So I set out on my biggest project yet. (Other than buying our house.) I overhauled our dresser. I’m not going to lie and say this was as quick as painting our front door, because it wasn’t. It was not terribly difficult but it did take some time to complete this project. But the results are so worth it.
My parents got this dresser for me when I was a kid, probably in elementary school. It has some dings in the wood because it’s been moved a few times, but overall, it was a sturdy piece of furniture…that was whitewashed with pastel flowers painted on the drawers. Not exactly my style or my husbands. I loved it when I was a girl and I didn’t want to part with it, so I decided to tackle my first furniture redo.
Wood stain – I used MinWax Red Mahogany
Polyurethane (optional) – I used spray polyurethane
New hardware (optional) – I bought these guys from Target
I had in my mind exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to stain the entire thing “red mahogany”, according to the MinWax stain chart at Home Depot, then I would replace the wooden knobs with brushed nickel nobs. So I set out and borrowed a hand sander from a friend (I wasn’t ready to invest in my own yet, but they’re only $40), bought the sanding sheets, stain, and drawer pulls, all on one quick Sunday afternoon.
I used 80 grit sandpaper, per the advice I received from one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love. I moved the dresser from our spare room (we hadn’t committed to putting it into our bedroom yet since we knew I would be overhauling it) onto our patio all by myself. By that point I was already a little out of breath. Solid wood pieces of furniture are kind of heavy, y’all. When I began to sand the top of the dresser, nothing was happening. I was using the right sand paper, the sander was turned on, and I was applying some good force but it looked like the polyurethane was not going to let me pass. I became increasingly more frustrated and my hands started to hurt. Then, I noticed white starting to show through on the corners. That’s when I realized there’s about 1/8th of an inch of laminate on top of the dresser to protect it from damage. This threw a wrench into my plans. You cannot stain laminate. All you can do is remove it or paint it. I knew if I removed the laminate, I would seriously compromise the wood underneath.
So, I turned back to my favorite blog for inspiration. I remembered they redid a dresser and made it two-toned. My new plan was to paint the top of the dresser white and stain the rest “red mahogany”. Then I really got to work on the dresser. With a new game plan I was super motivated to get this thing done with and get our clothes out of suitcases.
The sanding was the most tedious part. You must remember to go with the grain of the wood also. And you have to be very detailed during this process. If you miss a section, you stain will not be able to soak into the wood and you can just wipe it off. This happened to me in a few spots. If it’s a small area, I recommend using a sponge like sander to get these spots gone and restain that area.
Once I was done with the enter dresser being stripped and sanded with the 80 grit sandpaper, I switched to 200 grit to smooth everything out. After the sanding was all finished, I wiped the whole dresser down with a damp (damp, not wet) cloth. You want to make sure you get all of the dust/sand gone. Then, let your wood dry out completely. This may take an hour or so, this is a good time to take a food break, or a nap.
Once your dresser is dry, it’s time to stain. I stained first then painted the top. This way I could cover any stain that may accidentally get onto my top with the white paint. If I got any white paint on the body of our dresser, it was easy to sand down by hand and apply stain over it. Remember when you’re staining, you go with the grain of the wood. I applied one light coat of stain, then let it soak into the wood for about 20 minutes, then wiped it off with a microfiber cloth. It produced a nice, rich, color that didn’t require a second coat.
Once the staining was completed, I let it dry overnight. Then, I used Behr premium plus, bright white paint to paint the top. I applied one coat, let it dry for about an hour, and then applied a second coat. After the second coat, I let it dry overnight again to be sure everything was dry.
The next day I applied my polyurethane. I didn’t want the finish on our dresser to be super shiny so I opted for spray polyurethane with a semi-gloss finish. This gave us the finish we wanted. I applied one very light coat (you don’t want it to drip) and let that dry for about an hour, then, applied my second coat. I let all of that dry overnight one more time.
After I was sure everything was dry, I screwed on the drawer pulls using the screws that were on the previous pulls. Those were the right length; the ones that came in the packaging were not the right length.
Then, I moved that heavy guy back inside the house one more time and got it situated into our bedroom. Overall, this project took me Sunday – Saturday to finish. If you don’t work full time, you could probably get it done in about 4 days or so.
Dresser – free
Sander – free, borrowed from a friend (yay!)
Sandpaper - $10
Stain - $8
Hardware - $12 on clearance at Target
Quick tips for furniture redo:
Use a hand sander machine, this saves a lot of time and effort
Try and do as much of it outside as you can, the stain will stink up your house
Always go with the grain of the wood, sanding and staining and painting
Do not try to fit this into one afternoon, it will take longer
Don’t be discouraged, if you mess up too badly, you can re-sand and start over, and if it’s unfixable, there’s always Ikea for new furniture
That's our bedroom in progress. You're getting a rare look into actual how an actual DIY blogger lives. Not every shot can be awesome and make it look like your house is complete. If my house was complete then I'd be ready to move. And that's not going to be for a long time. But we are getting curtains for those windows ASAP.