Ways to Refurbish an Old Dresser

Update old or used furniture to give it a new look

pink painted dresser in a white room
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Old dressers lose their appeal over time and with ever-changing styles. If you've acquired an old dresser that needs an updated look or you have an old one collecting dust in your garage or basement, drag it out! Instead of getting rid of old dressers, give it a new look with a variety of mediums, such as paint, stain, fabric, wallpaper or stencils, and accessories.

Before refurbishing your old dresser, be sure to clean it thoroughly and remove any old varnish, shellac, and paint. You can remove old finishes with sandpaper or a paint stripper.


Apply your choice of paint in any particular design. You can create an ombre effect by painting each drawer a different gradient color or use painter's tape to paint different colors in a particular design or shape, such as chevron or stripes. Remember: always apply a primer before painting wood furniture. Use grey primer for dark paint and white primer for light paint.


Upcycle a Dresser with Just One Coat of This Special Paint


Like the original look of the dresser or the original wood grain? Apply a stain to bring out the natural beauty of your dresser. Follow the directions on the label of your stain and apply as many coats as needed until you achieve the desired effect and color. After the stain dries, apply polyurethane to protect the stain.

Fabric, Wallpaper or Burlap

If you want a more textured look to your furniture, adhere fabric, burlap or wallpaper to the drawer fronts or body of the dresser. Use a spray adhesive to apply the fabric and a flat, plastic scraper or a brayer to remove any air bubbles or wrinkles.

Note, however, removing the fabric, burlap or wallpaper at a later time may not be an easy task so be sure you are happy with the design and effect before committing to the project. You can take a photo of the fabric/burlap/wallpaper and dresser and manipulate in a photo editing tool if you're tech-savvy or attach the fabric, burlap or wallpaper with a temporary adhesive or tape and take a step back to get a preview.


I love using stencils. Stencils can allow you to be more creative with your design and add a lot of personality and character to your furniture. First, paint the entire dresser a base color and let completely dry (usually overnight or a couple days, depending on the humidity in your environment). Then, gently place your stencil into place and begin applying the second layer of paint.

If painting multiple layers or sections with the stencil, make sure the paint from the first stenciling is completely dry and wipe away as much paint as you can from the stencil before moving to the next section. This can be time-consuming but will give you the best result and prevent a lot of smearing or smudging. If you have a problem with the stencil moving around while painting, try spraying the underside with a temporary adhesive.

Replace Hardware

An easy and less time-consuming way to update an old dresser is to replace the hardware. You'd be surprised how much updating the hardware on a dresser can change the look of the item in your home. For example, instead of old, dingy metal pulls, replace with modern, decorative knobs.


If you do switch from knobs to pulls or handles, or handles to pulls to knobs, you may need to patch up holes. Patch up holes with wood putty or filler. If your dresser is stained, use a stain marker to cover the wood putty or filler. If your dresser is painted, spot paint to mask the corrected area.