Asked on Feb 20, 2013

Need creative advice on redoing this old dresser

Holly R
by Holly R
My husband has this old 4-drawer dresser left over from his junior high era and it's definitely seen better days!!! The pull handles are mismatched, several are broken and don't have any pulls (I unscrewed the missing one to measure it), and I'm not crazy about the color of the whole piece. We'd like to paint this white and replace the drawer pulls/handles to use in my 5 yr old daughter's room. However, the distance between the holes on the current drawer pulls measure 2 5/8" and I'm having trouble finding a replacement that would look cute in her room without spending a fortune. I wish I could even just paint these ugly drawer pulls, but like I said, they don't match and 2 are broken, so that's not even an option. I already have some paint, so I need creative and thrifty ideas on how to finish out this piece on a dime! :) Thanks!!
  28 answers
  • Just get some wood putty and fill in the holes. You can use a little metal spatula thingy to spread it on, and then sand it when it's dry, then you can paint right over those holes and drill new ones to fit the hardware that you want. It's super easy!
  • I meant to say you can paint over the holes, providing you are painting the whole piece, which it sounds like you want to do anyway! Also, one more thought, you could move all those handles to the bottom drawers, and then do knobs on the top smaller drawers. And... you actually can paint the hardware too, so you could paint the knobs to match if you wanted!
  • Holly R Holly R on Feb 20, 2013
    I like that idea about the wood putty Karen!! That sounds really easy!! And actually, though they look like smaller top drawers, that's just the design - it's actually one big drawer at top for a total of 4 drawers in the whole piece. I think the 2 middle handles were just decorative.
  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Feb 20, 2013
    I agree, fill those holes in and look for some nice new knobs or handles for inspiration. Sometime the syle of knob or handle leads you to what color and finish you are looking for. I re-styled my sons mismatched furniture. I bought chrome handles and then used Rustoleum dark grey hammered finish spray paint. Now all the pieces work with each other.
  • Miriam Illions Miriam Illions on Feb 20, 2013
    Awesome advice so far! Tagging some of our furniture pros @Shanna Gilbert @Z so much potential here, right?!
  • Karen has great advice on using the wood putty to cover the holes. You could try a stencil design as well if you have one you like. It may take a little more time and patience, but it can give some stunning results and add some great personality all your own!
  • Z Z on Feb 20, 2013
    Thanks for the heads up to help @Miriam. @Holly, Karen is right about filling in the holes, though I would suggest getting small wooden dowels to fit the size the empty holes otherwise you can sometimes getting a sinking mark if you didn't let the putty dry long enough before you paint. Just cut the dowels a bit shorter than the thickness of the drawer fronts, slip them in place and add wood putty. Once dry sand smooth. Before you paint you'll need to lightly sand all surfaces then prime. HoDe still offer deals on packages of 10 drawer pulls for reasonable prices. Here's a style I think would work well for your chest of drawers that's just under sixteen dollars. You could either leave the two center faux drawers blank or add a decorative rosette in place of the pull. It's been awhile since I bought multiple packs, but many had the single packages available so that's an option too.
  • Z Z on Feb 20, 2013
    Just incase you want to add a little feminine pizzazz here's a photo of a little chest of drawers my daughter and I redid for her awhile back.
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  • Z Z on Feb 20, 2013
    Oh and sorry, but one more thought on the drawer pulls, you could buy plain round wooden knobs and decorate. We glued flower cutout from the anaglypta wallpaper onto the little knobs on this lingerie chest of drawers my daughter redid the same time we did the one above together.
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  • Shanna Gilbert Shanna Gilbert on Feb 20, 2013
    Ok Miss Holly, here is my advice. I agree with using putty over the exixting holes. I would put the knobs on the top and move the handles from the top to the bottom if they are the same size. Not sure if they are or not. If you have to replace them all it could get pricey so I would go to Hobby Lobby to get them and use the 40% off coupon they have in Sunday's paper. You can also get them online and each member of your family can use one. If you want to paint the whole piece you will either have to sand it down or you can use chalkpaint. I hate sanding so that's always what I use as it adheres to any surface. This is the recipe I use.. 1 1/2 cups latex paint to 1/2 cup of calcium carbonate. Make sure you mix it well or you will have tiny lumps. You can get the bottles of calcium carbonate at any health food store or on line. Make sure you get the powder form it's around $4. After a couple of coats of that you can either coat it with poly or I prefer to use wax. You just brush it on let it set overnight and buff it off the next day with a clean cloth. It makes the paint have a nice soft sheen to it and it protects it just like a poly would. The other ladies have some great advice, it's just whatever your preference is for the handles. Good luck!
