Our Bedroom The Victorian House

The Other New (Old) Dresser

That dresser that I mentioned last week is now ours. It was on Craigslist with two photos and the most descriptive description ever: “Old dresser. Nice. Call ______.” It looked like it was in decent shape, it was cheap, and the seller even offered to deliver it (I got the impression that he ferries furniture around Chicagoland on the daily). It was worth a gamble.

The seller and I had a few phone conversations, and he asked what I planned to do with it. Was I going to leave the dresser as-is? I told him that I probably would. The guy then said that the finish wasn’t that great, and it would probably need some touching up. I thanked him and said that would be all right, and after a few more days and a few more phone calls, he was on his way to drop it off.

Antique Dresser

The drawers are a little tricky, but they work (inside are runners only, no glides). I like the shape of it and the size is nice too, but surprise! His buddy put a shiny new coat of stain on it for me. No prep work — just right on top of whatever finish was there. I know he was being nice, and they didn’t anything charge for the labor, but it’s a lot darker than it was originally. It was also tacky, as in sticky, but that seems to be subsiding as it dries.

Close Up on the Finish

I don’t love it enough to go through the bother of fully repairing and refinishing it, but I’m considering painting it. I’ve been interested in trying Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint (no sanding or prep work, and Nest Vintage Modern carries it). This could be the perfect project to experiment with, but it could go shabby chic pretty easily, which isn’t really my thing. I’ll probably live with it for a while first, as-is.

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

You Might Also Like...

  • Laura @ Rather Square
    October 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    It’s got some really nice subtle curves. And I assume it’s solid wood? It looks really solid.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      I think portions of it are solid wood (like the curves), but the drawer fronts are veneered and maybe other parts as well.

  • Eileen
    October 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    My dad taught me a trick where you take a candle stick and rub it on the drawer and along the track that the drawer travels on. I did weekly, then monthly, and everytime the drawer sticks.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Yep! A candle, or old fashioned soap.

  • Kristy Daum
    October 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    That dresser is to die for, so beautiful. It is unfortunate that they took it upon themselves to “fix” it. It would definately be worth trying a little project on…chalk paint, here you come.

  • Heather
    October 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I am going through the furniture hunt myself for a desk. There have been a few I thought about actually keeping their current stain/color. This is a beautiful dresser and it could go well either way honestly.

  • Jacquie
    October 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    What about painting it black???

    • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
      October 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      NO! Why? Way dark. Got to lighten it up Jacquie.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      I think black would look awesome on the piece, but would be too heavy for the room.

      • lsaspacey
        October 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm

        I think the Annie’s English Yellow or the Florence green would look great on that style and not Shabby Chic at all. Im my opinion, I always though Shabby Chic was pale creams and pastels actually, not saturated colors like those.

  • Catherine
    October 1, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I think it’s a really pretty dresser. I’m partial to the wood color, but I think finds like this are perfect for testing out paint, too. It really could work either way.

  • cathy
    October 1, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Try putting hemp oil (from Miss Mustard Seed line) after it quits being tacky! See what that does for it before painting.

  • Melissa
    October 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I could see switching out the knobs for something fancier – maybe white knobs or something else glass? Is that doable? I see what you mean by the white possibly going to shabby-chic, so maybe changing just the knobs would give it enough of an update.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Switching out knobs is easy. I don’t love the wooden ones, but they do match what’s going on with the other dresser.

  • Christina
    October 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I would skip the Annie Sloan paint on this one. I agree it would be too “shabby chic.” I’d either refinish it to look similar to the first new (old) dresser, or keep it sleek in black. Looks like a great find!

  • Danielle
    October 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I have seen Censtational Girl use that paint and it looks awesome!!! I hope you try it out and let us know what you think. :-)

  • Megan
    October 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    It is very beautiful as is, but you also already have a ton of wood in your house, so I understand wanting to paint it.

    I had a cabinet from Ikea that I liked, but it was pretty country cottage/shabby chic, so I painted it in Benjamin Moore’s Black Horizon in chalkboard paint and I can’t believe how much more modern it looks. The chalkboard paint was really easy to apply but required a lot of wait time before I was able to touch it (like a week). The paint does scratch off as well, so I’m not sure I buy the whole not needing to sand it before painting thing. I would still recommend giving it a light sanding if you go that route.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      I think that I would have to do some sanding, just to even out the weird bubbles and drips that are now on it. And yeah, there’s no shortage of unpainted wood in this house!

  • Laurie
    October 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    It’s beautiful. It looks like there is some really lovely wood grain there. Too bad it is so dark. But even if you do nothing, it is pretty and it looks like a good chest.

    Someone else recommended wax along the glides, which does work well. Soap works too. I’m wondering if a little beeswax would help those sticky sides too.

