Two-toned Dresser Makeover

I am so excited to share with you the dresser makeover I did for my boys’ bedroom! I am currently in the process of making over their entire room and their old furniture desperately needed an update. We inherited this furniture set from Matt’s grandparents and I just love it. I’ll show you the chest on chest makeover soon, but it’s not quite “show ready” yet. The mirrored dresser, however, is ready for some serious paparazzi! And paparazzi is what it received. I went a bit overboard with pics on this one so please bear with me!

dresser makeover

The first thing I did to prep the dresser was to clean it. This baby was dir-TAY! Eek! So gross.

how to prep furniture before painting

I sprayed it down with TSP and scrubbed it with a rag. It still seemed in need of cleaning after the TSP treatment, so I used CitraSolv to try and rub off 100 years worth of wax, Pledge, grime, and whoknowswhat.


Once the dresser looked sufficiently clean, I painted it using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Pure White. What happened next was soooooo incredibly frustrating, so listen up if you’re going to use chalk paint on mahogany. The finish from my furniture kept bleeding through the paint. No amount of paint hid the bleed through and it looked horrible. Can you see all of the pink below? Not quite? Let me zoom in for you.

annie sloan chalk paint white

Okay, here is a close-up of what I was dealing with. My entire dresser looked like it had some horrible pink fungus problem. Blech. Several Google searches later, I learned that on mahogany furniture you need to first seal the furniture with Shellac. Gah!

annie sloan chalk paint bleed through

I ran to Lowes, purchased my Shellac, covered the entire dresser with two coats of Shellac, and then painted….again. This was not the blissful chalk paint experience I’ve had in the past, but it was a valuable lesson learned.


After everything was dry (and not bleeding pink), I covered the dresser in a coat of clear wax.

annie sloan clear wax

card catalog hardware

The wood was so beautiful on the drawers I didn’t dare paint them! I gave the drawers a few coats of Shellac and replaced the old hardware with these awesome catalog pulls. The pulls came from VanDykes. I paid a little over $2 a pull. Watch the prices because they seem to jump drastically from week to week on various pulls. The pulls I really wanted were $8 each, but this week they are priced at only $2.29. Huh? Ah well, these worked out great. I used black Rub n’ buff to tone down the brass. I’ll do a separate tutorial on the pulls for you soon.

dresser makeover

I had fun styling the top of the dresser with some vintage books and thrift store owl bookends that I spray painted heirloom white and brushed with brown glaze.

dresser makeover

The elephant was a rubber toy headed for Goodwill. I decided to rescue it and spray paint it white. I LOVE how it turned out! We have a new “porcelain” rubber elephant :). If you’ve never seen those butterflies in a jar before go to your nearest toy store and buy one. They are seriously cool! I bought one for Asher’s birthday, but if I’m honest I really just bought it for myself :). You tap on the top of the jar and the butterfly flutters around just like a real butterfly. It is brilliant!

dresser makeover

And a few more vanity shots of the dresser for you before I sign off:

dresser makeover

dresser makeover

Okay, one last reminder of how far this dresser has come! Below is the before.

And here is the much-improved-pinnable after!

dresser makeover

I’ll share with you the other dresser soon along with a full tutorial on the hardware!

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    • Beth says

      Thank you Michelle! I love wood and I love painted furniture. It seemed like a good idea to combine both :).

  1. says

    This came out great and I love those pulls! The two toned really really really looks cool :) Nice shot of the mirror with the bookcase in the background. I see that little lonely chair in the background, hehe. Are you going to cover? :)

  2. says

    Love the dresser, Beth. You really did a great job & I love the drawers too. Your boy’s must be loving their new room, the blue is a nice choice in there, really pops against the white. Great job, girl! I had to use that shellac primer on my doors and trim and that stuff is tough to get off!

    • Beth says

      Thanks love! I’m thrilled with how things are coming along. And yes, I had “shellaced” hands and nails for a week :).

  3. Allison says

    I got some great antique cherry furniture off of Craigslist that is in desperate need of cleaning and waxing or something. What products do you recommend? I don’t want to paint these particular pieces…but they are full of scuffs and need ‘freshening up’…I have never done anything like this before. thanks!

