How I Painted My Dresser || Tutorial

I had two options for my dresser that I am using as a kitchen island. I could either stain it or paint it. Originally, I was going to stain the dresser a dark brown/black-ish color to match my tall library cabinet and antique buffet, which happens to be a dresser too. :)  But I ran into two problems.

1.  The grain showed heavily through dark stain on the new birch plywood I purchased to rebuild the back of the dresser.
2.  I currently eat on a card table.  How is this even a problem when deciding paint color?  Well, my floor plan is pretty open, so when you come into my home and depending where you are standing, you can either see A. the living room and dining area OR B. the dining area and kitchen.

I know you might need a picture to understand this arrangement, but basically my dark library cabinet is near the card table, which is right next to the dark buffet.   The dark buffet is only feet away from my future kitchen island.  See a pattern, or should I say, a problem?  I'm just afraid there was going to be too many dark pieces within a small space.  Painting the dresser white made it cohesive with my kitchen, though I do love an island that stands out.  This dresser will be topped with my green apple Silestone countertop.

I think everyone has their own technique for painting furniture. You have to find what works best for you. In this tutorial, I will show you how I painted this dresser.  Painting furniture is time consuming, messy, and requires patience for a job well done.   Do I like to paint furniture? Sometimes yes and sometimes no.  It really depends on the piece.  But painting a piece of furniture can really be the cheapest way to revamp a space.  Know what I mean?


Paint -  You have two options.  Latex and oil-based.  I highly recommend oil-based, if you can handle the clean up.  I hate using mineral spirits and going through the extra work of clean up, so I use Benjamin Moore's Advance paint. BM describes this paint as "A premium-quality waterborne alkyd enamel that delivers the desired flow and leveling characteristics of a conventional alkyd paint. It provides a tough satin finish that stands up to repeated washing. It is easy to apply, resists spattering, has excellent open time, and cleans up with soap and water."  So in a way it's like an oil-based paint with the cleaning up properties of latex.  A.w.e.s.o.m.e.

Primer -  I
I use Zinsser's Cover Stain.  Zinsser claims that it will attach to anything, so no sanding is required.  Though I believe this to be partly true, I still believe that furniture needs to be prepped before priming, so I still lightly sanded my dresser.

Tools -
 Electric sander with sandpaper discs (I used 150 grit) OR sandpaper sheets/blocks anywhere from 40-120 grit
NIOSH mask  (This makes a WORLD of a difference.  I use to paint without a mask, and now I won't.)
Spray gun OR paint brushes of choice
Paint roller

Accessories -
150 grit or finer loose sanding paper or blocks
Wood filler  (I highly recommend Durham's because it doesn't dry out in its container like other wood fillers.  It comes in a powder and you add water to it.  It will not take stain, but you can paint it.  You can purchase it at Lowe's.)

Sealer -
Polyurethane for oil-based paints and Polycrylic for latex paint
**If you are painting furniture white, DO NOT use polyurethane.  It will yellow over time.  

1.  The first thing I did is remove the shine off the dresser.  The person who owned this dresser before me applied a stain.   I used my sander to remove some of the stain.  I didn't need to sand all the way down to the original wood, but I did want to remove the gloss or shine.

2.  I prepped the wood by filling in any holes or imperfections with wood filler.  I followed the directions on my can of wood filler.  I covered my locks with tape so paint would not get on them.  I used my sander to smooth out my wood filler, and I wiped the dresser down.

3. I primed my dresser using Zinsser primer and a rolling brush.  This allowed a smooth application of primer without having to use mineral spirits to clean it up because I can toss the brush in the trash can.  I allowed this to dry for about 2 hours, and then I took a piece of sandpaper and lightly sanded the dresser.  This removes any bubbles, bumps, or foreign things that have collected while drying.

4.  I painted my dresser using a spray gun, but if you don't have one, you will use a paint brush or roller.   I let the paint dry for at least 16 hours, and I did this three times.  I sanded lightly between each painting. 

5.  I applied Polycrylic in Clear Gloss to the dresser using my sprayer.  I waited for two hours before applying my second layer.  I did this three times, and I sanded lightly between each layer.  I let the sealer completely dry for 24 hours before I attached my hardware.   Useful Tip - I let my Polycrylic sit in my sprayer between coats by wrapping a wet cloth and plastic wrap around the bottle.  This helps keep the air out, and I didn't have to clean it every time I use it.


What's funny is I can hear some people saying the dresser looked just fine, which it did in the front.

But now that I glossed it up, added different hardware (for only $2!!!!), and added a counter edge and board to the back, it looks a little better.  She's all ready for the kitchen and toy trucks crashing into it.

The back of the dresser will not remain as a white rectangle in my kitchen.  Since this island will not serve as a eating area, chairs will not sit in front of it, which means this is the side everyone will see in the kitchen, unless you are cooking.  :)   I have a few ideas for the back of the dresser, but I want to really think about it before I dive right in.

This hardware is possibly temporary.  It's a little more traditional, and I am trying to break away from traditional these days.  But for less than $2 for a bag containing around 20 knobs, I would say I can deal with traditional for awhile.

xx nancy

My quilting book released Sept. 24, 2015 and is on Amazon.  Check it out!


  1. I saw your stuff on nester yesterday. Go you!

    If you just want to go to Angier earlier on Saturday, that would be cool with me too. I just want to hang out with you!

    1. I don't know what you are talking about. I will have to see what it is. Thanks for the heads up.

    2. Mixed it up. Your curtains and owen's room are showcased on inspired room, not nester.

      by the way, I often cannot post comments with my wordpress account, and I am not sure why. I think it is blogger, but I don't know.

  2. That looks awesome. You did a great job! When I get a new house, you have to come make me one! Ha!

  3. I just completed my first attempt at painting furniture and it went pretty well--our TV table/stand. I think I might paint Miranda's nursery dresser next after seeing your post. Her dresser is an oldie and looks similar to the one you painted here. I wasn't quite sure what to do with it until now. Thanks for the great tips!

  4. I too use Benjamin Moore's Advance. I really like the durability of the oil. To me, if you really want a piece to last and have a great finish, use oil instead of latex. It also means that the poly step is unnecessary because the oil will dry hard as nails, but you have to wait 30 days for it to fully cure. Your dresser looks great.

  5. First of all let me say I absolutely love your blog and everything on it! I am new to the blogging world as I recently became a DIY-addict. I get a ton of inspiration from your blog! Thank you for sharing!!

    Anyways- to my question. Is it necessary to seal after priming and painting? That is the one step that is missing from a lot of other blogs I've read during my pre-painting research. First of all, I don't have any.. and also I don't want to make it any shinier. What do you think?


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