Ideas for Refinishing an Old Dresser

You don't have to spend a lot of time or money refinishing furniture. Sometimes a little paint or wax is all you need. If you are decorating a bedroom, or re-decorating it, look at the dresser as a focal point, not just a place to store your underwear. You can transform an old dresser or a found one with some imagination.

Enhancing the Finish

Make a dresser the focal point of the bedroom.

If the dresser is unpainted and made from a nice hardwood like teak, give it a little TLC. Take off the hardware and clean it well. Lightly sandpaper to raise the grain, followed by a coat or two of tung oil to bring out the woodgrain. Or try a finish restoration product or wax. Change the hardware for a new look. A sheet of clear glass on the top protects it and adds a reflective surface to the room. For a surprise inside, paint the bottom of the drawers a bright color. If the dresser has molding, use black or white paint and a fine brush to highlight it.

Distressed Finish

If the dresser is already painted, use the old paint as a base for a distressed finish. Sand, clean and repaint the dresser. When dry, use a coarse sandpaper or steel wool along the edges and drawer pulls, which are areas that would sustain wear. This treatment reveals the old paint, giving it a nicely worn look. You can also distress the hardware with some sandpaper or steel wool, followed by a bit of dark stain.

Painting Laminates

If the dresser has a laminate top, you can still change it. Use coarse sandpaper to rough up the surface, followed by a primer formulated for laminates. The primer sticks to the slick surface of the laminate so you can paint it any color you want. Apply the primer and the paint with small rollers to get a smooth finish with no brushstrokes.

Rebuild It

With a little more effort, you can make a dresser from other furniture. For example, remove the doors on a sideboard, divide the space with shelving and add wicker baskets that you can slide out. Or use baskets as drawers in a bookcase. If the top of a dresser is too damaged, replace it with a new one. Repurpose a small double pedestal desk as a vanity by mounting a large framed mirror on the back.