Solid hardwood dressers are often built like tanks and meant to last for decades. If you have one looking a little worn, don't trash it or give it away as a freebie. It likely has several good years left, so why not refurbish it or paint over it? Even if it has previously been painted, you can give it a new coat of 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—and it's a perfect way to update other pieces of furniture, such as an end table. When painting furniture, you have a couple of options, including a brush or a paint sprayer. Since paint sprayers have become more affordable and user-friendly, they are embraced by furniture painters as a brushless, even way to apply paint.
Opting to repaint the dresser in a solid color lightened the overall look and made the piece more eclectic. To maintain a little vintage charm, we buffed in some dark wax and created a subtle antique finish. Your choice of furniture paint—whether chalky, acrylic, milk, or more—can also change the look and feel of your refurbished piece. Review the following steps to recreate something similar.
Before grabbing your paintbrush and getting started, remember that not all dressers are good candidates for repainting or refinishing. Antique dressers should be evaluated before painting to ensure that altering the appearance won't devalue the piece. This dresser had been painted numerous times, and the faux wood look using brown paint was heavy and worn.
Prep work is vitally important when painting a dresser. To start, empty all the drawers. Working on the dresser will be much easier when it's not loaded with stuff. Then use a screwdriver to remove the drawer pulls carefully. Take a few minutes to clean them well if you intend to put them back on the dresser after painting them.
You also need to evaluate whether the dresser needs sanding or not. You might not need sanding if the furniture piece has a nice smooth finish. But, you might want to give the paint some grooves in the furniture to create a bond. Also, note that although chalk paint is often known as a paint that requires little to no prep, you might consider using a primer to get the chalk paint to stick well and seal in the first coat of paint.
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
- 1 quart The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint
- Wax finishes (clear and dark)
- Vinegar (optional for cleaning)
- Wood primer (optional)
Sand the Existing Finish
If your dresser has a smooth finish and is in good shape, feel free to skip this step if you use chalk paint. However, if you want to smooth out some rough edges, use a medium-grit sanding block to sand off any high points.
Clean the Dresser and Let It 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.
Roll on a Coat of Paint
Read the directions on the paint can for specifics. You might need to add a tablespoon or so of water to thin out the chalk paint to a desirable consistency prior to painting.
Use a roller to paint the larger surface areas and create a finish that does not have visible brush strokes. Roll paint onto drawer fronts and drawer sides to ensure a smooth finish.
Trim With a Brush
Not every surface of the dresser can be painted with a roller.
With a paintbrush, 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.
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 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.
Following the manufacturer's instructions, 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.
Reattach Your Hardware
The last touch is adding back the decorative hardware. You can reuse 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.