updating an old dresser

One of my more popular posts from years ago was when I painted a sweet vintage dresser from white to mustard yellow.  French Pale Gold by Behr, to be exact.  It was a total statement piece, and generally stood in our entryway, so it was a bright sunny welcome to everyone!  I love that dresser.  It was one of the very first pieces I got garage sale-ing when we first got married.  It was a dark cream color and I painted it white, because I was deep into the shabby chic thing (those over-used words now make me cringe), and I painted everything white.  Then chipped off some of the paint, of course.


The dresser has bounced from house to house and room to room.   Once we moved to our current house, it was a chance for me to figure out what my design aesthetic really was.  It had been changing over time, and my previous house hadn’t really been reflecting that for awhile.  In this new house, it’s been a time of slowly discovering what I love for my home.  And French Pale Gold was not it anymore.

Give me all the woods, creams, whites (am I going shabby chic again?!), black, grey (nope, definitely not shabby chic), and then pile loads of texture on top of that.  Yes, thats more of the direction I’m heading.  So that meant I either was going to repaint the dresser AGAIN, or strip it.  So I stripped it!  I had no idea the condition or quality of the wood underneath, whether the top would be melamine or veneer or solid wood.  But I knew if it was really bad, a couple coats of white paint would cover a multitude of sins.


My dad helped, of course.  He always helps.  I rarely start a project unless he’s visiting (my parents live with us about a week out of every month), so naturally, I waited for his help and expertise.  I knew he had stripped furniture in the past, so I was relying on his experience.  It totally paid off!  He suggested using a citrus based stripper called Citristrip from Home Depot.  (Definitely get the 1/2 gallon size rather than the quart because it takes a couple applications.)  The stuff was amazing!  The paint bubbled up and after testing a couple spots and waiting longer, it came off really easily.  We used flat scrapers and for the indented areas and curves, we used a wire bristle disc on a drill.  After the majority of the paint was off, we sanded it down and cleaned it off.



There is still a little bit of paint pocketed deep in some spots, but I am totally ok with that.  I love a little imperfection.


And that is all!  I really should give at least the top a clear coat to protect it, but I really love the way the wood looks now, but as soon as it is wet (like it would be with a clear coat, it had a strong reddish/pinkish tint, which I didn’t love.  So I’m keeping it raw.  In the picture below, you can see how i=different the woods are between the drawers and the trim, but I actually really love t!


The next dilemma was what to do about the handles.  We lived with blue tape handles for about 6 months, which got a little annoying immediately.  The previous handles were original to the piece and super ornate and dated.  I really wanted to find a mix of all the styles I love: Warm woods, vintage shape, and modern handles.  The problem was that there are 9 drawers, and 3 different handle sizes.  After lots of searching, I realized I’d have to come up with my own solution because I couldn’t find coordinating handles to fit the various opening sizes I had.

The center 3 drawers just needed knobs – easy fix.  I found these great brass knobs on a trip to Target (where I find everything I never knew I needed!).


Then I had to devise some pulls that could vary in size, depending on the hole spacing on each of the drawers.  I have seen some leather handles lately that I love, so I decided to try to make them on my own.  I ordered a long strip of 1″ wide leather.  It came raw, which means it was undyed, so I experiemented with some old shoe polishes I had on hand.  The dye soaked in quickly and was such a quick project.  I rubbed on the polish, buffed it in, and haven’t had any issues with the color coming off at all.  I had enough leather to experiment with the length a little, and made a size that was just big enough to comfortable fit my hand in without sticking out too far.  I have a leather punch leftover from my old business, and it comes in handy pretty often.  If you don’t happen to have one, you can always use a hammer and thick nail to punch holes in leather.



Then I went to Home Depot and found some screws long enough to fit through the leather and the drawer, with just a tiny bit left to screw on a nut on the inside of the drawer.  I found brass screws that looked great, although I was really hoping to find some with a cool hex shape – no luck.



The total cost of the whole project, stripping and adding hardware, was maybe $55 (the Citristrip isn’t cheap, but worth it).  Not too bad!


  1. 1
    Maurine Grantham says:

    LOVE your creativity!!!!

  2. 3

    Wow!! It looks amazing.

  3. 5

    I have a dresser nearly identical to this that I bought on Craigslist and I love it so much! I painted it yellow over the red and black that was on it when I bought it, but this inspires me to take the leap and strip the paint! Yours looks gorgeous!

    • 6

      Do it! It was so much easier than I thought it would be! If the wood ended up in bad condition, i was going to leave the drawers raw wood and paint the top and frame white – so there’s another option for you!

  4. 7

    Such a fun look! Feminine meets masculine :)

  5. 9

    I can’t believe that’s the same dresser we have all admired for years. I love its new look. And those leather handles!

  6. 11

    I have this dresser too! It’s from my grandparents’ bedroom set. The low dresser is in my daughter’s nursery with the nightstand, the highboy is in my sons’ room, and the mirror is in my living room. Love what you did with it!

  7. 13

    Looks so stylish, lots of hard work has gone into this beautiful piece – thanks for sharing it. x Jacqui

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