    I say paint it if you want. If you ever want to restore it in the future, you can just strip it off. You’d have to strip the stain off anyway so you might as well do what you want with it.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      That’s what I was thinking. If I wanted to properly refinish it, it would have to be stripped and sanded first. Why not give it a coat of paint first? I’d just be losing out on time and the money for the paint if I don’t like it.

  • Mandy
    October 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I love it as is, but paint could look amazing too! I’m excited to see how you style it!

  • AnnW
    October 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I’ve used the Annie Sloan paint several times. It really is something. Easy to use and you get good results. You should try it 1) just to try it out. You might like it for other pieces of furniture around the house. 2) To show how it changes the look and use of something. 3) To spruce up this charming dresser. One of my favorites is Old English Furniture Polish. That would have been good for this piece, before the new polyurethane! Ann

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      I’m considering painting Eleanor’s side table too, so I may give it a go over there. I’ve painted furniture with regular paint and am curious about how the Annie Sloan is in comparison.

      • Heather
        October 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

        hi – I recently painted a chair with Annie Sloan Chalk Emperor’s Silk (red) paint – and it was a dream to work with! No priming and no sanding. I’d recommend to anyone going for the shabby chic or rustic look. Next i am going to try applying the soft wax (Annie Sloan’s Soft wax) to my chair to give it a soft glow :)

  • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
    October 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Wow. For sure a gorgeous dresser. What a find! I so love these types of pieces that fit well into any decor. Absolutely lovely. You did good Nicole!

    Can’t wait to see what it might eventually look like!!

  • Rachel
    October 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I think you should keep the traditional look of it, but clean it up a bit and possibly re-stain. My family has a lot of these old pieces and they are so lovely!

  • Susan
    October 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Annie Sloan does not have to be shabby. Just paint even strokes and play with the consistency of the paint for less brush lines.

    I have redone 2 american of martinsville pieces that neither were the shabby look – just looks like sleek velvet after the wax.

    • julie
      October 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Totally agree, Susan — No one says you have to distress a piece painted in chalk paint!!

    • Making it Lovely
      October 1, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      That’s what I’m hoping for. No plans to do a distressing job.

  • Cher
    October 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Ditto what Susan said- The Chalk Paint is extremely flexible depending on your project. I’m not into the shabby chic, I prefer modern and smooth, and the results I get with the paint when I add water make it much smoother and opaque. I would never go back to regular paint.

  • Kelly
    October 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Nicole, I would suggest first, just replacing the knobs. I bout a mid century hutch for our dining room and before deciding what to do, I first just updated the hardware. I liked it so much that I just went and bought a stain pen that matched to just touch up the scratches. I love it.

    However, I will say, I also have a dresser in our dining room that I have repurposed into a bar. I painted it this sort of hammered silver color (a Martha Stewart paint) with some pretty glass knobs and it also looks great. I just totally depends on the look you want.

    So I guess I would start with the knobs then see what you think.

  • Teri
    October 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    You could use ASCP or other chalk type paint to get the look you want, but I find it is easier and cheaper to use Safepaint by Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. It is a milkpaint that has a creamier texture and already has a bonding agent in it. If you paint for full coverage, and then sand between coats with auto body sandpaper (very high grit), and sand again before you wax, it will not look shabby at all, but very rich and elegant looking. It really takes the wax beautifully.

    That being said, the ASCP will work fine. Be sure to sand between coats. My sandpaper is 2400 grit.

  • Karen @ year of serendipity
    October 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    What about taking a furniture refinisher and steel wool to it? I’m not talking about stripping the whole thing or anything, but that might help to lighten up and even out the “new” finish. I think the wood just looks so lovely!

  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project
    October 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    This would look great with a fresh coat of paint and some cute new knobs from Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters!

  • Nichola
    October 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    You have to watch out sometimes with Annie Sloan paint, if there is a dark or a red based finish on the wood, it may bleed through the paint. Seen it happen a couple of times myself. Just something to be aware of. I like it how it is, I am not against painting furniture but I quite like this the way it is. Maybe with different knobs to update it a little.

  • Kristen
    October 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I’ve used Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint to paint both kitchen and bathroom cabinets, as well as a desk and a vanity. None of them are even remotely “Shabby Chic.” I am a little obsessed with this paint, as it is durable, incredibly easy to use, and beautifully pigment rich. Don’t count it out until you’ve tried it. You might be surprised.

  • Ryan
    October 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I use chalk paint all the time and my house is what I like to call “Eclectically Mid-Century.” I actually make my own chalk paint (nothing wrong with Annie Sloan, but I’m cheap and she doesn’t have the largest color selection) using latex paint, plaster and water. Also, I have used both wax and polycrylic to finish my pieces. I use wax when I want a more matte finish and gloss polycrylic when I want more shine. Either works just fine!

