sow’s ears and silk purses.

I sent Mr. Q to pick up a dresser from someone selling on Craigslist a few weeks ago, and while there he texted me to ask if I wanted a second dresser that the guy had for sale.  There was a bit of miscommunication and after some texting back and forth, he ended up buying the 2nd dresser without my having seen a photo of it.

On the plus side, he only paid an additional $15 or so for it because that was all the cash he had on hand.  On the minus side, it’s a fairly cheaply constructed piece of furniture.  It also needed a few repairs before I could paint it, and it’s fairly nondescript.  Definitely not my usual style.

But, what the heck, Mr. Q bought it, so I may as well do what I can with it, right?

First I called up my favorite handyman/neighbor, Ken.  He was busy counting his hockey pucks (no lie, he collects hockey pucks and has been working on rearranging them in his custom made display rack lately), but he was willing to take a break from the pucks and help me out with this dresser.  We worked together on shoring up the drawers that were falling apart, replacing missing drawer stops, grinding down stops that were rubbing on the drawer bottoms and adding some glides that were missing.

The rest was easy.  I sanded it lightly, vacuumed away the dust and wiped it down with a damp rag.  Then I painted it in two coats of Dixie Belle’s French Linen.

French Linen is one of those chameleon like colors that totally changes depending on the lighting and the colors around it.  It’s a muddy grey-brown with a tiny hint of a lavender undertone.  I didn’t see the lavender while painting the piece in the artificial lighting of my piano room after dark, but once I pulled the piece in front of my white wall on a bright, sunny day I could see it.

Once the paint dried, I added with prima’s Carte Postale transfer.

It was the perfect fit for the front of this dresser, and I also love how it looks over the French Linen.

As for the knobs … well, I thought about replacing them with glass knobs.  That certainly would have been pretty.  But I would have needed to order them (I usually order them by the dozen from D Lawless Hardware).  Plus, there are 10 knobs on this dresser and I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest any more money in it.

So instead I cleaned up the original wood knobs using Dixie Belle’s No Pain Gel Stain in Walnut because that didn’t cost anything.

After I took that photo above, I made a small mistake.  I started to wax the knobs before they were fully dry.  The wax ending up taking off some of the stain giving me a lighter color as you’ll see in a minute.  I rather liked the result, so I went with it.  But this is something to keep in mind.  This is an oil based product and takes longer to dry than the typical products I work with (6 to 8 hours according to the label).

The wooden knobs give this piece a totally different look than glass knobs would have, don’t you think?

I suspect this decision will have a polarizing effect on you guys.  Some of you will love it, some of you will hate it, but there probably won’t be many in between.

So, here’s the thing about this dresser.  Although it has been repaired to make it as functional as possible, and I have done what I can to improve the look of it, in the end you know what they say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

No matter what I do to it, it won’t become a high quality, well constructed piece of furniture.  I can’t charge top dollar for this piece no matter how pretty it is.

But it definitely is pretty.

So is it worthwhile to spend 6 or 7 hours on repairs and finishing, add a $30 transfer, plus another $15 or so worth of paint and wax on a piece like this?

Well, it can be.  In this case it will work out because I only paid $15 for the dresser.  My handyman Ken works for wine and some occasional profit sharing, and I have nothing more important to do with my time (although Ken could have been counting hockey pucks instead).  In addition, both Dixie Belle Paint Co and with prima send me their product for free.  So yes, for me this piece was totally worthwhile.

But for you that might not be the case.  My advice is to always try to find higher quality pieces of furniture to work on.  They are out there, and you may pay a little more than $15 for them, but they will be more worthy of your time.  In the end you’ll have a beautiful piece of furniture that is also well constructed.

Then again, if you’re on a budget and just want something pretty for the kid’s room, or the laundry room, or the potting shed … this dresser might be perfect for you!

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co and with prima for providing the supplies used in the attempt to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.

If you’re looking for Dixie Belle products you can find them here.

If you’re looking for with prima products you can find local retailers here, or online sources here.

43 thoughts on “sow’s ears and silk purses.

