Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Frenchy Dresser Reveal

Hello, friends! 

I have been super busy working on the yard this week, but have no excuse not to post today since it is raining yet again... this blasted Utah weather! 

I am thrilled to share with you the final reveal of the french dresser I completed for my darling Sister in law, Willow.  I have to tell you, this project gave me a run for my money with several challenges I ran into.  I am so happy to be able to finally show a beautiful finished product.

As a reminder, or for those who are stopping by for the first time today, here is the before:

Unlike many of my furniture transformations, this one was already a cute "before".  It just wasn't the color my sister was going for, and the glaze job wasn't her style.  She felt it looked dirty.  Here, ladies and gentlemen (if any) is the after:

 As with many of my transformations, the top was stripped and re stained a deep color to match some of her existing Ethan Allen Wood furniture.  (this was the process that about killed me but through trial and error we ended with a beautiful finished product).  I will share the process after the pics.

Gorgeous stained wood top that shows several imperfections, adding to its charm and character

 I ever so lightly distressed the corners and high points to bring out some of the white hiding underneath and in places some of the natural wood.
  Full angle of the gorgeous stained wood top
 Crystal knobs purchased at Anthropologie (hey, some things are worth a splurge...)
My sister in law found these perfect antiqued pewter pulls HERE.  They absolutely make the piece (though they were a pain in my rear end to install)  You know I love you, Willow!  :)

I am thrilled with the way this piece turned out and can't wait to see it in Willow's master bedroom once her makeover is complete. 

Here's how I transformed this piece.
  •  I lightly sanded down the dresser and drawers to get rid of all of the pieces of sawdust/ dirt that had been painted over.
  • I stripped the poly, glaze and paint from the top slab of wood. I have found that stripper works best if you first sand your piece to get rid of the top protective coat.  Once I sanded it down, I applied a VERY THICK layer of Citristrip with a paint brush in the direction of the grain.

  • After 12 hours of letting the stripper sit (I have found this to be the magic amount of time with this product), I scraped the layers of paint off with a stripping tool.  If the paint hasn't become tacky, it's not ready yet.  If it's been 12 hours and still isn't tacky, I have found that it needs more product.  Slab on another coat of stripper, wait 12 more hours and then try again.  It should not be labor intensive and should just pull right up.  Trust me on this one.  I spent about 5 hours stripping one leaf of my dining room table before I learned the trick. You can thank me later :)

  • Once I had scraped off as much paint as I could get, I scrubbed the entire surface with mineral spirits, using an old scrub brush to clean off any residual stripper.

  • Then, I took this baby outside and sanded off the rest of the paint residue with a coarse sand paper on my corner cat sander, followed by a very fine sand paper using an orbital sander to avoid the squiggly lines that can come from other sanders (per my fabulous reader's suggestions from another project).

I took very special care with the sander around the hand carved edges, which I discovered was cut out of a much softer wood, probably pine.

Once finished, I had uncovered this gorgeous wood.

  • I used a toothbrush with mineral spirits again to try and scrub as much paint as I could out of the dings that were on top and too deep to sand off.
  • Next, I applied wood conditioner using a clean cloth (leftover drop cloth from this chair) and followed it with a coat of minwax stain in Dark Walnut.

As you can see, it looked TERRIBLE! I wanted to cry.  Seriously.  I should have known it wouldn't have turned out well with the way all of these white little streaks popped up after the conditioner, but I thought the depth of the color would hide that. Also, you can see that there are tons of discolorations across the top.  The pine trim section soaked up that stain so strongly that it looked almost black after one coat. 

After throwing a few tantrums and seriously considering rolling paint right over the top of all that hard work, I emailed a few talented gals.  Sweet Marian, or Miss Mustard Seed herself responded to my plea for suggestions with a great idea to try and slather on a ton of stain, let it soak for a while, and see if it changed anything.  After all, nothing could hurt at this point.  I am so grateful to her for taking the time to reply to me and for offering such great insight.
  •  I went ahead and did just that.  I ran to Home Depot and picked up another can of stain in Gunstock.  My hope was that something with a lot of red/ orange undertones would help those white streaks to appear more golden, rather than such a stark contrast against the dark walnut.  I would have never chosen this color on its own, but on top of the dark walnut, it worked miracles!

