I have lately fallen in love with taking old, unloved ugly-duckling items and giving them a bit of a makeover to let their inner swan shine through. This little dresser was bought on eBay for the princely sum of £3.19 and picked up from an address just five minutes away from me (thanks to the MoneySavingExpert’s fantastic eBay Local tool which helps you find items for sale in your area which are collection only, and often have few or no bids). It had been autographed in pen by the seller’s children (not in an artistic way), had been through several paint jobs, and had some truly hideous clear plastic star-shaped knobs on, along with an extra set of holes where the drawers had clearly once had handles. Pretty, it was not, but I spied potential in the nice rounded top and the very lovely carved detail on the front, and a few hours and a few tweaks later, it’s true beauty was revealed.
First of all, I removed the horrendous knobs, and sanded down the drawer fronts and sides where there were many layers of old paint. I bought some plain wooden knobs from Homebase and attached them, filling the spare holes with filler, and sanding once dry. Then I gave both drawers two coats of teak woodstain, which brought out the grain nicely and left a soft sheen.
The body of the chest got a good sanding all over to remove the chipped old paint layers at the edges and in the cracks, using some paint stripper and a wire brush to remove some paint build up in the decorative carving on the front. Once dry, I gave it two coats of homemade chalk paint. I confess, I have never actually used genuine Annie Sloan or MMS chalk paint, and though I am sure they give a much better finish and are much easier to use, I was pretty happy with the finish I got with my homemade version! I got a mixed sample pot of creamy-pink paint from Homebase, on sale at only £1 because it was a pre-mixed sample, and bought a box of grout (unsanded). I mixed the paint and grout at a ratio of 2:1, 2 cups of paint for every 1 cup of grout I stirred in (very thoroughly). I mixed only a little at a time and then used it, because once mixed it cannot be stored like real chalk paint can, so bear this in mind when you start and don’t mix lots right away. The chest took only two coats, which dried very quickly. I do have a large pine wardrobe I wish to paint, and for that I will use the authentic version of chalk paint, simply because I can’t afford to have it go wrong, and self-mixing that amount of paint would be very tiresome, so I will write then about what kind of a difference using bought chalk paint makes, or if you have experience of both, please do leave a comment and let me know if I really ought to be buying the professional stuff!
The dresser then looked quite pretty as it was, but it lacked a little something. In order to respect the age of the dresser, and to complement the pretty carving, I decided it needed a little distressing for a more antique look. I had never done this before so was rather worried that I would just totally ruin what was otherwise a fairly nice-looking paint job. I read a few tips on the internet, and browsed Pinterest to see how other people do it. There are various methods you can follow, but many just involved sandpaper and rubbing, which seemed the easiest way, especially since I always have a huge stash of sandpaper to hand. The most important tip seemed to be to only distress where the wood would naturally take a bit of a beating and paint would genuinely wear off over time, to give it an authentic look. This meant focusing on corners, sides, edges, and the parts where the drawers open and close.
With trepidation I got to work with the sandpaper. About five minutes later, it looked like this:
The only place where it looked unnatural was in the middle of the front, where I had imagined it might get a lot of wear, but the distressing just looked a bit wrong. Happily, this is an easy mistake to rectify – I just re-painted over the part I didn’t like! So don’t worry if you’re trying this for the first time too – fixing over-zealous distressing is very simple indeed.
The final touch needed was to fix and protect the paint, which did have quite a chalky feel to it which was not unpleasant, but wasn’t quite as smooth as you’d want. I used furniture wax, applied with a paintbrush (I started off with a yellow jiffy cloth, but very quickly realised that the cloth was adhering to the surface as much as the wax!) all over the paint, and especially on the exposed areas. You can buy special distressing waxes which complement the antiqued look very nicely, and I think I will try with one of these next time, but the ordinary wax also worked very well, leaving a nice soft finish and completing the transformation.
At £3.19 for the dresser, £4 for the two new knobs, £1 for the paint and using woodstain and wax I already had, this was an unbelivably cheap project but the end results look far from it. I’m now on the hunt for more furniture to transform!
I’m linking this project up to some great parties, thanks to all the hosts!