before and after

before & after: dresser refinishing + sideboard redo

by Kate Pruitt

When I see refinishing projects like this and how incredible wood can look with a little patience, I am instantly motivated to tackle my own furniture. The sheen on the refinished wood is beautiful, and I love the warm glow that Mark was able to bring back to this piece. Great job, Mark! — Kate

Cost: $70

Basic Steps: Although the surface was in absolutely terrible condition, the wood beneath seemed pretty sound, so the first task was to take everything back to bare timber. It took a LOT of sanding and cleaning, but as the distressed surface gave way to raw wood, I could see that this project would be worthwhile. At this point, I thought I’d get creative and go wild with some painted finishes, but my wife implored me to be respectful of the natural timber and simply breathe new life into it rather than turn it into a painted lady. Naturally (as usual) she was right. Once sanded, I treated the timber with a few coats of Scandinavian oil before rubbing in a mixture of carnauba and beeswax; it now smells as good as it looks. — Mark

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

See Tyan’s painted dresser after the jump!

It’s wonderful to see chalkboard paint used in new and interesting ways. This painted cabinet from Tyan wasn’t bad looking to begin with, but the additions elevate the piece to a new level. It makes me wish every cabinet came with a labeling section. Great work, Tyan!

Time: One month

Cost: $100

Basic Steps: First I removed the mirror (it was connected on the back with screws) and removed the hardware. Then I took the molding off the top drawers with a putty knife, cut and replaced them in straight line. I filled in the molding gaps with wood putty, then after drying, I carved it down with a Dremel to match the molding shape. Then I sanded the entire piece and all the drawers with an electric sander. (This took the bulk of the time and required the most cleanup!)

I applied one thick coat of Kilz Oil-Based Primer and sanded it with steel wool. I applied 2 to 3 coats of semi-gloss water-based paint (I used Benjamin Moore Decorator White) and let it dry for 4 to 6 hours between each coat. I applied three coats of chalkboard paint to the top and finished it with Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic in Clear Gloss. Then I reattached the hardware.

My advice is to not be afraid and go for it! Be patient and take the time to patch holes, make your strokes even and let it dry a little longer. And don’t skip the poly, especially if you have little ones! I’ve already wiped crayon off the sides, and it came off like a charm. — Tyan

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  • chalkboard paint still works with a glossy clear coat on it?? really?? does this make it wipe up cleaner? Gorgeous rehab.. love the black drawers inside!

  • Love the beautiful wood in the first piece….so glad it wasnt painted. The second piece looks great painted….not crazy about the hardware though. I dont know if I’d have the patience for either one though!

  • 2 great B+As, the wood restoration is just lovely, bringing it back to life in its original state. i never would of thought that that old dresser would restore and look new again. How lovely, I wish i knew how to do stuff like that. How can you tell by looking at an old piece that it will scrub up again as new? I guess it has to be solid wood….

    The second one has made a really really ugly sideboard ok! There is one very similar to that in the driveway behind my house, I wonder now about getting it some shelter and B+Aing it (although it has done a few -30 winters outdoors!)

  • Looks beautiful! I want to paint some of my furniture white too. Do you know, if I really have to put on some primer before, or is it enough to paint right after the sanding?

  • Both before/afters are really well done. Tyan’s use of chalkboard paint and the clean black/white design is really unique. (My nephew’s name is Tyan too). I think Mark’s dresser was beautifully restored and I’m so glad to see that he listened to his wife’s suggestion! Lately, most re-dos seem to feature painting over everything…and as much as I love the power of paint, I think many pieces, especially antiques, when treated with the love and attention and hard work that Mark did…can be brought back to life and look just as striking and compelling as a boldly spray painted piece.

  • I love the dresser! I like the look of painted furniture so much I was starting to get concerned that I didn’t like the look of natural wood anymore. Apparently not the case, at least not with this one!

  • My instinct would have told me to paint the dresser that Mark restored but it looks so beautiful in it’s natural finish! The shell drawer pulls were a nice upgrade.
    Very interesting how Tyan replaced the molded edges on the top drawer. The sideboard looks great.

  • Someone asked if you have to prime before painting… I’ve tried painting a couple of pieces without primer, and both times the wood and/or the knots “bled” through the paint, in spite of the fact that I put on two coats. I’d recommend priming first, especially if you’re going with white or a lighter color. Primer can also help if a piece has previously belonged to a smoker — you know how furniture can absorb the smoke smell? Primer can seal the smell — same way as on walls.

  • Love them both!
    On the first: Bravo for resisting the paint brush…that warm wood is gorgeous!
    On the second: Bravo on the simplicity! Love the cheeky chalkboarding!!

  • I love the look of wood. I did the same thing with some $7 night tables and they are beautiful now. The amount of work was ridiculous compared to just painting.

  • I second what Lisa said about priming before painting. It’s always tempting to skip it but it makes the finished product look a lot cleaner. You can do it! :)

  • Both are VERY impressive and inspiring. Quick question on Mark’s. I noticed he said “I treated the timber with a few coats of Scandinavian oil before rubbing in a mixture of carnauba and beeswax.” Does he have the name or sources of these particular products? I wonder if it’s something readily available here in the states. Any additional info will help :)

  • I’m blown away that you could bring that first piece back to life, really back to perfection. Those are the kind of pieces I would love in my house but don’t think I could afford. I’ll be watching for something like that now!

  • Both are so beautiful.

    I love the chalkboard paint with the glossy border! Kinda cheeky and elegant at the same time.

  • Paulina: I’m sure you could get both products in the states – just ask for either Scandinavian or Danish Oil at your hardware/paint shop. As for the carnauba polish, I used an Aussie product called “Gilly Stephenson’s Carnauba Polish” It gives a wonderful soft lustre and also has a beautiful, clean smell. Let me know if you’d like any more info :)

  • I LOVE the first piece! It is so good to see that the beautiful wood was not painted. The second piece is great painted. So often I see pieces that are beautiful wood painted over and most often it is not an improvement. I am not talking about the trashed out junk pieces – but the old wood ones that just need a rehab. The second piece looks much better painted BUT painting over the first one would have been a shame, so BRAVO!

  • Love the refinished dresser. It’s refreshing to see an unpainted wood piece. Thanks!

  • Pat: I’m no expert when it comes to identifying wood, but my guess is oak on the top and the frame of the dresser, with pine on the drawer fronts. It probably dates from 1930-1940s and the original heavy, dark brown finish would have disguised the different wood types. Cheers.

  • Really beautiful work on both pieces! The chalkboard looks sleek and is practical. How did you get the design on the top so precise? I would love to recreate something like that on a couple of old night stands.

  • Gee I’m a lone voice, I really loved the sideboard au naturel – the white is kinda cool but it looks like a completely different piece. And I guess I feel you can paint anything white, but not everything looks great left alone – to me, this did. Nice job anyway :)

  • Both of these revamps look AMAZING! May I ask some advice? I’m attempting to revamp a dresser we have, too, only I just discovered it’s worth a bit of cash. It’s a Kent Coffey Mid-Century modern dresser, only the veneer is about a nickel’s width, and it’s chipped in a few areas. We were originally planning to paint the chipped areas (the top, sides, and edges) and restore the drawer fronts, but now I’m wondering if we should paint any of it at all. I had read a post on DS about fixing chipped veneers, but it seems like a lot more work than I bargained for. Any advice?

  • How do you do the design on the top of the sideboard? I really want to try this on a cocktail table I am working on.