How to Refurbish an Old Wooden Bureau

Whether you just found an inexpensive but battered bureau at a garage sale or just inherited one from your grandmother and want to make it match your style, refurbishing an old wooden bureau is a do-it-yourself job for anyone with a tool set.

Follow these simple steps and be on your way to a whole new bureau.

First remove all the hardware, knobs and pulls from the bureau. Take out the drawers if there are any and remove any doors.

Begin by sanding it down. Using an electric sander is the easiest option, but good old fashioned sand paper will work just as well. You will have to determine the grade of sandpaper based on the current coat of the wood. A laminate or paint coat will need a heavier grade than, say, a light varnish. If the wood is completely unfinished, you can skip this step.

Next use wood filler to fill in any holes or blemishes in the wood. Follow the directions on the package. It requires application, sanding and reapplication until the look is satisfactory. If you are going to paint the wood, don't worry too much about the color match but if you plan to varnish it, it will be difficult to get the wood filler to have the look of real wood. Use your best judgment. This is also a good time to fix any necessary repairs to the bureau.

If you plan to paint your bureau, you will need to use a good wood primer to ensure that the wood does not soak up all your paint. One coat should be fine. Then paint the bureau with your color of choice, using a glossy paint as it is easier to clean.

You can then return the drawers or doors to your bureau and replace the hardware, or, even better, buy new hardware for an all together different look.

Things You Will Need

  • Sandpaper or sander
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood filler
  • Paint
  • New hardware (optional)


  • Another fun option is to line the interior of your bureau with wallpaper for a more decorative look. Or, paint the drawers a different color than the body of the bureau.


  • Make sure to paint in a well ventilated location.

About the Author

Eric Mack is a freelance journalist and radio producer who lives in Northern New Mexico with his wife and daughter. When he's not on one of his many extensive trips around the globe, you can find him hiking through the woods of the Sangre de Christo mountains with his dog and family in tow.