If you were with me in Instagram stories, you will remember when I found this dresser in the trash pile at a thrift store. There was nothing wrong with it, besides the ugly paint color. I’m not sure why they intended to throw it away. It’s not the most expensive wood in the world, but the drawer fronts are all wood. The top and sides are plywood, but I didn’t mind. I was going to save this dresser from the trash monster no matter what. I had a couple ideas of how to make it alive again!
I started the process by using my hand sander to sand all of the drawers down to bare wood. I first used 60 grit sand paper to remove the paint and then smoothed the surface out by using 150 grit sandpaper.
The top and the sides were being a little more stubborn than the drawers when it came to letting go of the 3 layers of paint. I decided to try some furniture stripper. I applied it and covered it with plastic wrap to keep in the moisture. I left the first coat on for about 1-2 hours. There wasn’t much paint coming off after that. It was also leaving a horribly sticky mess. I’m thinking that some sort of adhesive might have been used in between one of the layers.
After I scraped off the first round of furniture stripper, I wiped it down with mineral spirits, hoping that would take off the sticky feel. It was still super sticky, even after using the mineral spirits, so I decided to add more furniture stripper and leave it sit overnight.
After I let it sit overnight, I went out the next morning and scraped off another couple layers. It took off most of the paint, even the yellowish layer that I thought it wasn’t going to remove.
I filled the holes on the fronts of the drawers with stainable wood filler and let it dry.
The drawer fronts were looking so good! I love the wood color that was under all of that paint!
Now, that I had everything sanded down to bare wood, it was time for the fun part…creating the look for the front of the dresser with stain. I wish I would have had some non toxic stain available, but I didn’t. I put a mask and gloves on and away I went. I used three different stain colors to get the look for the dresser drawer fronts.
I wanted it to look super old, so I started with some darker stain and made stain splashes here and there, drips, and markings on the drawer fronts, where I wanted the stain to stand out more. I then wiped on the lighter colors of stain. The three colors that I used were Minwax weathered oak, special walnut, and dark walnut. The wood would soak in the first color (dark walnut) of stain the most, leaving the blotches in the places where I wanted them.
I also used a smaller brush to stain inside the lines that had already been routed in the dresser drawer fronts. I wanted to have the look of an old apothecary cabinet, with lots of drawers. (it was a sunny day in the pic below and the one above it was cloudy, in case you were wondering about the coloring of the drawer fronts…it’s crazy what lighting does to photos)
I stained the top and sides of the dresser with one coat of special walnut and then a second coat of dark walnut. I didn’t use the dark walnut over the entire top, but tried to use it more on the edges and then lightly in the center to get a little variation in the stain color.
To make the top look a little more aged, I used hammers to make marks in the top of the dresser, before applying the second coat of stain. I pounded a couple of old rusty nails into the edges, to add some extra character.
By this time, the sun was going down, but I managed to snap a couple of pics of the front of the dresser, before I added the hardware.
I didn’t mind that the holes for the old hardware were still showing a little. They will be more hidden once the hardware is added.
This is the part of the process that I’m not as fond of. I don’t like measuring and I get really impatient when doing so. I made a template that I could use to make this process of adding 48 pulls and label holders go a little faster, if that was possible.
My sweet hubs was so kind to help me with this process. We noticed that the drawer fronts had been routed a little differently in some places, so we made sure to measure from the top on each one as we drilled. Having them marked off with the template made it easier to have an approximate for each hole that we needed for the fronts.
After we had all of the holes drilled for the label holders and the pulls that I had rusted, I attached each one to each drawer. Wow, this process was long and enduring…and my body was agreeing with that too. If you missed the post where I talked about how I rusted the brand new hardware, I will add it here. The result was amazing! I want to rust all of the things now! Below is a little before and after photo.
Here is one more look at the “BEFORE”. I even attached a screen shot of the video where I asked if I should take the dresser from the trash. If you voted no, will the “after” change your mind?
It was pretty yuck, before all of the changes.
I love the way it turned out and I’m amazed at the change! I’ve always wanted an old apothecary cabinet, but every time I see one for sale, they are always $800-$5000. I’m so glad that I found a way to get an old apothecary cabinet/card catalog look for under $100!
I believe I paid around $75-$100 for supplies and hardware. My initial thought was to add wood to the entire outside of the dresser to make it have an apothecary look, but when I thought more about it, I realized that I could just use the existing routed lines on the drawer fronts to give a look of many drawers. I bought the hardware at a thrift store, thinking it would be enough, but when I decided to keep the existing routed lines for the drawers, there were going to be more drawers than hardware that I had. I searched online for some that were the same and happened to find the exact ones on Amazon! Yay!
48 handles and label holders later….Chester is tired too! I love how this amazing horse photo from my friend, Christine at Shutter Tree Photos, looks on top of the dresser!
I made some antique paper to put into the label holders. I even left some of the paper in it’s ripped up state to make it look more aged. Then to give some extra aged character, I did not put the labels into every holder. I also left them without any actual labels to make it less busy. I thought it might be kind of neat to eventually get a number stamp and stamp some faded small numbers into the corners of the papers that are in the label holders.
I was nervous to add the stain because I thought that it might not turn out to be the exact stain color that I wanted, but it ended up being exactly what I was going for.
It’s similar to a lot of the other wood tones in my house and that’s what I was hoping for! I don’t need it to be “matchy matchy”, but I was wanting something in the same stain color family.
I would love to hear if this is the route that you thought I would take with the dresser. It was an exhausting process, but I’m so happy with the way it turned out! Thank goodness for dressers in the trash!
Old Pottery: Etsy, Local Thrift Stores, Antique Shops
Frame: Thrift Store (painted with Dove White Benjamin Moore)
*Affiliate links are used in this post.