before and after

before & after: dresser transformation

by Amy Azzarito

The piles of clothing on the floor were the first clue that I needed some additional clothes storage. I had two criteria: I didn’t want to spend more than $200, and I wanted something attractive. That budget pretty much meant I was looking for a DIY. I stumbled upon this dresser at a consignment shop in Westport, Connecticut, where it was marked down to $65 from $120. Let’s just say that I’m used to New York City prices, so my response was to dash to the register. It was missing big chunks of veneer, so I decided it needed a paint job. I knew that I wanted a masculine look, so I mined the Before & After archives and combined my favorites into a single piece. No more clothes on the floor. — Amy Azzarito

See the full how-to after the jump . . .

Time: weekend

Cost: $170 — The dresser was $65, and the wood filler was $3. I used an Annie Sloan paint and wax, which was about $80. Spray paint for the hardware was about $4. The Metal Leaf Adhesive Size, Water-based Sealer for Metal Leaf and the Metal Leaf were about $18.

Basic Steps

1. Remove the dresser hardware and apply wood filler to the missing pieces of veneer. Once the wood filler is dry, lightly sand the entire piece. (For tips see Before & After Basics: Wood Filler.)

2. Apply a thin coat of paint. (I decided to use the Annie Sloan chalk paint after consulting with Barb from Knack Studios. Even though it was more expensive, it gave me a matte finish, and I didn’t need to use primer; apparently, I didn’t even need to sand. I was extremely impressed — it went on smoothly and easily and dried quickly.)

3. Repeat step 2 until the furniture piece is covered. I applied approximately four thin coats. I only used about half a quart, so I still have plenty left for another project.

4. Once the paint is dry, apply the Annie Sloan clear wax using an old pair of nylons.

5. While the paint was drying, I spray painted the hardware a metallic silver.

6. Once the paint was dry, I silver leafed the edge. I had seen copper leaf in this Before & After and wanted to try silver. It was a little tricky, but I love the result. One tip is to use painter’s tape — I didn’t and definitely regretted it!

7. Finally, I lined the drawers with vintage wallpaper from Liberty of London. (For tips see Before & After Basics: Fancy Drawers.)

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  • The dresser looks great, and I think I know the exact store you found this in- on the Post Road next to the Goodwill? (Westport is my hometown) I have found a couple great things in there myself!

  • Beautiful work, Amy! I love the blue accents in the photo and the wallpaper!
    I have been planning on using gold leafing on a coffee table (for a while now) and keep postponing it as I am intimidated by this new to me technique…

    • Thanks so much, Lauren! The how-to is in Design*Sponge at Home! It ended up being a pretty easy project.

  • I wish I had read this post two months ago! I recently painted an unusually long (and perfect for combining my boyfriend’s storage needs with my own) dresser found at housing works and while it looks great, I don’t think latex paint was the best choice. I’ve run into a couple problems with chipping and the drawers not closing as easily as they did before. Can you explain what differentiates Annie Sloan paint from other paints? I’d love to know for future furniture projects, or perhaps a redo, when I have a lot of down time on my hands. Dresser looks lovely; I went with Benjamin Mooore Black Beauty–there’s just something about soft black/charcoal that lends the perfect sophistication and masculinity to furniture with curvature in the design. Thanks!

  • Love this dresser! It looks beautiful. I have an armoir in my studio that needs a facelift. What color Annie Sloan did you use and what does the wax do? Sorry probably a simpleton’s question.

  • Hi Amy! I was getting my daily dose of Design Sponge and found your post. I am so delighted that you used the Graphite CHALK PAINT™ decorative paint for your project (and thanks to Barb for suggesting it)! It looks like some of the readers have a few questions about our products, so I wanted to invite them to check out http://www.anniesloanunfolded.com or http://www.anniesloan.com for more info. I look forward to seeing more of your before and after transformations!

  • Just loved seeing a project done with our Chalk Paint™ brand decorative paints! For those of you who are craving more info, you can visit anniesloan.com and anniesloanunfolded.com.

    Thanks Amy!

  • Hello Amy!

    Isn’t it wonderful what a a little Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ decorative paint can do for a tired piece of furniture. Your dresser is a stunner…love the special sliver leaf technique, well done. I have see finished pieces like this in specialty furniture stores for thousands of dollars…no kidding!!!!
    The Empty Nest

  • Woah, friends! As a 50-something who has seen a lotta water under the bridge, this was a beautiful piece that might have been worth leaving alone. We don’t want to erase every trace of the past. I am from Tennessee, and know a bit about southern furniture– this looks likes what we call “Jacksonian” furniture and likely was made in New Orleans in the 19th century. Don’t paint everything you come across..might want to leave something for the Keno Brothers of the future to disc
    over on Antiques Roadshow.

  • I love it! I’ve got a dresser at home that I’m planning to paint in a similar colour. You found such a great piece with all its texture and those fabulous keyholes! Great Job.

  • This came out beautifully! I love the floral paper in the inside of the drawers. It feels like it was made for this project. And the silver leafing idea is genius! Thank you for sharing your project!

  • I’m a passionate fan of DesignSponge and this is the first project I’ve recoiled from. While I grant you that the dresser needed restoration, I can’t believe that someone would paint over the lovely bookend veneer. Not a great example to set for your readers!

  • Beautiful job, Amy. I have a question. Do you believe, visually, that there is a difference between using silver leaf vs. applying a good silver metallic paint? Is it about sheen or can the same effect be achieved with painting and then lightly waxing or buffing?

