Before & After: Nursery Dresser

This post is dedicated to my coworker Vanessa. For the past few months, whenever it got slow at work I would take a few seconds and cruise around on Craigslist looking for a dresser. I am picky. And borderline OCD. And indecisive. All of this adds up to me taking six months to make a decision normal people would have made in three days.

She has seemingly infinite reserves of patience, because not once during those months did she grab me by the shoulders and shake me violently whilst screaming “PICK ONE GOD DAMMIT! Just PIIIIICK OOOONNNEE!” even though she must have wanted to. Desperately.

Now. Onto the good stuff.

We needed to buy a dresser to store baby stuff in. I had a very specific idea in mind of what type of dresser I wanted, and this was it:


I didn’t want “baby” furniture. I wanted something I could use for years and re-purpose in other areas of our home once it outgrew its purpose as a onesie-holder & change table.

Preferably mid-century, solid wood, long and low, with plenty of drawers. It also had to be less than $400. I came up with that number because you can buy an IKEA piece of crap press-board dresser for the same amount, so it seemed reasonable for a quality piece of secondhand furniture. 

There were two problems however. One, this type of dresser was really hard to find. Not impossible, because I did come across two or three that fit the bill, but hard because they were all being sold in the city about an hours drive from where we live and getting there before they were scooped by someone else was a challenge.

Oh, also? There is absolutely nowhere in our house that would fit an almost 6 foot long dresser. Ha! Did I forget to mention that? I’m not sure what I thought would happen to change that fact, because, knowing this, I just kept looking. For months.

Anyway, fast forward to a week ago. I was getting antsy, nesty, needing to get things in order-y. Adam and I were driving into town after a midwife’s appointment and I declared “That’s IT. I’ve had it. I am finding a dresser today and I’m going to buy it and paint it and then this whole saga will be over. OVER!”

Adam, who had confessed to me recently that he was having dreams about mid-century dressers and Eames rocking chairs, just nodded numbly. 

Nevertheless, Internets, I want you to know that I manifested this dresser!

The first second hand store I walked into had a fabulous little number sitting in the corner and I knew that my search was over.

It was in great shape, the frame and drawers were solid wood, and it wasn’t 6 feet long! Best of all, it was $50. I bought it on the spot and Adam and his amazing coworker Saren both helped get it to our house the next day.

So here we are, the little dresser that could, before:


Although the frame was solid wood, the tops and sides were veneer and in pretty bad shape so I didn’t feel too badly about painting them. First I had a lovely tete-a-tete with an elderly man at my local hardware store, then, armed with paint supplies, I began the work.

Obviously I chose to start at high noon on one of the hottest days we’ve had so far. Why not?

I scuff-sanded the whole dresser, then applied about a million (3) coats of primer. In between coats I went inside, collapsed in front of a fan and delicately dabbed my forehead with a cool washcloth.


Originally I was going to paint the sides of the drawers a fun colour (like a bright yellow) but when I primed them I absolutely loved the way they looked with a racing stripe of natural wood running down the drawer grooves. (Incidentally I also think this helped ward off any issues with sticky drawers that you can sometimes have when painting a wood piece.)

After priming everything, I set to work on the drawer fronts. I wanted to do an ombre-style dresser like this one I saw on Pinterest. The easiest way to do this, I think, is just to grab a paint chip card with three hues of the came colour  and go to town, rather than trying to mix and match to find ones that work together.

I chose three Behr colours: Embellished Blue, Surfer, and Aquatic Green. I was able to get these in little sample pots, so the three shades of blue paint only cost around $15 and I still have a good 2/3’s left in each pot.

I painted and sanded and painted and sanded and painted some more. Then Adam and I hemmed and hawed about keeping the original hardware – those sweet little bows – and whether or not to paint the legs. I was leaning towards original hardware and naked legs as a nod to the old wood colour, but once we moved the dresser into the room I changed my mind, and we painted the legs and switched out the old handles for crystal drawer pulls.

So, behold! The finished product.


I would still like to get some cute drawer liners, and put a coat of high-gloss paint on the top of the dresser, as the current finish is satin and probably won’t stand up too well to all of the scrubbing and wiping down it will get in its current incarnation as a change table.

That can wait until I can stand to look at another paintbrush however, in the meantime viola! Project, complete 🙂

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