dresser.

    However, I totally get the poison, danger, bees from the patio set – it’s not my personal colour choice, but then I’m writing from the Antipodes…

  14. Alina says:

    I love the dresser. I think the new look brought a new youthful, graphic and elegant look. It’s just wonderful.

  15. Amanda says:

    I think the dresser looks fantastic. Much better than the original. Like someone else said, coolly gothic. I would put it in my house in a heartbeat.

  16. Sandi says:

    Wow! Both makeovers are fantastic! The dresser really caught my eye…I have an old one that would look stunning if I could do the same thing to it. I also have an old patio set that I’ve been thinking of painting it white and then use a pretty rose print for the seats. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your work!

    1. Jessi says:

      Love your idea of white with rose print seats, that may become my next project too, as I’ve just bought a very shabby & worn aluminium garden set that really needs help. Now you’ve inspired me, maybe I’ll paint the actual scroll plant pattern in pastel shades for when the cushions are not on there? Thanks for the idea :)

  17. Christine says:

    I’m really late to this party, but I can’t resist chiming in. I recently started doing some upholstery and refinishing work and when I am out looking for good “before” dressers and wood pieces, I usually stop myself and picture finished pieces by Barb at Knack. If a piece doesn’t have that level of potential, I leave it for someone else.

    Barb, I think you do stunning work all around, but this dresser is far and away my favorite piece you’ve done. Brava!

  18. Tricia says:

    I LOVE the black dresser and have a piece of furniture I’m going to paint black. I would love to know the steps you took to achieve this look. Did you prime it first or paint a color before painting it black?

  19. Angie smith says:

    I would have painted the dresser yellow and the table black with yellow patterned cushions

  20. WickedBee says:

    Everyone has a different line drawn of when to paint, when not to paint…I think if it needs to be refinished there should be no rules, it’s up to whoever’s refinishing how they want to spend the effort and only limited by their imagination. Like art, it is personal and not everyone will love the same thing. I found it inspiring…I love the refinished dresser and the colouring, I think it brings out the lovely little details that blended in before and has real character… on the flipside, I personally am not a fan of the addition of the paper/decal application as I think it stands out too much and conflicts with the piece. I bought a dresser to try and do a similar makeover and turn it into a kitchen island (without a decal application haha) but maybe wallpaper inside the drawers!?

  21. Steph says:

    It’s interesting how polarised people are over that dresser. I’ve returned to this post time and time again just to look because I think Barb’s dresser (after the makeover) is the most beautiful dresser I’ve ever seen.

  22. Alicia says:

    Sorry but I am in love with the dresser. Yes it might be an antique but the black rustic look makes it look amazing !!! U go with ur bad a$& talent and forget what the others tell u bc U know how bad a&@ it looks and that’s all that matters!!! Congrats! I wish I could do what u do! U are very talented!!!


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.