How to Refinish a Dresser, part 2: Prep Rally


So! You found your street dresser (or coffee table or regular table, or cabinet, etc) and now you are going to refinish it! Great. First things first, put it into your garage or covered patio, pour some wine, and consider your options. We found our dresser late at night, so it was too late to do anything, but even if it weren’t, it’s great to just look at the piece for awhile and try to see what you might do. Bust out the Domino book, scour design blogs and Pinterest. Get inspired! Also, talk to your significant other if, perhaps, you get a crazy notion into your noggin like painting the top a strange shade of Grecian blue that you’re just really into that day. Your significant other will likely talk you out of it, and that will be useful for your dresser’s longterm likability as well as your own.

If you are me, you will do this pondering for a day or so, have a fling with Grecian blue, make a dresser inspiration board from beautiful internet dressers (above) and then decide to just paint it white because that is my default and I think most things look better painted white. Or, you might be you, which is awesome, and you might do something like this or this with your dresser, and that would be awesome and ambitious of you. Go you.

Once you have drunk that wine and made that plan, then you can go to the hardware store. At the minimum, you will need the following:

1. A power hand sander. A 1/3 finish sander is great for refurb projects.

2. Primer

3. Roller handles and foam rollers

4. Trays and drop cloths

5. Steel Wool

6. Paper towels

7. A screwdriver, usually phillips head

8. Small hammer

Go to the hardware store, and then come back, and then we’ll do this thang!

Dresser Inspiration via:
Top L-R: Bright & Bold, Michaela Noelle Designs, TenJune 
Bottom L-R: Creative Raisins, CooCoo, Migonis Home  

PS – how to refinish a dresser part one and part three!

How to Refinish a Dresser, part 1: Where’d ya get that dresser?

Baker Beach

Sometimes I think San Francisco is magic. I mean, I know it’s magic – where else in the world do we have the best food, coffee and music AND we always know that the weather’s going to be a  temperate 57 with a mystical fog shawl hovering over us all? It’s like Brigadoon for hippies. Take that, New York.

But San Fran really is magic, because it’s also kind of a mind reader. Case in point: last week. Nathan and I were walking down the stairs, en route to an evening post-dinner walk around the hood, having this conversation:

Him: I really need a dresser, I’m so tired of keeping all my shirts in a box.

Me: Totally understandable, and you are a champ. Let’s just suck it up, go to West Elm, and purchase a $5,000 dresser, even though we don’t want to and none of them are totally quite right. We need to bite the bullet and just do it, to put an end to your hobo existence.

Him: Wouldn’t it be great if we found a vintage dresser that wasn’t $5,000 dollars?

Me: OR! A cheap whatever dresser that had lots of drawers that I could refinish? OR better yet, a free one?

Him: Um, you mean, like… that one?

Young people, you would not believe your eyes. And I almost didn’t either (because I forgot to wear my glasses) but there, in front of our next door neighbor’s house, was a large, eight drawer dresser, in excellent condition, sitting on the curb with a sign marked FREEEEEE.

It might well have read:

To Hilary and Nathan,

Here’s that free dresser you wanted. Got your backs dudes.

Peace and love,

San Francisco

So, we did what all normal people do: inspect for defects, decide that discernible defects can be sanded out, then immediately and covertly move the whole shebang into our garage and high five and chest bump like maniacs. If you’ve ever seen us score primo parking, it’s pretty much the same dance.

What have we learned from all this:

1. The street is not just for car driving and bicycle riding. Sometimes there is awesome stuff to be found out there, and it’s not at all hobo-esque to take advantage of what the street has to offer. I know a few Marina girls who’ve found gems on the curb, and if they can do it, you can.

2. Look before you take the leap. Are the drawer tracks straight? Can the dents be sanded out or will you need to use wood glue to fill? How much sanding will you need to do? If you don’t know all of this yet, you will by the time we’re done. Just know that there’s a difference between a sweet street find and just taking someone else’s disgusting old furniture out of the public eye. And sometimes that line is thin.

3. Know that you will need to outlay some cash. Even free ain’t free folks. If it’s a chair, sometimes the cost of reupholstery can be more than if you’d purchased a new chair. Dressers and tables are easier, but there’s still paint, knobs, extra sand paper and more to purchase. All told, this dresser will probably end up costing us around $110. Way cheaper than anything we’ve found, and it’s been a fun project, but the only way this sucker was going to be 100% free was if we took it straight up to our bedroom as is, and as you can see:

Dresser before

That just wasn’t going to happen.

PS – how to refinish a dresser part two and three when you’re ready!