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before and after

before & after: refinished dresser + card catalog

by Kate Pruitt

I used to be sheepish about painting pieces dark colors, but after seeing how beautiful Grace’s dining chairs look in the new D*S office — elegant and dramatic in a fresh coat of midnight gray blue — I’m completely convinced that it can be done well. These two projects are further proof of the transformative power of dark hues. The before and after comparison of this dresser makeover from San Francisco-based graphic designer Kate Koeppel is like day and night, almost literally. The modern bronze handles look fantastic against the new graphite color, and this piece suddenly has an understated chicness that it simply couldn’t achieve in its former gilded state. Amazing job, Kate! — Kate

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.)

Time: 10–12 hours (not including drying time)

Cost: $200 total (including a few tools, sandpaper, paint, hardware and the dresser itself for $100)

Basic Steps: Over the course of two weekends, we sanded, primed and painted — the sanding portion of our project took quite a few hours — using both the electric sander and working by hand on all the curved and carved parts. After sanding and wiping the whole thing down inside and out, we primed the dresser with two coats, sanding lightly between coats. We let the primer cure for 48 hours, then wiped the whole dresser down again to get rid of stray dust and help ensure a very smooth surface for the final paint color.

We used sponge cabinet rollers to get a really smooth coat and an angled sponge to get into all the carved details without leaving any brush strokes. We picked a satin eggshell finish, after finally settling on Benjamin Moore “Gray.” Again, the dresser needed two coats of paint, and we sanded lightly between coats to keep the final finish smooth.

My advice would be to always vacuum the piece of furniture and do a quick moist wipe down with a cloth or sponge between sanding and painting at each step, and always do a little fine-grit sanding between the final coats to ensure a very smooth finish. I’d also recommend having a partner painting with you, to make the job go faster, and to help each other maneuver the furniture to get the hard-to-reach cracks and tight spots when painting and sanding! — Kate Koeppel

See Laura’s card catalog renovation after the jump!

We’ve posted a few great card catalog projects in the past year or so, and I’m thrilled to see more people snagging these almost-obsolete pieces of furniture from thrift stores and Craigslist and giving them new life. In the case of this card catalog makeover, Laura has given it a totally new look with hairpin legs, a beautiful dark teal color and freshly polished brass hardware. While I’m a huge fan of natural-wood card catalogs, I think the color Laura chose sets off the hardware quite nicely; it almost has a crisp, nautical feel. Lovely work, Laura!

Time: About 1.5 days

Cost: About $450: $300 for the card catalog (only used about half of it for this project); $150 for the paint, furniture wax, pin legs (which took up most of the budget) and other small materials

Basic Steps: The original card catalog came in four pieces, not including the base. We were lucky because it could be taken apart and put back together easily, kind of like Legos. To start the project, we first pulled out all the drawers and removed the hardware. Then one of us got started painting the drawer faces and polishing the brass hardware with Brasso.

With the goal to create a credenza for our entryway, we took the two largest pieces and lined them up side by side, drilling the two card catalog pieces together. We then created new top and bottom pieces for the credenza, which was the biggest component of the assembly. Working with wood we already had on hand, we combined two pieces of wood together lengthwise to create the top and bottom, making the top piece about a 1/2″ larger on each side so it would have a small overhang. In order to accomplish this, we had to rip, dowel pin, edge glue and clamp the boards, leaving the assembly to dry overnight.

The next morning, we sanded the boards to make each into one uniform slab, then ran the top piece through a router table to soften the edge. We finished each piece with a final hand sanding and glued and drilled these to the card catalog. From there, we gave the piece two coats of paint and used furniture wax to seal it. Once dry, we screwed the pin legs into the bottom, and it was complete!

I was actually surprised by how few hiccups we experienced throughout the process, and I think much of it was due to proper planning. We sketched out our plan beforehand and gathered all the materials in advance, so we weren’t running back and forth to the store. Also, having the right tools available and using quality materials in the makeover makes a world of difference. — Laura

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