Occasionally (ok, often), I find myself wondering through the aisles of furniture stores & boutiques looking at the pre-arranged furniture collections, when my imagination transforms into an invisible sitcom before my eyes. I picture the perfect little family sharing a perfectly prepared meal at the formal dining set, and the happily married couple cuddling up in the perfect bedroom trio.
For a split second, I find myself wishing, "if only I".... *sigh*.... Then right before my daydream causes me to walk into a glass door, I snap back into reality and realize: I am happily married, I own my own power tools, and if I put some effort towards it, I could probably make it myself - for a fraction of the cost.
So instead, I hop in my car and head to the Home Depot, where I am greeted by the smell of fresh trees (ok, it's fresh cut lumber, but in the city of LA, anything natural is refreshing), and with the faint sound of an orange cape flapping in the wind behind me, I'm suddenly overcome with the:
And that is a completely embellished story of how I tackled my first DIY dresser makeover. But in case it inspired you towards greatness, here's the instructions on
You can either buy a dresser directly from an inexpensive retailer, such as IKEA, or second hand from Goodwill or Craigsist. I purchased mine on Craigslist for $30. For tips on purchasing second-hand furniture, visit my post [coming soon!].
Tip: Be sure the dresser you purchase is solid wood (not laminate or wood veneer), otherwise you won’t be able to sand it down!
Step 2: Sanding
First, if possible, remove any hardware and drawer glides. If the piece comes apart easily, it may be easier to sand it disassembled.
Wood stain applied to any piece of wood can only be applied to raw wood, meaning any previous paint, wood seal, or finish must first be removed by sanding the entire surface. If you purchased a dresser either directly or second-hand from a retail store, chances are it is painted or has a wood seal / finish.
Start with the roughest-grit sandpaper (60 or lower) and work your way to the finest grit once you reach the raw wood. To give your wood a smooth, uniform finish, use your finest grit sandpaper (260 or higher) for final sanding.
Tip: To get into those hard-to-reach corners, wrap sand paper around a wood block and hand-sand. Using an electric mouse sander (if you have one) definitely speeds up the process.
The more you work with power tools, the more comfortable you'll become. Start slow and ease yourself into it. If you need a boost of confidence, here's a video to show you how to use a sander: How to Use a Sander.
Step 3 (Optional) :Cut Drawer Pull Cutouts
My dresser already had drawer pull cut-outs. If this is the case for you, skip this step. However, if your dresser came with drawer pulls (knob or pull hardware), you may choose to cut the drawer pull to match the Anthro dresser design. Create a pattern, copy it onto your drawer front (measure twice, cut once), and cut it out! To achieve the gap between the drawers as shown on the Anthro dresser, you may need to cut the top of each drawer front shorter.
Tip: To make sure both sides match, fold your paper in half and draw half of the pull shape (fold at the halfway point). Once you get the look you like, cut the shape out out and unfold the paper for a perfect mirrored match!
Tip: To transfer the pattern to the dresser, measure and mark the center of the drawer and align your paper fold with the marking. Trace the shape directly onto the wood with a pencil and your pull will be centered on the drawer.
Be careful to use marker on raw wood, as ink can absorb quickly!
Carefully trace your cutout line with a jigsaw to cut out the drawer pull. Sand the edges and you’re ready to stain!
If you removed hardware that left any visible holes, you can easily patch the holes with wood filler. You can purchase wood filler if you prefer, but it's easy to make your own! Let the filler dry before sanding and staining.
To make your own wood filler, take a separate container and thoroughly mix sawdust from your sander with wood glue to form a thick paste. Pack your hole with the wood paste and let it dry. A little sanding and your homemade patch is complete!
Tip: The ratio is about 3:1 dust to glue. If you don't own wood glue, Mod Podgealso works.
Step 5: Staining
I used to be terrified of stain. If you haven't worked with stain before, I recommend starting on a portion of the dresser that won't be seen, such as the back, dresser interior, or drawer interior.
**Before staining, wipe all surfaces with a wet rag to remove any excess sawdust
from the dresser!**
1. Start with the lightest stain color and work up to the darkest stain color. For an aged look, apply a grey or white stain as a top layer. Then sand with 180 grit sandpaper.
2. Always work in the same direction as the natural wood grain (see images below).
3. Apply the stain with a stain pad, brush or a rag, and then immediately wipe off the excess. If there is more stain than the wood can absorb, it will dry shiny and sticky!
4. You do not need to allow the stain to completely dry between layers, however, you will want let the wood dry overnight before applying any wood seal.
Tip:When it comes to getting an even layer of stain or blending stain, I have found that water is your best ally. When you wet the wood with a thin layer of water before staining, the wood absorbs the water and you are able to control the amount of stain absorbed into the wood. You can gradually darken the stain by layering, being sure to wipe the excess stain after each layer. Using this layering technique is particularly helpful when blending multiple stain colors, as you are doing with this project.
Tip: You can purchase stain pads at the hardware store, but I found old cotton
t-shirts to do the trick - for free!
Start with the Carrington wood stain and use Kona for dramatic dark areas. You can leave some of the natural wood un-stained. To achieve the aged look, apply
the Sun Bleached stain with either a 2"-3" wide paintbrush for a streaked look, or for a blended look you can apply it with your rag. Afterwards, sand some of it off by hand with 180 grit sandpaper for a weathered look. For an even more distressed look, sand any sharp edges down to the original wood.
Do not do this. Do this!
Stain Not Aligned with Wood Grain Stain Aligned with Wood Grain
Tip: To achieve a streaked look, I recommend using an old paintbrush where the bristles have already separated a bit. Wet the paintbrush with water and dry it out with a rag. Lightly dip the paintbrush into the stain, removing excess drips. Holding the paintbrush parallel to the wood, lightly touch the bristles to the wood to avoid blobs.
Here is the blog that I used to learn how to layer stain: Click Here.
Step 6: Lettering
I purchased my stencils at Jo-Ann Fabrics for less than $6. Once you have a stencil you like, traced the lettering on your drawer. Then paint the letterin using black paint and your detail paint brush. I purchased a 8oz paint sample at Home Depot for $4 and asked them to make it matte black.
Afterwards, sand off some of the paint for a weathered look like the Anthropologie dresser.
Tip: Sanding by hand will give you more control over how weathered the dresser looks than if you use an electric sander.