The Mother of All Furniture Makeovers


For more than a year and a half, my husband and I had been on a quest to find a vintage dresser for our upstairs guest bedroom that had the right look, the right price, and more importantly, the right height for our sloped attic ceiling.
Dresser found at Habitat for Humanity.
Dresser found at Habitat for Humanity.
So we headed out on a summer Saturday, deciding to give the Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop a try. I had called ahead to see if they had any vintage dressers in stock, and a staff member described to me one or two selling for well over $150 — more than was in our budget, but we were getting desperate after scouring tag sales, shopping at thrift stores galore, and searching on Craigslist, all to no avail. So with low expectations, we drove the 45 minutes to the store with our fingers lightly crossed.
Shout out to Habitat in Pittsfield, MA.
Shout out to Habitat in Pittsfield, MA.
As we were driving past their open garage door brimming with used goods, I snickered as I glanced over at a monstrosity of a dresser painted in fluorescent lime green with a tropical fruit motif. This disturbing vision could only beg one question: “Why would anyone paint a vintage dresser with beautiful lines in such horrifying colors…and with fruit, no less?” As we approached the hideous beast, I quickly saw that the fruit design was not watermelon as I had initially thought from a distance but yellow bananas against a bright red background. Not that watermelons would have been any better, mind you…
Here the dresser ready to be picked up by us.
Here the dresser ready to be picked up by us.
We walked towards it with sinking hearts and a feeling of whooziness brought on by the jarring lime green and fruit motif. Upon closer inspection, I was even more shocked to realize two things: first, that the yellow bananas against their red backgrounds were not painted on but….are you ready for this?….fabric that was stapled and velcroed onto the fronts of the drawers; and secondly, that this bizarre tropical-style dresser was actually the size and style we were looking for. It even had the glass drawer pulls and knobs that I love.
Tons of heavy-duty staples to remove!
Tons of heavy-duty staples to remove!
Could it be that this most hideous of painted dressers was actually the one for us? The thing was, it seemed to be sitting in a pile of items with sold stickers on them. After checking with Habitat staff, it turned out that it was NOT, in fact, already sold but had just come in, and they hadn’t yet had time to put it out on the floor. At $55, the price was certainly right, but did we really want to take on this project? If so, this was going to be the mother of all furniture makeovers, but as you will see, it would soon be worth it!
Peeling back and removing layers of fabric.
Peeling back and removing layers of fabric.
After removing what my husband swears was “hundreds” of heavy-duty staples, unscrewing all the knobs, peeling back layers of dirty fabric, and finally giving the dresser a thorough cleaning and disinfecting, it took not one, not two, but three coats of primer to cover up all that fluorescent green. But as that final coat of primer dried, I was beginning to see glimmers of it as a thing of beauty rather than something to be mocked. Here it is post-primer:
Husband removing and prying off staples.
Husband removing and prying off staples.
On a whim the month before, I had picked up a can of chalk paint by Heirloom Traditions in a color called Venetian so I decided to give that paint color a whirl.
I had started getting a panicky feeling when it looked like the paint had a pinkish hue to it, but I realized after it dried down to a beautiful shade of greyish off-white that my fears were all for naught. It still seemed a little too white to me, so I mixed in some paint I had lying around in a mushroom color to darken it a bit. I may tweak the color a little more at some point, but for now, here’s how it turned out after the makeover:
Here's the dresser after primer.
Here's the dresser after primer.
Glass knobs after cleaning.
Glass knobs after cleaning.
Heirloom Traditions Chalk Paint in Venetian.
Heirloom Traditions Chalk Paint in Venetian.
It sure took a lot of elbow grease and patience, but it gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that in some sort of life-affirming alignment with the universe, our dresser came from the very same Habitat store where several years before my husband had volunteered to help set up their space. It’s also pretty cool knowing that sometimes even under the worst of circumstances you really can turn ugly ducklings into swans.
And here's the after ~ whew!!
And here's the after ~ whew!!
Mary (Cottage B at Home ~ Vintage Country Living)

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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