Money Month

Before and After: A $40 Redo Turns a Scuffed-Up Dresser into a Statement Piece

published Mar 1, 2022
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When you’re decorating your space, there’s nothing better than scoring a piece of furniture for free, especially when it already looks great. But even if a hand-me-down or curb find doesn’t immediately look great, it might be worth hanging onto — especially if you’ve got some DIY skills and a creative vision.

When furniture flipper Michelle McRae (@shellychicboutique)’s friend was about to get rid of this mid-century style dresser, Michelle decided to take it under her wing. “I’ve been wanting to do an MCM piece for a while,” she says.

When it came into her possession, the dresser “had a laminate top and several areas in the wood finish that needed repair,” she says, including missing chunks from the sides. Her first step in giving it a new life was removing the laminate from the top because she wanted the piece to be solid wood.

“I spent HOURS in below-freezing temps chipping away at the laminate,” she recalls. “I first left a damp towel on top for a few hours while we went out for family time. Upon return, I started ironing the towel to try to remove the laminate glue.”

Eventually, her husband, Branson, and daughter, Zena, came outside to help her chip rest of the the top off. “Had they not, I may have thrown in the towel — pun intended,” Michelle says. “I don’t plan to remove another laminate top any time soon.”

Even when the laminate was finally off, the top needed some repairs. “It needed a ton of wood glue and sanding, then more wood glue and more sanding,” Michelle says.

She evened out the wood, sanded it, and then got to work staining and painting the dresser. She remembers that it took her a long time at the hardware store to select the perfect “mid-century-appropriate colors,” and even still when she brought them back home and actually stained and painted a few test areas, she wasn’t pleased, so she started the process over again and landed on Behr’s Nano White and a walnut stain.

To create the pattern, Michelle sketched a few ideas, shared them on social media, then put it to a vote. Ultimately, she created a mashup of two of her sketches, and she’s so pleased with the way it turned out.

“I absolutely love the contrast between the white and wood stain,” Michelle says. “I also love the geometric patterns although I know not everyone will. There’s a major push against painting MCM furniture, but this one needed too many repairs to simply strip and refinish it.”

Michelle sealed the dresser with a satin polyurethane and completed the look with $14 hardware from Amazon. In total, she spent about $40 on the project. She’s proud of the fresh look she created and she’s proud that this DIY involved her whole family.

“My daughter also wanted to help sand and paint,” Michelle says. “So she held the sander with me to sand one section (with safety equipment on, of course) and she helped me paint some areas as well. Yes, I worried it wouldn’t look good. Yes, I touched up those areas without her realizing it. But she LOVED it and can’t wait to do more.”

This piece is part of Money Month, where we’re covering everything from side hustles to down payments to a beginner’s guide to investing. Head over here to read more!