Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to refinish furniture in a vintage style

My daughter was in need of a new dresser.  The changing table just wasn't accommodating her clothes anymore.  It was time.  I have never refinished furniture before, and wanted to give it a shot.  So, I decided to shop around for a cheap dresser on Craigslist.  After a LONG time searching, we finally found the perfect piece.  A $60 dresser in need of some love.  I of course never got a proper "before" picture, but here is one about half hour into the sanding process.  You can get the gist.  
It was black and pretty scratched, but I liked the upright shape and the fact that it was solid wood!  We began by sanding the whole piece down.  We used a medium to fine grit sand paper and it did the trick.  We only had to sand it once -- mainly to remove some of the paint, buff out a few scratches, and rough it up enough to make the new paint really stick.

I don't really have any pictures of the next few steps.  Once you are in the groove, it's hard to remember to stop and take a picture of each step!  I got some Kilz2 Primer in white.  A little can provided plenty for this piece.  I tried using a roller but hated that the texture wasn't perfectly smooth, so I ended up going with a brush.

I let the primer dry overnight and the next day started applying the many, many, many coats of paint this dresser required.  I decided to paint it white, and went with Martha Stewart's "Glass of Milk" in semi gloss.  Three long and grueling coats later, the dresser was finished!  I sanded a couple times in between coats in places I noticed the paint wasn't going on perfectly smooth.

At this point I had a perfectly white, shiny dresser.  In order to antique the dresser, I got out a few pieces of sand paper and distressed the entire piece.  Distressing is actually MUCH more enjoyable than the first sanding.  Next, I picked up a can of walnut stain, and some Valspar mixing glaze from the store.  The stain and glaze will give your furniture an old antique look.  It makes it look "dirty" and...well...old.  I mixed the glaze and stain together in a plastic cup -- about three parts glaze to one part stain.  You don't actually need the glaze to do this step.  The glaze just allows you to work with the stain a little longer before it dries.  Using an old brush, apply the glaze to your piece in sections.  
After staining a section, use an old towel or shirt and wipe it off.  The longer you leave it on, the more stain/glaze will be left behind.  I found that about 7 minutes was good for my liking.  If you choose to not use the glaze, you can simply paint the stain on and wipe it off immediately.  Lynsee told me that trick!  Either way works great!
 Here's a dresser drawer pre glaze:
 And here's another drawer after the glaze has been applied and wiped off.
After staining the piece, allow it to dry.  Our dresser was dry to the touch after letting it sit overnight.  However, before setting anything on top of the fresh paint, you should really let it completely dry for a few days. 
 I found some knobs I really like at Hobby Lobby.  Cute knobs really do provide the perfect finishing touch.  All the knobs are a little different, but have the same shape.  I am so happy with the finished product!  Have you ever refinished any furniture before?  Do you have any tips and tricks to share?

Lynsee is actually much better at this than I am.  Over Christmas she was a refinishing queen.  Maybe if you ask nicely she will post some pictures of some of her new stuff.  She's done some really beautiful things!


  1. Love it!!! Looks great! I am about to do the same with my husbands childhood dresser!

  2. SOOO darling for Miss Ada's room. You worked so hard and the knobs add a pretty finish to the project. Little girls have tons and tons of clothes, so I'm glad you took on this project.

  3. looks lovely! Hobby Lobby has great knob choices, love yours :)

  4. Holy Crap! I loooove that heidi! just perfect!!

  5. I have some 40 year old bedroom furniture, very solid, but beat up. Would give anything to have the talent and the patience to do something like this to it. I was thinking of just painting it black, and even that sounds daunting, given that there are 2 beds, a dresser, a chest, and a desk.

  6. absolutely gorgeous!!! thank you for sharing!! this is exactly the help I was looking for!!! I do have one question, did you apply any kind of polyurethane or clear coat to protect the finished look? if so what did you use or what would you recommend? I don't want to change the look with a high gloss finish but other than poly I would not know what to use... advice please? -thanks

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