  • Annie
    October 1, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    What an awesome find! As a career furniture refurbisher I gotta say it’s hard to get your hands on a piece like that in the Minneapolis area. I’m always on craigslist looking for that style. Chalk paint is some great stuff. I’ve used milk paint more since it’s a little more affordable though. Both are very easy to work with and have very similar (if not indistinguishable) finishes. I use hemp oil after an easy sand for a great finish. I’ve actually done a piece like this (I call it empire) but a tad shorter in sea green milk paint without a shabby chic feel as some have mentioned. This guy-> http://thewitsblog.com/?p=1349 Most of my pieces have a more modern or eclectic mix and it can totally be achieved using the same supplies the more primitive/”shabby chic” folks turn to. Mixing for custom colors is a good solution too. I can’t wait to see what you do (and I haven’t said but I love your new place)!

    • lsaspacey
      October 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Oh wow, that blog is amazing!! Thanks Annie!

      Nicole, you should check out this post, The Wit’s. I love the first dresser, it looks a lot like yours and I love the mix of the navy chalk paint with the natural wood. Great idea.

      • Annie
        October 3, 2013 at 5:12 pm

        Thank you so much!

  • Anna Rose
    October 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    What a gorgeous piece. I would skip the paint. I am not against painting wood, far from it, but this piece would look so good refinished. Just my two cents :)

  • Kim @ Yellow Brick Home
    October 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I’ve been curious about Annie Sloane for a while now. I sort of hope you use it, just so you can share the experience with us!

  • Christina
    October 1, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    If you decide that you want to try to clean it up without actually refinishing it, I hight recommend Natchez solution. It’s really amazing stuff. I’ve used it on a few wood (and veneer) pieces and was shocked to find that the pieces looked so good after using it.

    Just a thought!


  • Kat@DesignLively
    October 1, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Beautiful dresser with great lines!! I love it! It reminds me of my own that I refinished. It always makes me sad to see pieces like this painted – but to each their own. I’m sure whatever you do it will be lovely.

  • Bridget
    October 1, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Maybe a deep red color?

  • Alana
    October 1, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Aww! Hey! Thank you for the link!

    I *love* that dresser! It’s really pretty.

    I’m positive you’ll make it absolutely beautiful with the rich blue Chalk Paint®. Let me know if I can help with anything. Otherwise, it’s darn near foolproof and the colors are so rich and beautiful.

    • Alana
      October 1, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Oh— one more thing. You don’t have to sand at all. Not before painting, not between coats. Just use a high quality natural bristle brush and nice, smooth strokes. Piece of cake.

  • Kari H
    October 1, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    You can make your own chalk paint by adding a tbsp of unsanded grout for every pint of paint. I do it often and it works like a charm. Then I just hand rub some Briwax over :)

  • stevi
    October 2, 2013 at 12:54 am

    It’s nice. I’d paint it fuchsia (with a matte finish) and change the knobs.

  • Tina@TravelingMama
    October 2, 2013 at 1:17 am

    I would paint it and never look back! It took me years to paint our cabinet and then our table and I was so pleased with the result! I didn’t sand mine either. I’m too impatient for that, but both pieces turned out perfectly!

  • rcwillman
    October 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I found the same dresser at our local STVdP! opening one of the drawers there was the paperwork for DNR! The dresser came from a local assisted living community. I love the piece’s profile.
    I’ve left mine as is, loved the suggestions on your page, I checked out AS emperor red online and wish I had the courage to go that way. I’ll be watching to see what you finally decide. My husband prefers wood finishes to any paint finish so I always need to convince him its going to be great!

  • Juliane at Modern Mural
    October 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Beautiful piece. I’d probably live with it for a little bit, too. You can always touch it up with a wood repair marker for now. I love the front of it. It feels strong and elegant!

  • Eowyn
    October 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Sorry if someone already suggested this, I didn’t read through all of the comments, but it might look more mod in a bright yellow or the bright blue in your rug for a funkier look.

  • Alana
    October 3, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    OMG! Painting wood?? What’s next? Cats and dogs marrying each other???

  • Elizabeth
    October 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    What a lovely Empire revival dresser!

    I notice that there’s some rubbing around the drawers (against the sides of the frame, where they pull out). I think that if you paint, the paint will rub away there and you’ll get a shabby chic look whether you want it or not. You might be able to fix it with a little extra sanding first (since it sounds like you’ll have to sand away the imperfections in the new coat of finish, anyway).

    I love ASCP paint (dreamy to work with!) and I think this dresser will look great whatever you decide to do. I’d like to put in a good word for the original wooden knobs, though, since wooden or glass knobs were pretty much all that was used on those Empire revival (1890’s) pieces. I think the big, plain knobs really suit the heavy, simple lines of the Empire revival style.

  • Jamie Tack
    March 10, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    I’m snickering, not because of anything you have written. However, i had the same exact dresser in my bedroom growing up. It was heavy. Mine had a antique mirror on top of it. Mine was passed down by my great aunt twila. It was a good dreaser.