Update a Dresser in 10 Easy Steps

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Creating a new look for an old piece of furniture is simpler than you may think. 

Follow the 10 easy steps below to see the process I used for updating a 1970′s dresser and giving it new life!

Using General Finishes Black Gel StainGeneral Finishes Persian Blue Milk Paint (I’m in love with this color!) and a few other supplies available at your local Woodcraft store, you can create a similar look. Let us help you refurbish your “found treasures” or pieces taking up space in your basement or attic that could truly become functional and beautiful again. 

1.  Remove hardware.

Save all the accompanying screws together in a zipper baggie.

2. Clean hardware.

I opted to keep the original hardware for this dresser as it complemented the colors I chose for the updated look. I gave all the handles and pulls a quick cleaning with Parker & Bailey Brass and Copper Polish and a shop rag, and then set everything aside until after all the painting was done. 

3. Sand the dresser to prepare for paint.

For this step, I used an Abranet assortment pack of 5 sanding discs in varying grits with random orbit sander. Remove dust with a shop rag before applying paint.

In the photo of the sanded dresser below, you will see that the sides are lightly scuffed. However, the previous slick finish on the dresser really needed to be sanded down further to allow for proper adhesion. My product did not want to dry so I ended up re-doing this step!

TIP: Make sure you sand enough of the previous finish off before applying your paint or finish. Depending on the products used and the surface of your project, you may need more or less sanding prep.

4. Mask off areas for paint.

Because I chose two colors for this dresser, I masked off the “blue” sections of the top drawer first so I could cleanly apply the black finish. If you have a steady hand and a good angle brush, you can probably skip this step. 

5.  Apply black gel stain.

Using a foam brush, I applied three coats of General Finishes Black Gel Stain to the dresser, allowing a day in between coats for drying time.

6. Apply blue milk paint.

I applied three coats of General Finishes Persian Blue Milk Paint with a foam brush to the three lower drawer fronts and the “blue” sections of the top drawer.

7. Mask off and paint black trim on blue dresser fronts.

In order to get clean lines for the black trim of the bottom three drawer fronts, I masked off the areas around the grooves first, then applied the black gel stain with a small brush into the exposed areas.

TIP: Another - probably easier - way to do this is to simply paint in the lines and use a damp cloth to wipe back the excess, leaving the paint in the valleys. 

8.  Apply Pearl Effects highlights.

This was the fun part! I used General Finishes Pearl Effects in Burnished Pearl, thinned down with some General Finishes Extender, and a stiff round brush to add highlights to the surfaces of the dresser. I accentuated the wooden trim pieces, the edges of the drawers and where the hardware would naturally make contact with the wood. I ran it across the top and sides of the dresser as well.

TIP:  Where I felt like I got the highlights a little too thick, I simply went back with the black gel or Persian blue and faded it back out a little.

9.  Apply Top Coat.

For the top coat, I used General Finishes High Performance Polyurethane Top Coat Flat, giving all surfaces three coats for a nice protective finish that’s not too shiny.

10.  Replace hardware.

Last step – replace the hardware, and then step back to admire your work!

Have a project in mind to refinish? Let the staff at Woodcraft help you make your dream project a reality!

We hope you'll be inspired!

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