  1. I had the same thing happen to me with a kitchen type of cabinet. I picked it up at a garage sale, but it was originally listed on FB Marketplace. I should have really looked it over good, but it was poorly constructed and basically a piece of junk. But I painted it white with red handles and sold it for just a little over the cost I had in it. When I posted it for sale I made it clear that it wasn’t all wood but I had a lady who absolutely loved it and sent me photos of it in her house. So, while it might not be the quality you want in your home, you very likely will make someone very happy. And your dresser really is lovely.


  2. The first thing I noticed on the dresser in the fist “After” picture was the knobs. I really like how they stand out. You took a very ordinary dresser and made it very pretty. It would probably work in a spare room where it isn’t used as much as it would be in a regular room. Also – love the color!


  3. I think the color of the knobs compliments the paint and transfer perfectly. I enjoy that you share the ins and outs of your business decisions with your readers. Now, if you can just find a way to clone Ken…


  4. The dresser is cute. Not totally sure about the knobs but leaning more towards not . Almost one of those in the middle people.


  5. I love the wood knobs on this dresser! They are the perfect “earthy” compliment to the botanical print and fit the simple style of the dresser. Thank you for including your business decision making process. It helps me think through my purchase and fix-up choices.


  6. I’m in the middle ground here – Don’t LOVE it, but don’t HATE it either. I think it turned out very pretty and I love the lighter knobs. It works really well on this piece!


  7. Yes to the knobs.Thanks for a post that highlights the economic and rationale of furniture flipping it is an important piece that a lot of folks miss.


  8. I would normally lean toward the glass knobs but the wood really works here with what you have done, and you have less money in the piece, so win win! Not one of your faves I could tell but I love your honesty and you made her look respectable. Someone will love her!!


  9. Used Dixie Bell for the first time after seeing your work with it. Normally I use MMSMP but sometimes I I going to want a different look and faster paint job. So I’m wondering of the Dixie Bell whites how do you think the colors compare with MMS. My favorite whites are Ironstone and Linen. So far I only have Drop Cloth from Dixie Bell. I like it but it was darker/more yellow than what I would like. Maybe I need to get Cotton or Fluff to mix with it to make my own? Appreciate if you can help!


    1. Not Linda but I do sell Dixie Belle. On the whites, the color Fluff is closest to Ironstone. Cotton is a white white, drop cloth is a cream white and Fluff is a gray white. Fluff is my favorite. You could probably do a mix of drop cloth and cotton to get to the linen.


  10. Well, I think its very cute. It’s very different from all the dressers I’ve seen with that transfer on them, usually I only see white with that transfer. It’s definitely an improvement!


  11. I like it. I’ve always liked wooden knobs but I also like glass knobs. You did a great job without spending a fortune. That’s a win in my book! Love the color.


  12. I love the transfer and the wooden knobs. I love the “mistake” on the knobs. You are so inspiring me as I sit here in Upstate New York — lots of ideas for projects before the gardening season comes (late May!). 😉


  13. I get what you’re saying about quality but this is sooo pretty! And so much furniture sold today is flimsy and cheap and doesn’t have near the character of this. This is a statement piece and it sure looks like it could also have some good storage capabilities too! Your knack for combining paint and transfers is amazing. And I love the knobs!


    1. Thanks so much Sheri! This is definitely one of those situations where the lack of quality materials doesn’t show in the photos. You’d have to be up close and personal to see what I mean. But still, it would be great for use in a guest room or other situation where it wasn’t heavily used. Conversely, it would probably not hold up long in a kid’s room if the kid in question is tough on furniture.


  14. I have painted a very similiar chest of drawers using MMS navy. Artissmo maybe? And I left the knobs stained as well. I like the look so well that I have replicated it the 2nd time I had a similiar dresser. (or is it chest of drawers?)


    1. I’ve never quite figured out the difference between a chest of drawers, a dresser or a bureau 😉 I’ve only done a couple of pieces with unpainted knobs and they are really growing on me (here’s another)


  15. Love the knobs and they way they pop against the paint and transfer. Rustic against the pretty. Love the combo. It came out beautiful.


  16. I love it! You did a great job, as always! Keep on being creative, your blog has been a great inspiration to me with all your interesting projects. There are only a few blogs that keep my attention and yours is one of them!


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