  • Z Z on Feb 20, 2013
    One of these days I'm going to have to try your chalk paint @Shanna, although I don't mind sanding. It's king of like mowing the lawn. It gives me time to think.
  • Shanna Gilbert Shanna Gilbert on Feb 21, 2013
    I have severe rheumatoid arthritis so it is so much easier on my wrists not to have to sand. Plus I work on furniture all day long so I probably have too much time to think! You should definitely give it a try Becky!
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Feb 21, 2013
    This is the perfect example of a piece that has great wood but not much style where painting is perfect. Good luck in whatever you do! Be sure and send photos when finished! Keep in mind that little girls do not stay little very long. You might want to go with a style/color that will last through many years!
  • Marie R Marie R on Feb 21, 2013
    I've found cool hardware and a nice variety of it at my local Habitat for Humanity 'Restore' Store. Don't know if you have one in your area:) Usually a dollar or less.
  • Stacey B Stacey B on Feb 21, 2013
    I always thought this idea would be cute for a little girl's room-using fabric for the pulls.
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  • Z Z on Feb 21, 2013
    @Shanna, I think I'll try the chalk paint when I paint my porch furniture this Spring. Right now we're in the middle of a snow storm so Spring seems far off. :^(
  • Shanna Gilbert Shanna Gilbert on Feb 21, 2013
    I hear you Becky! We have already had 11 inches and there is more coming!
  • Dayoris Custom Dayoris Custom on Feb 21, 2013
    Hi, I'd just paint it black and add some stainless steel or chrome handles. If you want a modern look, pick simple straight-line handles and if you are in love with antiques like me pick more traditional ones but not gold (it wont' go with the black) Good luck :-)
  • Dayoris Custom Dayoris Custom on Feb 21, 2013
    If you still want to keep the brown do a darker brown and pick some fun handles (zebra looking, etc) anything not having bright colors. It'll look amazing. You can also paint it in red and use (zebra handles). Here is a link to a zebra handle:
  • Z Z on Feb 21, 2013
    Shanna, we're getting less than expected because of dry air moving up from the south. I'm happy about that because my hubby just boarded a plane headed for Denver before he flies home. I'm hoping he doesn't get stuck in Denver overnight, but better that than flying through the storm. He just started traveling again. I'd forgotten all about this part of it.
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Feb 21, 2013
    @Holly R - I had the same problem for an old dresser I refinished. I finally found some that were modern, different hole spacing but the half mooon design covered the other hole - we did manage to use one of the original holes. I would only replace the handles that have a function - looks like you have a couple that are only decorative. As for the refinishing, I like @Jenny Wills idea of the drawers painted in a fun way. Zebra or animal print or geometrics, would grow with her. For the body of the dresser, you could consider sanding and restaining - also like her idea of red. Might be nice to keep some of the wood grain showing through. Do search the site for dresser ideas - there are loads of them.Seeing their pics might help you decide what you want to do. Thanks for posting the question and please do show us what you decided to do. :)
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Feb 21, 2013
    @Holly R I just found the cataloge on line, here is the link. We purchased item T on page 69.
  • The Robin's Nest The Robin's Nest on Feb 21, 2013
    If you cant find pulls that fit correctly, you can always close up one of the holes by filling it with wood putty and drill a new one. I think most of the drawer pulls out there are 3 inches. so If that's what you are finding, I'd suggest that you fill the inner hole. Depending on the pull and how flat it lays most times the pull will cover the hole you have filled, so it's not noticeable. Hobby Lobby has a great selection of reasonably priced pulls. I have refinished chests and used ribbon for the pulls and especially in a girls room, that really is a fun and inexpensive way to do it. Painting it will give it new life and will really transform it.
  • Z Z on Feb 21, 2013
    It's funny that Karen posted this today because when I was at WM today I noticed they sell two packs of solid wood drawer pulls for less than a dollar and a quarter each. When I saw them I thought of your project @Holly R. Here's Karen's link:
  • Swinnen Lisette Swinnen Lisette on Jul 02, 2016
    Or you could get some fishingwire with beads on it and use that as handles? If you buy beads in plastic of all colors, against the white paint, it will look very girly.
  • Diana Deiley Diana Deiley on Sep 11, 2016
    I absolutely love these old pieces. I'm jealous, you're going to have a great time creating something new. Blue, green, soft yellow and antiqued....anything you want.......enjoy!
  • Carolyn Carolyn on Nov 01, 2016
    I had a dresser similar to this. I painted the entire chest with black glossy spray paint. I had left over craft paint in several colors so I painted each drawer a different color and used fine sandpaper to distress them.Finally, I painted the entire chest in clear spray paint. I love it, looks very much like some I have seen in Hobby Lobby.