Tribal Stencil Transformation: A Dated 1940's Dresser Gets an Update!

Royal Design Studio
by Royal Design Studio
9 Materials
Want to take a furniture piece from dated and drab to modern and fun? Incorporating geometric prints and bold patterns is an easy way to liven up your home for spring (and anytime of year for that matter)! I am currently loving all the trending tribal prints that I am seeing everywhere lately and knew I just had to use the fantastic Tribal Furniture Stencil by Royal Design Studio to update a plain 40's era dresser that has been waiting in storage for the right inspiration to come along!
There are so many options for using the patterns included with this design, I decided to get creative with the layout of the tribal stencil. If you're also a fan of bold and graphic prints, then read on to see how I created this look!
Stencil Supplies for this Project:

Royal Design Studio Tribal Furniture Stencil

Chalk Paint(R) by Annie Sloan: Graphite, Pure White

1 12" Stencil Brush

Good Quality Paper Towels (Viva or Bounty)

Good Flat Paint Brush

Painter's Tape

White and Brass Hardware from Hobby Lobby

Wood Filler (Optional, if your hardware is bigger or smaller than existing hardware).

A dated dresser (with nice clean lines)

Here's how the dresser was looking before:
The dresser is from the 1940s and is by Bassett. It was quite a "dated" looking, but still a solid piece. It had been previously painted and the hardware wasn't original. I was attracted to this piece for the plain drawer fronts and clean lines. Essentially, it had good bones and I knew that what was currently making it a little "boring", would soon become striking and elegant with the addition of some stenciled pattern.

Step 1: Remove hardware. Fill hardware holes, in drawers, with wood filler if using new hardware with different centers. Scuff sand your piece and wash it down. I know people say you don't need to prep with Chalk Paint(R) but I always do. If I'm using a lighter color on wood (that hasn't been previously painted), I always wipe on two coats of clear shellac. This will prevent any color from the wood or previous staining from leaching into the paint layer.

Step 2: Once your piece is dry, it is time to paint! For this piece I used Graphite Chalk Paint(R). Chalk Paint(R) usually covers in 1-2 coats, but for this piece I used three coats. I could just see that maroon shining through after the second coat and knew it needed one more coat to cover completely. I used a Flat Brush to apply the paint. These brushes give a very smooth finish. When painting you might want to add a little water to your paint (on additional coats) to make it glide on more smoothly.
Step 3: As soon as your paint is dry, you can stencil! For this piece I didn't have a plan in mind so I stenciled the drawer fronts first. I lined up the stencil in the middle and took a part of the pattern out.

I used Pure White Chalk Paint(R) for the tribal stencil color and applied it with the Royal Design Studio 1 12" stencil brush. To prevent the paint from bleeding under the stencil, I always take my brush and wipe off excess paint on my Viva paper towel. After doing this you are essentially dry-brushing the paint on, which makes for quick drying and also crisp lines.

Frog Tape for delicate surfaces, helps to hold the stencil in place while applying the stencil.
Step 4: After the drawers were finished, I decided that this stencil would make an amazing impact across the top of the dresser. I wanted it to look like a table runner draped over the whole thing. I measured the middle of my dresser and lined up the stencil on the edge, so that I could make sure to line up going down the side and also across the top.

I matched up the triangles to follow the pattern along, I went down the side and then across the top and down the other side. Painting the stencil across the top makes a much more dramatic statement than if I'd just done the drawers.

The stencil was applied with a light hand in some parts to look like it was distressed back. You could also do this by using some fine grit sand paper but I didn't want to see the maroon through it.

Step 5: To protect the painted finish I applied Annie Sloan's clear wax with my wax brush and wiped away the excess. For clear wax, I like to work in sections. I wait 24 hours between the first and second coat. If you want a light shine, I recommend waiting 24 hours to buff. For this piece I wanted a matte finish.
Step 6: Attach hardware. I chose this hardware to highlight the rustic elements and the black and white color scheme. The hardware has a rustic, old feel with the worn brass and off white ceramic.

Step 7: This one is easy! Sit back and relax and enjoy your "new" piece of furniture.

Furniture Stenciling Tips

Flat fronted or plain furniture is the best for stenciling. Unadorned drawers, flat tops, New England pine chests, 1940s pieces (like this one) and MCM all are great option.

Think about how you want to use your stencil before you begin. It is okay to only use a bit of it on a drawer or on top OR you can use the whole thing. You may want to use it vertically or horizontally. I used this pattern both ways on this piece.

Always wipe off the excess paint from your brush before stenciling. I have lots of extra Viva towels on hand to unload the brush on the towel first and then stencil. I like to move my brush in a circular motion over the stencil.

If some paint gets under the stencil, or you over brush, you can wet a paper towel and wipe off the Chalk Paint(R)By brushing the stencil in an uneven way you can get a distressed look without the sandpaper (especially if you don't want an existing color to shine through).

When painting with Chalk Paint(R) I always prep my furniture by thoroughly washing down. I also like to use two coats of clear shellac on wooden pieces to prevent any bleed-through. I do this for all Chalk Paint(R) except Graphite.

Delicate surface Frog Tape (yellow one) is great for holding stencil in place and won't damage the painted surface. You can also use a spray adhesive which is helpful if you're doing a wall.

If you feel like the paint is building up on the stencil, it is good idea to wipe down the stencil in the middle of the project. I just simply put paper towels down under the stencil and put water on another paper towel and wipe both sides and dry it too.

Waxing is a great way to protect your furniture. I like to wait 24 hours between the first and second coat. I also like to wait 24 hours to buff. I use an Annie Sloan wax brush to apply my wax and wipe off excess with cheese cloth. For buffing I like to use a clean white cloth.

To get a modern, finish I use the Annie Sloan Flat Brush. The paint goes on nice and smooth. Sanding between coats with fine grit sandpaper can achieve this too.

Hardware is like jewelry for furniture; the finishing touch, if you will! I knew I wanted to replace the hardware on this piece (it wasn't originally) and I thought the brass and cream highlighted my color scheme and look.
What do you think about the tribal look? Could this work in your house?!? Yes, of course! Stenciling a lamp shade, a shawl, a pillow or even a dresser is a nice way to bring this look into your house. When paired with antiques or modern pieces the tribal look can give your home an eclectic or rustic appeal.
A simple and boring 1940s dresser now has a new lease on life with soft black and a bold tribal stencil pattern in white paint. For visual effect I used only a portion of the stencil on the top drawers and centered the stencil (turning it vertical on the bottom drawers) so the brass and ceramic hardware was in the middle of the print. While working on the piece, I realized that I had to use the stencil in some way across the top and thought draping it all the way to the ground would be fun!

I can see this piece as a dresser in a fun boho bedroom, but it would also make an amazing TV console or bar. Can you picture, cut glass decanters and rocks glasses lined up on it?

I've styled it with African artifacts and tribal motifs but this would also look great with rustic elements from nature, bronze bowls or your black flat screen panel.

However you decide to use the Tribal Furniture Stencil in your own home, I know it will look perfect!

Tribal Furniture Stencil by Royal Design Studio
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  3 questions
  • Monique Monique on Aug 30, 2018

    Why do DYIers spend tons of hard earned $$$ on Annie Sloan chalk paint when you can make your own for pennies??? 😳

  • Elizabeth Riceman Elizabeth Riceman on Aug 30, 2018

    Where to get the tribal stencil?

  • Patty Patty on Sep 04, 2019

    what does it mean to wash itdown

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