From the Side of the Road to the Side of my Staircase: Dresser Upcycle

Last summer, I went to get Chelsea from her parent's house to get some dinner. We got all situated in my little 99 Taurus, and headed out. But... on the way out of her neighborhood, I spotted a sturdy dresser out on the side of the road.

We immediately turned around to get her SUV and haul the beast back into her garage until I got a storage unit (which took about a day). Fitting it into her car was quite the adventure, I had to sit in the back with my legs hanging over the bumper, holding the dresser in the car, and holding the hatch door down. But we made it work.

I didn't know what I wanted to do with it yet. Refinish it? Paint it? This was my first big furniture project, I felt overwhelmed. It sat in the storage unit, being hand sanded and stripped for months.

Was I going to use it as a dresser? A TV stand? A buffet table? The possibilities kept coming to me, but I still couldn't decide. And what about those flowers? Did I want to keep them, recreate them? And the hardware... to polish it back to its former gaudy golden glory, to make it silver, or to leave as is?

And don't even get me started on the door. There were (are) these huge cracks running right down the center of both oval frames, as if they had originally been two separate doors, and then had too much force on them once some fool combined them.

And then there were the scratches, no... gouges, on the top of this thing, as if Cujo himself had had a brawl with the dresser. Some were so deep I could stand a dime on edge in them if the wind wasn't blowing. I had my work cut out for me.

When I started to strip the lacquer off of the top, I realized I had gotten myself into some hellish mess. I gave up for a while, started some other smaller projects in the meantime. The dresser sat in the storage unit, neglected, half naked, and without any of its hardware.

Then I moved into the apartment, and bought a palm sander.

I went to Target, grabbed a random can of grey-ish paint & primer (I'm all about the grey), and went home with a mission: finish this dresser before people came over.
Devine Buck paint, Target $24.99

I powered through the rest of this project in two days (with some hand sanding help from my friend Hannah). Sure, I had sawdust in all corners of our main floor, in my sinuses, and on every piece of fabric within a 5 foot radius, but... it was worth it.

I started by sanding the whole thing down to get a nice surface for the paint/primer. Then I put a couple of coats on the main portion of the dresser.

This paint terrified me. It goes on in a light tan color, and then slowly dries to a nice grey. And depending on where the light hit it, you could see hints of lavender or that light tan color. It's like a chameleon. I didn't know how I was going to like this project after all.

But after a few coats, and a day to dry, I saw it coming together. I decided to keep the hardware as-is, a kind of dirty brass/gold color, and left the door as one piece (trying to separate it into two sections scared me more than the paint did).

It didn't turn out too bad, and it fits right on the side of our staircase nicely (excuse all of the Christmas junk everywhere and the lack of decor, this was about a week after we moved in).

This was my first big project, so it was a learning experience, for sure. But, it's taken some damage (there was a poinsettia that peed all over it and stained a chunk of the top green), and is still totally usable. I'll have to show an updated picture here one of these days, my house is not this barren (in fact I have a little bit too much stuff everywhere in my opinion. But I love it all so....it stays).

But about those doors..... Anyone have suggestions for what to put in the ovals? I need help, people, this is still a work in progress! If you have any suggestions, questions, or helpful hints for the future, please feel free to leave a comment below, I appreciate it!


  1. Ryan Little: you did some great stencil art I would do that ?


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