the cottage dresser.

I don’t often buy pieces of furniture that are already painted.  There are a few reasons for that.  First of all, you may not know what kind of paint you are painting over.  Is it oil based?  If the previous paint is oil based you will not get good adhesion over it with a water based paint.  Second, you don’t know how well the previous painter prepped the piece before painting.  If their coat of paint is not stable, your’s won’t be stable either.  Third, if the existing paint job is full of drips and brush marks you will need to fix those before you paint (by sanding them down).  Fourth, if you are going to distress your piece by sanding it you risk having the existing color of the piece show through on the edges, so if you don’t like the color you are out of luck.  Lastly, while stripping the existing paint might be an option for some, I am not a fan.  It’s a messy, time consuming job.

None of these things are obstacles that can’t be overcome, but it takes time to deal with them and why bother when I can just keep looking and find an unpainted piece to work on?

But as always, there are exceptions to every rule.  This dresser is one of them.  I broke my own rule simply because this piece was dirt cheap.

Since this piece is already painted, I thought I would take a moment to critique the previous paint job and explain what I think isn’t working for this dresser

No. 1 – The terracotta paint color.  This is just kind of a hideous color.  I’m sorry if any of you out there are lovers of terracotta, but I’m definitely not.  I’ll put this color right up there with faux tiger oak, I just don’t like it.

No. 2 – The oversized, over-shiny, bulging brass drawer pulls.  Ugh.  Could these be any more unattractive?  They really aren’t suited for the style of this dresser.

No. 3 – The two-toned look.  Normally I enjoy a good two-toned piece and I’ve certainly done a few in my day (here, here, here and here are some good examples).  In the case of this dresser though, the two-toned color scheme seems to be emphasizing the fact that the upper drawer is different than the rest.  In my opinion it just throws off the balance of the entire piece and makes it look strangely top heavy.

No. 4 – The bad distress job on the drawer fronts.  These drawers look like they were just hit randomly with the sandpaper.  They don’t look naturally distressed over time.  I know that some people are OK with this look, but it just doesn’t do it for me.

The trick here is going to be whether or not I can improve upon this piece.

I started by removing the hardware and sanding the piece.  I sanded it a bit more heavily than I would normally just to be sure I was going to get good adhesion over that existing paint.  I also wiped the piece down with some TSP Substitute.  Next, I filled some of the holes left by the original hardware.  I had some new pulls in mind and although they also require two holes each, they are spaced just a little wider than the existing holes.

I started painting with a base coat of Fusion’s Inglenook.

Ah, better already I think.  Inglenook is such a lovely color I was tempted to just stop here, but I didn’t actually have enough Inglenook for a second coat.  Plus, I was going to add these drawer pulls …

Aren’t they sweet?  They are from Hobby Lobby and their full price is $8.99 each.  Kind of high if you need 8 of them.  So of course I waited for the half-price sale and then paid $4.50 each instead.  Even then it was $36 just for the pulls.  However, since I’d gotten such a great deal on the dresser itself I felt like I could splurge a bit on the hardware.

Anyway, these pulls are just a little bit more green than the Inglenook, so in came Fusion’s Brook which is almost a perfect match for the pulls.  These two colors are really very similar.  The Brook, much like the pulls, is just a little darker and a tad more green.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just paint the first coat in Brook too.  Well, it’s simple, I didn’t have enough of that color for two coats either.  And since I’m a total cheapskate (and I already splurged on those drawer pulls!), rather than buy more paint I just made do with a basecoat of Inglenook followed by a second coat of Brook.  It was a simple solution and a great way to use up two jars with not a lot of paint left in either one.

You might have noticed that I said I needed 8 drawer pulls, but this dresser originally came with 10.  There was a mismatched pair on the top drawer.  The top drawer itself is mismatched with the rest of the drawers.