    • Beth says

      I am not the furniture refinishing expert by any means. However, I really liked the results I received from the TSP and then the CitraSolv. They did a good job at cleaning the piece. If your furniture is in really bad shape you’ll probably need to sand it down and restain which is a ton of work. If the furniture is just so-so, you can try cleaning and then using poly or wax on it. Furniture gurus have their favorite products and recommendations of different kinds of polys, waxes, oils, etc. so hop around on google before deciding. Good luck and congrats on the Craigslist score!

    • says

      I’ve had good results from Old English Scratch Cover and Old English Lemon Oil! The scratch cover is sold in light, med, and dark and helps to fade the appearance of scratches. The lemon oil refreshes the wood and changes the appearance from dull and dry to fresh and full of lustre!

  4. says

    This came out gorgeous. I love the white and the wood together. You know how much of an ASCP fan I am. I acutally use that shellac a lot (just in case)… It is such a good tip to share b/c it is super fustrating if that happens. I LOVE the pulls. Your styling is a-maz-ing. I may need to get a can of spray paint and spray my kids rubber toys :) What good idea. Where did you find that butterfly? My two boys would love them.

  5. says

    Wow! What a wonderful job. I am in the process of painting some wood also. Coffee table turning into bedroom bench. Love the pulls. Great idea.

  6. Ellen says

    Add me to the list of those who love the drawer pulls.They always remind me of old library card catalogs. I hope I didn’t miss it, but did you give the source for them? I’d love to know.

    • says

      Oh my gosh!!! The very same “bleeding” happened to me on my table re-do!! It about drove me over the edge as I couldnt understand why no matter how I painted this table it would bleed pink!!!!! finally I just went with it as you will see if you check it out,UGH!!!! Love the dresser!!!

      • Beth says

        I know right? Most frustrating thing ever! You can still put shellac over your table and repaint it if/when you feel like it :).

  7. Leah says

    It looks like you painted the dresser in your boys’ room. How bad were the fumes? I have a dresser in our master bedroom that I need to do something with, but kind of dread carrying it down two flights of stairs to work on it in the garage…I never considered just painting it in place.

    • Beth says

      Hi Leah, the fumes weren’t an issue at all. Chalk paint doesn’t have any fumes and shellac smells but is actually safe to use. It is made from secretions from the lac bug. Crazy but true.

  8. says

    gorgeous; i love the two tone…and those pulls…wow! and thanks for that tip about the shellac; i’m going to redo our buffet and you just saved me a lot of time with that advice!! who knew??

    • Beth says

      Who knew indeed? If I can save anyone from that frustration my job here is done :). Thanks so much for the compliment!

  9. says

    Oh my gosh, I love it! It’s amazing what a little TLC can do for an outdated piece. It makes me think of an old map storage cabinet – the pulls are perfect!

  10. Angie says

    Love this dresser! I can’t get on board with the two tone look yet (I’m one of those that takes forever to like a trend…like right when everyone is just about done liking it, I finally do lol) but those pulls are gorgeous, I must have them!

    • Beth says

      Yay! Thanks for stopping by Melissa :). So glad we had the chance to finally meet at Haven but we needed more time!! Next time girl :).

  11. says

    Such a wonderful job, Beth! The dresser is beautiful and the pulls are just perfect for it. I really like the look of a two toned white and wood piece. You hit a home run with this project!

  12. says

    Beth this is by far my most favorite project ever!!! It is just breathtaking! and the white elephant-genious!!
    question- when you had to shellac the dresser did you just shellac right over AS?

    • Beth says

      Thank you so much Amanda! Yes, there was no way I was going to sand all that off so I just put two coats of shellac (drying time between) right over the chalk paint. It sealed the bleed through and I was able to then place another coat of ASCP over the shellac with no bleed through!

  13. says

    Wwhen I first saw it, I thought it resembled a library catalouge (in a good way). Then I saw the closeup of the pulls. Love how they are dual purpose and shows the boys what goes where!

