Solid hardwood dressers that are built like tanks to last for decades are hard to find these days. If you have one that's looking a little worn, don't trash it or give it away as a freebie. Instead, simply refurbish it with paint.
We decided to paint this solid wood vintage dresser in Himalayan Salt from The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint line. Chalk paint offers a soft but refreshed vintage look—it's a perfect way to update other pieces of furniture, such as an end table. Opting to repaint the dresser in a solid color lightened the overall look and made the piece more eclectic. To maintain a little bit of vintage charm, we buffed in some dark wax and created a subtle antique finish. Follow along to recreate something similar.
Upcycle a Dresser with Just One Coat of This Special Paint
Equipment / Tools
- Medium-grit sanding block (optional)
- Clean lint-free rags (for cleaning and waxing)
- 1 to 2 Small paint rollers
- Paint brush
- 1 quart The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint
- Wax finishes (clear and dark)
- Vinegar (optional for cleaning)
Evaluate Your Dresser
Before you grab your paint brush and get started, remember that not all dressers are good candidates for repainting or refinishing. Antique dressers should be evaluated prior to painting to make sure that doing so won't devalue the piece. This dresser had been painted numerous times and the faux wood look using brown paint was heavy and worn.
Remove Hardware and Contents
Prep work is so important when painting a dresser. Don't rush the process or you'll end up with a careless looking end result. To start, carefully remove all drawer pulls using a screwdriver and empty all the drawers. Working on the dresser will be much easier when it's not loaded with stuff.
A Practical Reminder
Don't make the mistake of shutting the drawers without the pulls in place. If you do, use a flat head screw driver to lodge the drawer open.
Sand Existing Finish
If your dresser has a smooth finish and is in good shape, feel free to skip this step if you are using chalk paint. However, if you want to smooth out some rough edges, use a medium grit sanding block to sand off any high points.
Prepping for Chalk Paint
The great thing about working with chalk paint is that it will adhere to most existing finishes. If you are using another type of paint, you'll need to sand down a lacquer and shiny finish so that the paint adheres.
Clean the Dresser and Let Dry
Remove any dust and debris from the surface. If the surface is not pristine, dust will get stuck in the paint and compromise the finish. Use a damp, lint-free cloth to wipe down the dresser. Allow the dresser to dry completely.
Remove tougher stains and gunk with a combination of equal parts vinegar and water.
Roll on a Coat of Paint
Read the directions on the paint can for specifics. We added a tablespoon of water to thin out the chalk-finish paint to a desirable consistency prior to painting. Use a roller to paint the larger surface areas to create a finish that does not have visible brush strokes. Roll paint onto drawer fronts and drawer sides to ensure a smooth finish.
How Much Paint Do You Need?
A quart of The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint will cover 60 to 100 square feet. That is typically enough paint to cover an average dresser with two to three coats.
Trim With a Brush
Not every surface of the dresser can be painted with a roller.
With a paint brush, fill in the edges and any detailing the roller didn't hit. Allow the paint to dry completely. Depending on the paint used, you may need to apply one to three coats of paint. (We applied one coat since the paint covered the dresser well.) Wait about 48 hours before applying the final protective finish.
Buff on a Wax Finish
For latex and oil-based paints, you won't necessarily need to put a finish coat on top of a dresser. However, if you're painting with chalk paint, wax finishes are a common finishing step. We buffed on two different wax finishes: a clear and a dark.
Apply the clear finish to the entire dresser. Focus the dark wax finish on details and around the edges. Use the same rag used to apply the clear wax to buff the dark wax for best results. The transitions should look seamless from one wax to the next.
Use Wax to Lubricate Rails
One way to make a dresser seem new again is to improve its function. This quick trick will help old wooden dressers slide better and not get stuck.
Buff on a clear wax finish on the wood rails of the dresser drawer. Additionally buff on the same wax finish on the inner rails where the wood rubs against each other.
Reattach Your Hardware
The last touch is adding back the decorative hardware. We reused the existing knobs without refinishing them to retain that authentic antique vibe. If you prefer, update your hardware in a similar style so you won't have to drill any extra holes.