    • Hi Suzy –
      In my experience with metallic paint, it just doesn’t have the same sheen as the silver leaf. I just haven’t found a metallic paint that looks quite the same. I used metallic paint on the hardware and I sort of wish that I used the silver leaf. But you could definitely give the metallic paint a shot and then apply the silver leaf over it, if it doesn’t work out for you. -Amy

  • I’m probably the only “negative nancy” comment so far, but I think this is just awful. That was an absolutely gorgeous Sheraton dresser with crotch mahogany veneer, and original finish, and now it’s a ruined mess. It would have cost less than 10$ to revive the original finish back to it’s original glory.

    I think the original cabinetmaker is probably rolling over in his grave now.

  • Well, I’m a negative nancy, too. I find covering antique mahogany veneer a shame. Possibly because I make furniture, I have a little pain for what it took to create this lovely piece. Mahogany isn’t typically the sort of wood one covers with paint, no matter how under-priced it was in Connecticut. Possibly it was under-priced because the shop owner was clueless to the relative hardness and value of the grain. This is sometimes the downside of DIY blogs. Sometimes you just shouldn’t DIY.

  • I agree with JC, the original finish was destroyed and the new looks good but this was a complete waste. This person could have used a transparent paint to keep that wood grain or just restore the original. A very sad case and this has to be addressed. Not everyone likes antiques being destroyed and I am sure one for not destroying them. However if you wanted that look from the beginning just build one.

  • A beautiful mahogany veneer painted black is an improvement? ughh…It could have had the veneer chips easily repaired. So many people have no idea what they have…

  • Can someone explain to me what the Annie Sloan clear wax does?
    I refinished a dresser recently (ny first DYI project) – it turned out great except the gloss is a bit sticky (even after 4 months) and seems to need a coat of something to fix that.
    Any suggestions?

  • Love this! Well done! One question I have that you may have an answer to: I often find decent dressers that have an odd, old, or occasionally worse smell to them As I don’t want my clothes to smell like that, do you have any suggestions? I am wondering if there are some smells that just don’t come out, and you should just pass on the piece, etc.

  • When I saw the “before” my first thought was oh no , please no paint over that beautiful wood. My worst fears were seeing the “after” – black , no less. How could you destroy a beautiful piece of work that someone put their heart and soul in? Please – paint some junk next time.

  • As a designer/antiques dealer myself I like both original wood and painted pieces. I usually only paint furniture if it’s structurally sound but the finish is beyond repair. I probably would not have painted this piece although I won’t judge. After all it suits her taste and decor in her home and she loves it. Since the drawer fronts were so pretty with the crotch mahogany, I’ve also seen instances where people just paint out the case frame and leave the drawer fronts natural if they are in good condition. That would have been an interesting contrast.

  • I love this – well done! The only thing I’d have preferred would have been if you’d left the hardware as it was… but that’s my personal taste. Thanks so much for sharing this with us and CONGRATS – very exciting!

  • I’m impressed.! You learn something new all the time.! The paint job-and the wax sure “tidies ” up the finish.!

  • I am so thrilled to be in Design Sponge as I subscribe and love it . Can I just say that I would have painted the top of the drawers at the front and the side too so no wood could be seen. Then it is all about colour. I would probably painted over the handles too as my paint covers them and then when I waxed I would have rubbed a little through to get the colour underneath. JUst my thoughts – not trying to knock it!! Thanks very much!

  • Way to ruin some beautiful mahogany veneer. A good restorer could have worked wonders with the missing veneer.

  • Oh dear…in the same boat as the ‘negative nellies’ as one put it. When I saw the before, I thought Oh NO…but then I thought, maybe it’ will be really pretty. In my head I saw this piece in a teal-y green. Then I saw the after and it was back to Oh No. Wrong choice of color I think..

  • Amy, this was awesome. It’s great you found a piece that obviously no one else wanted, as it was still in the store, and made a place for it in your home.

  • I came here via the “Living Online” post that reflects back on this experience. I wanted to add that this is a great example of people getting passionate over furniture and design, so that’s kind of nice. I don’t believe in the sanctity of an original piece, though, unless it’s unique or special (and this one was cool, but not unique). Firstly, the people who lived 100 years ago or longer did a lot of fixing, re-using, and making do — THEY didn’t necessarily believe in the sanctity of an object (and they certainly painted when they felt like it). Secondly, I love seeing old, battered pieces made useful for the present instead of being abandoned. The maker’s hard work is still present in the lines of the piece and its sturdiness and utility. Mahogany veneers are not permanent.

  • As a collector, dealer, stylist, retailer , restorer, decorator,student,
    I have to agree I probably would have tried to save what was there since it was a beautiful effort on the part of the maker. (at least you didn’t soak in water to remove the veneer like so many used to do before) There are soooo many pieces out there that need a paint job. This in my opinion was not one of them.
    Discrimination is important . Since you have been educated in the “decorative art and history” I’m a little surprised you choose to paint this one instead of a restoration. There is a downside to DIY I’ve lived through the “antiquing” phase of the 70’s similar to this Chalk paint thing now. It is unfortunate. Funny thing I collected original painted 19thc. painted furniture and had to fight to keep people from stripping it down to bare wood back when that was “fashionable”
    I’m still amazed when I find an untouched piece from the time. It makes what’s still here that much more valuable. Eventually, original and authentic and will be fashionable again..and the chalk paint craze will settle down

  • Great job! I have a veneered dining table and chairs in a very shiny mahogany that I would like to paint with chalk paint. I have read about ‘bleeding’ problems with mahogany and am concerned about how to prevent this. It doesn’t seem like this was a problem for your piece, and my stuff looks very similar. Any suggestions?? Thank you

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