As I was working on this piece I realized that it looked far better without any knobs on that top drawer.  You can still easily open and close it from the sides of the drawer.  So I filled the holes from the previous knobs and just left the drawer without hardware.  Now it’s sort of a ‘hidden’ drawer.  It looks like it’s just part of the trim that wraps around to the sides as well.  It’s a great place to hide the family jewels!

As you can also see in that photo, I just barely distressed the edges of this dresser.  I didn’t want to reveal too much of that terracotta color that is underneath.

I used a lot of vintage greens in my props for the photos including some old wallpaper and that awesome green bird cage.

So there you have it.  A pretty blue-green cottage style dresser.

I think I improved upon the existing paint scheme, what do you think?

 

60 thoughts on “the cottage dresser.

  1. I always learn so much from your blog. Thank you for taking the time to write up how you do your beautiful (and I mean beautiful) pieces

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    1. Well, hmmmm. I had two of the drawer pulls before I ever purchased the dresser. I bought them on a whim one day because I thought they were pretty (for some people it’s shoes, for me it’s drawer hardware). When I realized how well they would work for this dresser I went back and bought six more. So I pretty much chose the hardware first. Initially I was going to leave an undercoat of Inglenook and paint over it with white so the pulls would really pop. But I didn’t have any white (ha, how odd that the one color I don’t have is white), and then I remembered the Brook which coincidentally matched the pulls perfectly. So it wasn’t so much a plan as just rolling with the punches on this one.

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  2. Ohhhh…I just love this dresser and the drawer pulls are just awesome! Now I have to go to Hobby Lobby and get me some of those pulls!

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    1. Definitely go when they are on sale. And did you know that you can get a rain check and they will order more of a particular style if they don’t have enough on the shelf (and you still get the sale price even if they come in after the sale is over)? That’s probably one of those things that everyone already knew except for me.

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  3. The dresser is beautiful – now! It as great “bones”! Love the pulls! When do you paint inside your home instead of your barn workspace? Do you judge by temperature and/or humidity? What do you consider the “move it inside” time? I really enjoy and appreciate your explanation of your choices, techniques, and materials (paints, etc.). Thank you. Wish I lived near enough to visit your barn sales – but, alas, I live in LA (Lower Alabama)!

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    1. I move my entire production inside when the temps start regularly falling below freezing at night. I have to move all of my stuff that can’t freeze indoors at that point anyway, so even if the temp warms up enough during the day to paint I still have to run and and forth for supplies which gets to be putzy. I’ll still sometimes sand pieces outside if the temp is above 15 or so tho. But lately we’ve had a lot of sub-zero weather so absolutely nothing is happening in my barn workspace. I will even sand pieces inside my house in this weather, but not a vigorous, strip off the finish sanding, just a light sanding to prep for paint or to distress a freshly painted piece.

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  4. Terra Cotta is Ok for outside pots and blends well with things in Mexico(actually can be quite charming there), but definitely not for furniture. What an improvement! I love the dresser and the pulls are wonderful. What a beautiful dresser. The makeover is perfect!

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  5. Love this makeover, Linda! I never even noticed the wraparound molding on the top drawer before you left off the hardware. I’m curious as to why you didn’t mix the two colors together and go custom? Do Fusion paints mix well? Both colors are absolutely beautiful, but I love when you go rogue! LOL Thanks for sharing!

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    1. LOL, well the honest answer is because that would have required a plan and some forethought and I didn’t use either of those when painting this piece 😉 But yes, I could have mixed them together and that would have worked well too!

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  6. The before hurts my eyeballs, much better! Was this a CL find? The hardware really does make this piece and the idea to leave the top drawer without a pull was spot on. I like the idea of a “hidden drawer”. Speaking of hiding jewels, about 7 years ago on 4th of July, (while my parents were babysitting for me since I was working), their home was broken into. They dumped drawers to find things and took a lot of heirloom jewelry. Luckily, just that year, my Mom had given me my Great Grandma’s black onyx set, so that was safe, but her ruby had been taken…so we thought. Awhile later (weeks), my Mom was vacuuming and saw that it had fallen underneath the bed! The criminals also took a giant, heavy bag of coins, but left the $500 bills sitting just underneath it. Needless to say, they weren’t the brightest bulbs. Anyhow, this dresser made me think of that because they may not have even noticed it was there! Good thinking!

