Saturday, September 22, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Dresser Edition

Easily his best picture.

Ever since we lost our dream house, I've had the insatiable desire to change things around our rented abode. Apparently, my designer brain was so focused on the idea of a blank slate, I found myself anxiously pacing around our house with creative energy bubbling up inside...and no outlet to relieve me.  Something had to be done.  I had to relieve myself.

I'm pausing so you can appreciate the wording of that sentence.

I'd had an idea for a dresser treatment that I'd seen that soon developed into a small obsession for me.  I'd told Husbo about it no less than 15 times over the past month and for some reason, my brain did not connect the fact that I had both a dresser that was begging for a makeover AND creative energy for days.  One afternoon, while visiting the new West Elm store in Durham, I saw a dresser there that was at least a 2nd cousin to the dresser I'd been dreaming of.   I promptly showed Husbo (as if the first 15 times weren't enough) the idea that I was so enamored with and that genius of a man removed the stupid veil over my brain to suggest that perhaps we could just refinish our existing dresser.

He'd never been sexier to me than in that very moment.

Due to my complete lack of impatience, we had to get started immediately.  Enter: the black blob.

We've had a good run, old friend.

It's not horrible.  In fact, for many years, I loved it.  I got the dresser from my old Hroomate (not a typo), Bryna.  When she decided to get married and move to Japan, she decided not to pay the shipping required to bring this baby with her. Go figure.  When she was using it, it was a cool shade of avocado green (she'd gotten it second hand and gave it her own facelift).  When I inherited it, I went goth on it...and she got a fresh coat of black paint.  

Any good before picture has extra crap laying around.  You gotta get the full effect.

I lived with it like this for a good 4 years but as other things in our bedroom began to evolve, she was slowly becoming the odd woman out.   The mirror that sat on top was a Homegoods find from around the same era.  While the idea of it was pretty cool (the "shutters" close to create a faux window look), it was much too ornate for my increasingly simple taste.  Through the magic of Craigslist, I sold that heavy beast for 80 bones.  80 bones that would not only cover the cost of renovation, but leave me a little extra for new accessories.

So first, we removed all the hardware.

A woman without her jewelry.

Then, we borrowed some paint stripper from the original Handyman, my father-in-law.  Husbo brushed it on all of the drawer fronts, and we scraped.  We scraped a lot.  Apparently there were four coats of paint on those bad boys.  (Sidenote/warning: that stripper stuff is rather caustic.  We both wore gloves and made sure to protect all the surfaces around where we were working.)

Not gonna lie: this was a pretty nasty step.

 After a bulk of the paint was stripped, Husbo took on the task of sanding down the faces to a smooth finish.  With a palm sander, he used a rough grit sandpaper to knock off any other paint that was hanging on for dear life, and then went back over each of them with a fine grit paper to get a beautiful, smooth surface.

Ahh!  We're naked!

I gave a couple of the drawers a patching with a bit of stainable wood filler (b/c this piece is so old and had been banged up in some places.)  Once that was dried and sanded smooth, it was time to stain.

We picked a stain color that most closely matched our bed frame.  Might as well make it look intentional, right?  We used a minwax product that had a polyurethane sealer built in.  I try to be patient with things like this, but if I can cut out a step by buying a 2 for 1 product, I'm doing it.

After two thin coats, brushed on in the direction of the grain, we brought them into the guest room and let them cure for a couple days.  

I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I'd peek my head in to drool over them. 

So what about the body of the dresser?  Well luckily, we never had the intention of stripping/standing/staining that piece.  After the very long process of treating the flat, simple drawer fronts, we couldn't fathom how long and complicated doing that to the dresser would be.  Instead, it was going to get yet ANOTHER coat of paint.  

After a rough sand and wipe down, we started with an oil-based primer to give it some tooth.  (Note: you cannot paint acrylic paint over oil-based paint but you CAN paint it over oil-based primer.)

Sexy socks and shoes, honey.

While he did that, it had been a couple days, so I was going to finish off the drawers and prep the space for moving the piece back in.  I put the hardware back on (we bought a couple more knobs to replace the original handles that were on the center drawers) and then added a liner to the top row.  I'd had a yard of wallcovering from work that I'd wanted to do something with and thought it might be fun to line the insides of the drawers with it.

Here I am weighing the corners down to help the glue set up.   Tre chic.

One other task that had to be tended to was the wall BEHIND the dresser.  You see, when Nick and I were first married back in 2010, his band at the time went on a tour of the East coast for a week.  In my newleywed bliss, I thought it'd be fun to surprise him when he got back with a bedroom makeover that was more of a blend of our styles.  So I made pillows, I hung curtains, and I painted.  

Well confession time: even DIY energizer bunnies run out of steam.  We have a rather large master bedroom with tons of mouldings and trim, so I assessed the task before me and made a few executive decisions. One being, not to move the dresser or the mirror.  Besides weighing 4500 pounds and running the risk of it falling and trapping me underneath, it was after midnight on the day before he was going to return.   So I painted around it.
I ain't even ashamed.

So I needed to paint the wall.  I found the task rather amusing so it wasn't that big a deal.  Meanwhile, in dresser land and seven very thin coats of white paint later...(when you're painting white over black, even if you're using a primer, it take a while to get a complete full coverage)...we were done.

I apparently forgot to take a picture of that step so here's a filler pic:

Seven coats?!  Say whaaaa?
How many of you just skipped the rest of this blog to get to this point?  I hate when people don't show the before and after before I lose interest.  Let's skip ahead then:


She's friggin' beautiful in my opinion.  We let the paint cure for at least 4 hours between coats and then a full 24 hours before bringing her back into our bedroom.  I really just put a few things on the top for this picture as I wanted it to be completely hardened and cured before messing anything up.  But oh...she was so worth the wait.   And here's a reminder of what we were dealing with before:

And then after:

The honeycomb mirror is from Ikea and I'd picked that up a couple months ago.  $14.99 Y'ALL.  I still need to find a new plant for the corner and I want to get a different laundry hamper now that I'm banning all black from our bedroom.  I've got a little cord management velcro I need to install to take care of that issue on the left but overall...a success.

And as far as the budget:

2 Paint Brushes:          $5
Primer:                      $10
Wood filler:            $3.50
Foam roller:           $6.50
Stain/Sealer:              $10
Quart of Paint:     $11.50
Honefoss Mirror:      $15

Grand Total: $61.50*

*Note: we had (2) $5 off coupons from Ace Hardware for joining their rewards program so I didn't count the tax on these purchases because it was mostly covered by discounts.

With the $80 I got from the mirror I sold off, the moral of this story is that we made $18.50 by doing this project.  Garth, that was a haiku!


  1. Sarah, This looks awesome! Moss Robot approved! You guys did a fantastic job and on an impressively low budget. Doing all of the hard work saves so much time, and in the end makes you just love and appreciate the beautiful results more! And as always: your story is told with enough wit and sarcasm to make it fun! Been loving your blog! Looking forward to your next adventure. xo lv