The discolorations were still evident, and it certainly didn't look like a perfect piece, but it was perfect enough for me!  Gunstock in a huge amount did the trick. :)
  • Lastly for the top, I applied several coats of Minwax Polycrylic protective finish in Semi-gloss in hopes that adding a sheen would help to disguise the discolorations.  Normally, I prefer to finish wood stained tops with wax, but this was a unique situation. I sanded down lightly after each coat of poly with steel wool to get rid of any brush/ roller lines.

Alas, the top was finished!

The drawers and dresser were like a walk in the park compared to this blasted lovely top.

  • I painted everything in "Seadrifter" by Kwal Howell, color matched by Behr with their Paint and Primer in One in a satin finish. 

  • I lightly distressed the drawers and dresser, focusing on the corners and high points.  Then, I rubbed on a coat of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax with some clean drop cloth, and installed the new hardware. 

And there you have it,  the 1000 step process of how I achieved this look!  Fortunately, I have a beautiful finished piece to be proud of. 

 The moral of this story is, don't give up!  I can't tell you how many projects of mine I have wanted to just roll white paint over everything and start over.  Sometimes, you just need to keep trucking along and it really will all pull together in the end! 

Thanks for listening to my cheesy pep talk... it's really just a reminder to myself.

Pictures of the dresser in Willow's fabulous bedroom will be coming soon!  Stay Tuned....



I'm sharing this transformation with these awesome parties.  Check them out!

Tip Junkie handmade projects

The DIY Show Off

My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia


Domestically Speaking

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special


Transformation Thursday

Furniture Feature Fridays


  1. Beautiful! I have always loved the dark stain w/ light paint combo!! Great job!

  2. Your dresser turned out beautiful! I am glad you were able to get the top to look so good after all that work. I love the crystal knobs and the aqua color.


  3. I can identify with the frustration of staining. I've had a few near meltdowns but I usually find the key is more and more and more stain haha.

    This turned out beautifully. I'm totally jealous!

  4. This is gorgeous! And is such an inspiration for me to "keep on, keeping on" when I have project troubles.
    One thing worth noting... When using steel wool with water based poly, if you're not super careful to remove all the tiny shreads of the steel wool, it has been known to leave little rust areas in your project. I've never had it happen to me because I usually use oil based poly, but am affraid to find out. When I do use water based poly, I'll use synthetic steel wool. Just a tip - hope to save you a possible headache. :-)

  5. The wood and color of your dresser are beautiful. Thanks for sharing all those tips! I just redid my French Dresser if you have time to check it out!

    I had hoped to showcase the top in the same way, but mine was laminate. Boo! But, it allowed me to try something really different and I'm really happy with the result. Following you now! Hope you follow me too!


  6. @Whitney Thanks so much for the tip about steel wool. I ran right out and did an extra careful wipe down just to make sure :) Smart thinking. thanks for the sweet words too!

  7. Its so gorgeous- I love the color and love the stained top- just delightful! Would love if you would come share this at Feathered Nest Friday! :)

  8. What a great post! Something similar just happened to me and I was out of my mind! I was so close to slopping some paint on the top but decided to "cool off" for a week.

    After reading your post, I'm going out to the garage to try your trick! Don't you just love that Marian aka Missmustard Seed??

  9. It looks beautiful! The wood top looks great too despite all the aggravation...hate when stuff like that happens!

  10. That is just beautiful! You may have just inspired me on a project I've been stumped on for a while..I love the dark natural wood on top and the light blue... :-)

  11. it turned out beautifully! i love the color and the hardware... you did a fab job!

  12. Wow! Although this piece had good bones to begin with, you have turned it into such a chic piece! The hard work you shared definitely paid off!

    Thanks for linking to "Meet Me On Monday"...

    Take care,


I can't wait to hear from you! If you have any detailed questions, please feel free to email me- Thanks!