Before Josh and I got married, neither of us had much to offer in the furniture department. I had a bed, a desk and a dining set. Josh had a desk, a camping chair and not much else in the way of home furnishings. We were super blessed by friends who let us use their furniture while they were out of the country (yay Kit!) or while they were living in furnished staff housing (yay Callan!). For about a year, we were able to use these items (a couch, chair and dresser), all the while knowing that at some point we would need to become adults and buy our own furniture. Well, that point came just a couple of weeks ago and I needed to find a dresser ASAP. This is where Abbott’s Thrift Store comes in. This place is quickly becoming my favorite place ever! Some friends of mine (hi Megan and Jean! :) ) were taking a trip to Abbott’s so I asked them to see if they had any inexpensive dressers. Megan texted me 3 or 4 pictures of different items, but none of them seemed to catch my eye- and their price tags didn’t either. And then, she sent a picture of this beauty:
Admittedly, this thing was kind of gross. THICK lacquer, missing hardware, random stickers, mis-matched drawers, thrift-store-smelly drawer liners. Gross…but free.
Along with all of the visible stuff, there was quite a bit of damage to the guts of the dresser. Most of the bottoms of the drawers had moisture damage and were bowed and/or falling out. Along with that, the drawer rails and tracks were loose or missing completely. We definitely had our work cut out for us! Thankfully, Josh was up for the challenge! :)
Josh took charge of fixing the mechanics of the piece while I was in charge of the appearance. First, he started by fixing the loose rails by nailing, gluing and clamping them back in place:
If you notice in the pictures above, the center top drawer doesn’t match the others whatsoever. We think the original might have gotten damaged so the previous owner replaced it with something that was similar. It was super wonky so we put our thinking caps on to figure out what to do. I can’t remember where I’ve seen it done before, but my idea was to take the drawer out completely, build a shelf to replace it and place a basket or two for storage in the space. Josh happily obliged and built one out for me using some leftover wood from our bathroom shelf (seen over here)!
After he finished that up, he went and bought a $10 sheet of 1/8″ mahogany plywood to replace the bottoms of the drawers. A friend and co-worker gave Josh great a tip on how to make the drawer bottoms extra sturdy: make sure that the grain of the wood runs perpendicular in the bottom of the drawer (basically, make sure it runs left to right, not front to back in the bottom drawer.) This adds extra strength and will help the replacement bottoms last even longer!
After the bottoms were replaced, J replaced the drawer tracks as well. He was able to use some scrap wood and used a table saw to do a dado cut (don’t worry, I had no idea what that was either).
Because the lacquer was so thick, we thought we might need to strip it off. Oh BTW, Josh had some funny interactions while asking the clerks at the local hardware store, “Where do you keep your strippers?”…haha, oh husband. We found that the stripper didn’t do much to the finish, so we resorted to sanding the whole thing. It took some time and made a bit of a mess, but in the end did the trick.
After we finished our sanding adventure, it was time to paint! I did quite a bit of research on how to best paint over a sanded lacquer finish. Turns out, the best solution is to use an oil based primer and then a latex paint on top. We picked up a gallon of Kilz Oil Based Primer, Sealer and Stain Blocker (I just found out that they make an odorless version of this. I wish we had known that earlier!). This stuff REAKS. No matter how much ventilation we had, the smell was enough to knock you over. BUT, it covered well and that’s all that matters! Here’s my handsome hubby working away on priming the dresser:
For the finish color, I decided that I wanted to do a robin egg blue color with white hardware. I got my inspiration over here on Pinterest. P.S… my name is Terra and I’m addicted to Pinterest. For realsies, it’s bad. I cannot get enough of it! It is the best/worst distraction ever, but offers so much inspiration! Anyways…back to paint colors. We went with Eucalyptus Leaf by Behr from Home Depot. I loooove it! It’s calm and cheery at the same time. Too bad the dresser has to live in our closet…maybe someday in a future home it’ll be a featured piece. Here’s to dreaming! :)
For the hardware I wanted to keep our cost as inexpensive as possible, so I chose to keep the original brass drawer pulls and spray paint them. Spray paint is quickly becoming one of my favorite things ever! It is the quickest way to make something look new and is so affordable! We picked up some Rustoleum Universal White Gloss Paint & Primer in 1 at Home Depot for $6.50ish (not bad for paint and primer!). First off, I soaked and scrubbed the heck out of those drawer pulls! I soaked them in Dawn soap and warm water for 30ish minutes and attacked them with a Scotch-Brite pad. Boy, oh boy…those things were nasty! The top is after scrubbing and the bottom is before:
If you’re going to try painting brass hardware, or any type of metal for that matter, make sure you do multiple light, even layers and be sure to keep your can moving the ENTIRE time you’re spraying to avoid drips (thanks hubby for the painting tips :) )
After I got the first coat on the drawer pulls, we pried open the can of Eucalyptus Leaf in semi-gloss and ahhh….so relaxing. We poured some of that soothing color into a paint tray and I got started on the drawer fronts!
I tried something new on this dresser; I used a small foam roller like this one from Home Depot. SUCH a good purchase! The density of the foam helped the paint go on in thin, smooth layers. Again, I cannot stress this enough…do multiple THIN coats to achieve the best finish!
(The color in these photos is a little more vivid than it is in real life because we shot them outside as the sun was going down. The closest to accurate color would be the last photo, the close up of the drawer.)
Pretty amazing, right? I’m super proud of our accomplishment and so happy to call this dresser mine! Again, Josh amazed me with his carpentry skills and is so helpful to me as I’m learning the ins and outs of painting and furniture re-dos. For a free dresser, this thing sure cleaned up nicely!
- Dresser: FREE! (from Abbott’s)
- Mahogany plywood: $10
- Wood for drawer tracks: Free (already owned)
- Wood for drawer-turned-shelf: Free (already owned)
- Kilz Oil Based Primer: $20
- Rustoleum Paint and Primer in 1: $6.50
- Behr Eucalyptus Leaf semi-gloss paint: $24
- Ultra-dense foam mini roller: $5
- Total: $65.50
Not bad, right?! We really only used about a quart of both the primer and paint, but we’ll count the entire gallon into the cost of this project. I still need to buy a few baskets for the shelf to hold scarves, jewelry, accessories, etc. But that’ll come later. Right now, I’m just giddy to have an awesome dresser holding my clothing! :)