July 18, 2012

Mid-Century Modern Dresser Makeover

On Tuesday, I introduced you to my new-to-me mid-century modern dresser that I got off of Craigslist:

Even though I was in love with the piece, I wasn't in love with the color. The guy I bought it from told me the drawers were made of veneer and the stain was gunstock walnut. The finish was OK and the piece itself was in great condition with only a few minor scratches here and there. After a couple of days and a few debates on whether or not I should keep the piece as-is or refinish it, I decided to refinish it.

To get started, I removed all of the drawers:

[ I have no idea why I took the above photograph like that haha ]

So my boyfriend could start sanding the drawer fronts:

Top drawer = Before sanding // Bottom drawer = After sanding:

Once the drawers were all sanded, he started sanding the dresser itself. I don't have any pictures of this step because A) he started it when I was working and B) the dresser was a pain to sand and pictures were the last thing on my mind at the time.

Why was it hard to sand? It might not be obvious from far away, but the dresser has hidden drawer pulls that you grip from underneath to pull open the drawer:

Which means that in order to get your fingers under there, the piece below it is curved. Curves + an inexperienced sander = a nightmare.

Once we had the dresser sanded down, we wiped it off with a lightly damp, lint-free towel and let it dry for a half an hour before staining.

I followed Young House Love's (AKA the pro's) tutorial on refinishing a veneer dresser since I had never done a project like this before and was terrified I was going to ruin everything.

Before I started staining, I applied a thin and even coat of Cabot's Wood Conditioner to each drawer front. I don't know if it did anything, or if it's even necessary, but according to the can it "helps achieve a uniform penetration of stain" and since I wanted the piece to look as good as possible, I thought it might help.

I let the wood conditioner sit for 5 minutes before wiping it off. You have to start staining right after you apply the wood conditioner (otherwise the wood won't take the stain) so I started by applying a thin and even coat of Rustoleum's Dark Walnut stain to the dresser fronts:


Top drawer = Newly stained
Middle drawer = Original finish
Bottom drawer = Sanded

After I applied the first thin and even coat of stain, I let each drawer sit for 8 minutes before wiping the stain off. After I finished all of them, I let them dry for 24 hours before I sanded them down with 220 grit sandpaper and applied a second coat of stain.

I let the second coat sit for 5 minutes before wiping the stain off. In case you're wondering, I didn't let the stain sit for another 8 minutes because I didn't want it to be too dark. 5 minutes is just a time I pulled out of the air because I figured it would be easy to remember for each drawer.

Once the drawers were dry, I moved them aside so I could start staining the dresser. I started staining it by applying a thin and even coat of stain to the right side. I let that coat sit for 8 minutes before wiping it off and moving on to the left side of the piece.

Once the sides were stained, I started applying the first coat to the front, the legs, and the entire inside of where the top 3 drawers used to be since that area was going to be left open:

I did one section of the front at a time and let the stain sit on each section for 8 minutes before wiping it off and moving on to another section. After everything was stained, I let it sit for 24 hours before sanding it down with 220 grit sandpaper and starting the second coat

I repeated the same steps I did on the first coat to apply the second coat and to my surprise, the second coat went on much faster than the first one did and looked much better as well!

I let the second coat sit for another 24 hours before turning my attention to the top. If you're asking yourself why I didn't stain the top, it's because the top is made from laminated wood. I didn't know this until we tried to sand it (prior to staining everything!) and ended up with this:

I panicked. There was no way we could stain it because, even if we tried, the laminate wouldn't accept the stain. Thankfully Young House Love's tutorial also included steps for painting the top of the dresser so I followed along and hoped for the best.

Buuuttt because this post is already way too long, you're going to have to wait until tomorrow to see how the top turned out! Such a tease, I know :)


  1. Looks so nice - can't wait to see how it turns out! I love Dark Walnut stain - we used it for our desktop on our double desk/window seat thing that we built. Here's a link but please excuse the sorry state of the wall art.

  2. Thanks! I love how your desk turned out! We were thinking of doing something similar in our loft but our window isn't centered on the wall like I thought it was :(

  3. I just bought a.similar dresser but mine has shorter drawers. It still at the thrift store and i cant wait to bring it home and do something very aimilar to yours. Thank you for sharing your how to. ;0)


All content © Desert Domicile .
Do not repurpose, repost, or redistribute without written permission. All rights reserved.

Blogger Designs by pipdig