  14. Nicole says

    HI Beth! Your dresser is amazing! I had my first furniture redo last week. The coffee table came out good, but no where near some of the furniture posts I see from ya’ll. Where can I learn the tricks and the trades of furniture revamping? I know it is a ton of work, but I do love bringing life back to furniture! I plan on furnishing my home with thrift store finds. So I should probably learn how to perfect it. Thanks!

    • Beth says

      Thanks Nicole! I definitely don’t consider myself a furniture rehab expert but I do enjoy doing it :). I recommend learning from the experts out there in blogland and there are MANY. Two of my favs are Marian (Miss Mustard Seed) and Shaunna (Perfectly Imperfect). Shaunna shared a post here on rehabbing furniture that I really liked and she also has a helpful ebook:

  15. says

    Really great job, Beth! I love how you combined the two different finishes on the one piece. And those library pulls are seriously fabulous! My twin boys are sharing a room too, and I’m in the process of giving it a little edit b/c their toddler beds arrive next week! Its bye-bye cribs – sad and happy all at once! I’m drawing inspiration from your boys’ shared space 😉 Kerri xo

    • Beth says

      Aw, they grow up so fast don’t they? Thanks for the compliment Kerri, and I can’t wait to see your boys’ room update!

  16. says

    hey there- i am currently having a fit over an issue with a can of ASCP Pure White as well! It is NOT the paint’s fault (i don’t think). I’m pretty sure it’s because I left it out in my garden shed while we were at Haven (and it was over 100 degrees here). Looking at sanding down the whole desk and starting over :(
    I need a new project and the “usual blissful chalkpaint experience” to get me over this!!

    • Beth says

      Oh no! I do have to say that this is the fourth chalk paint color I’ve worked with and although I love the end result the Pure White has been the trickiest. I had trouble with it on a smaller project that I did with some wood bookends. It takes a lot more coats to cover an item which I guess isn’t unheard of for white but just different for our easy-chalk-paint expectations! Good luck on your desk Breida!

  17. kelly says

    that is so pretty!! i am redoing a dresser and really want to use chalk paint but am nervous! the other thing is that my wooden bedroom furniture is white but is turning yellow from dirt and hand oils i have tried simple green and a magic eraser with no luck. does that TVP affect the wood as in stripping or just clean it because i really don’t know what to do!

    • Beth says

      Thanks Kelly! Don’t be nervous to use chalk paint. It’s very easy to work with. That being said if you want a really smooth “factory quality” look then use oil-based or latex paint. Chalk paint gives you a more hand-painted look. I think yellowing overtime is completely normal for older furniture. The poly on it could have turned yellow and no amount of cleaning will whiten it back up. TSP strips off the sheen and a really clean piece of furniture will often look dull and lifeless—ready to be revamped!

      • kelly says

        i love the look of chalk paint and that’s what i want just have to dive in! as far as my bedroom furniture AGHH! i have a dresser, headboard, and armoire! i feel like that is something i might have done professionally!! thanks for the reply!

  18. says

    Oh Beth, I feel your pain (frustration)! This house had hunter green trim on everything… and it came through so badly. It dragged right into any white I tried to cover it with. I had to use sealer too but a spray version and then let it cure. After that, I was able to paint.

    The dresser looks gorgeous :) And that white ellie is pretty cute too!!

  19. says

    Bleed through is so frustraring!! I’ve noticed on other woods that are nicked through the finish that the stain bleeds through pink as well!! Almost every piece I’ve painted in a light color (if not primed or shellac’d first will get spots that appear pink). I started to realize the common denominator was damage….water mark, ding, etc where the finish was worn away and the paint had direct access to soak up the stain. GAH! But the piece turned out lovely! Love the 2-tone! I think 2-tones are great for boys rooms to add color but maintain manliness! 😉 p.s. thanks again for featuring mine!

  20. Jen says

    The dresser is beautiful, great job. Have you tried using ASCP
    wax as a seal for the bleed through?
    That’s what I’ve learned to use since I started refinishing furniture.

    • Beth says

      I haven’t tried that. I found the Shellac tip on an ASCP page but using the wax would have been way easier! Does it work well?


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