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    1. Yep, a CL find. We drove off to the Como neighborhood to pick it up on a frigid winter evening. Brrrrrr…. it was worth it though. Great story about the jewelry heist. How awful though that your parent’s home was broken into! And so strange that they didn’t take the bills. Perhaps they’d never even seen a $500 bill so didn’t recognize it as real money 😉

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  7. Wow!! What a change. I think it looks much better with no pulls/knobs on the top drawer. Good choice. It’s hard to believe it’s the same dresser. I think that’s an A+ for you on this one.

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  8. I totally agree with you about distressing. Much of the distressing that I see online is not at all natural and in my opinion, therefore, poorly done. This dresser is absolutely beautiful with the perfect marriage between the cute handles and the Fusion Mineral Paint colors that you have chosen. On a side note, I am wondering if you have ever done a base of Fusion Mineral Paint on a piece of furniture with a layer milk paint on top for a “chippy” look, and if so, how did that work? Prep? etc.?

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  9. Another piece when seeing the before I think, what is she thinking? Yet again, you turn a piece of coal into a diamond! Those pulls are really lovely! When reading your response to Alena, “stripping is not for me”, I could not help laughing out loud! My mind went into the gutter!😉 lol
    Blessings

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  10. Big improvement! I love the new color and leaving the pulls of the top drawer was definitely the right decision. The final result is so cute i’d be tempted to buy it even though I don’t need a chest and the color doesn’t go with my house!

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  11. 100% change and it looks great now. Love the top hidden drawer and you wouldn’t know it was even there without the handles. The handles go well with the paint.

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  12. Oh my gosh .What to say now. I love this and the pulls are gorgeous. It looks stunningly beautiful, and I love the secret drawer.as you can guess I did not like the way it was before. Well I guess I am convinced. (Love to Mom and Sis)it sure is cold in Ontario.

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  13. You have such a gift to visualize what a piece should be! This is just lovely and your story regarding the paint is too funny! You should consider offering a consulting business for those of us with furniture we would like to redo but are unable to imagine the “after”! Great job and love the color and pulls.

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  14. Improvement is an understatement. I think you turned the ugly duckling into a swan. Doesn’t even look like the same dresser. Love the pulls and the vintage wallpaper too.

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  15. So very pretty. I’m sure the original color (stain) & hardware didn’t look anywhere as good. You definitely made it look like it was meant to look!

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  16. Fantastic as always! I have some sage green cabinets in the laundry that I’m thinking of redoing. May try some of your tricks. I always learn so much from your posts and just wanted to say how much I appreciate them. I probably did a paint job like that original look somewhere in my past since I’ve been painting old furniture (out of necessity back then) since at least 1985.

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    1. Thanks so much Sugar! You have been painting a long time! I started painting furniture at the height of the Shabby Chic era (early 90’s?) and everything was either white, pink or pale green. Still pretty colors, but I’ve definitely expanded my horizons a bit since then too 🙂

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  17. You are so talented. I have followed your blog since the beginning and by far, this is one of the most amazing before and afters I have ever seen. Well done!

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    1. Thank you so much Teresa! I think this piece just goes to show that a few tweaks (ie. paint color, new hardware, and no hardware in the case of that top drawer) can really make a difference!

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  18. Thank you for sharing all the tips when you do your makeovers! Your before and afters are always awesome! This piece is one of my favs, I love the color and adore those handles! Great job!

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  19. Amazing transformation! Looking at the before I would never have envisioned something so beautiful! I’m a Fusion Merchant and Inglenook is my favorite color! In fact I’m working on a French Provincial Desk today! Love your blog and appreciate all the knowledge and inspiration you have shared!

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