Turning trash into treasure, one piece at a time

Restored Mid Century Dresser


Last week, I posted about a mid century dresser that I purchased (and dubbed, “The Mid Century Mess”). The dresser had been so badly abused. It broke my heart to see her in the condition she was in. So much so, that I drove an hour away to go pick her up. I couldn’t leave her to die.

I had a plan, as well as a backup plan. The plan, was to try and restore her back to her former beauty. The backup plan (if it was beyond restoration under all the paint), was to properly repaint her. I was hoping for restoration but until I stripped her down, I had no clue if that was going to be doable or not. As luck would have it, she wasn’t too bad off under all that “makeup”.

This project took me a solid week to complete and the Georgia humidity made it a bit worse. It wasn’t that the humidity was impacting my progress, it’s that I couldn’t tolerate wearing long sleeves and pants while working outside. Have you ever splashed Klean Strip furniture stripper on your flesh? No? Well, imagine that you took a metal steak skewer and heated it over an open flame. Now, imagine jamming that scalding hot metal skewer, into your skin and just leaving it there. That about sums it up. It’s not a pleasant experience but neither is heat exhaustion and dehydration so…



Can you believe how sexy she is now? I can’t stop looking at her. I even named her! That’s right, I named furniture. It seemed fitting as she was basically left for dead but has now risen from the ashes. So with that, I named her “Phoenix”.

Let’s take a looksie at her journey…

Remember how she looked when I got her?

When I brought her home, I got to work on stripping her down. Here, you’ll see the top (left) and the side and legs (right) after using the Klean Strip. The bulk of it came off on the first pass but I went back in a second time, to get the rest of the old finish off that was still stuck on there.

Seriously. Look at my tray. See how full it is? That’s before I even stripped the drawers! Yuck!

Between coats of stripper, I wiped it down with mineral spirits. This deactivates the stripper while also removing the excess and letting you see if you missed anything. With the amount of paint that was on this thing, I definitely needed to do a second pass. Once the second pass was done, I again wiped it down with mineral spirits.

Pretty big difference already, huh? Checkout the difference between the drawers and the frame. I put them back in, so y’all could really see what a mess they were. After I took the picture, I stripped them down too (same process).

From there, I sanded the entire outer area of the dresser, using my electric sander. This helped to smooth out most of the scratches/gauges. After wiping it down with a tack cloth (to remove the sawdust), and applied the first coat of stain. I went with Minwax English Chestnut. Stunning, right?

But wait… there’s more! The second coat of stain, really did the trick. It’s so rich and lovely.

Unfortunately, this is where I stopped taking progress photos (but I have another “after” photo below) as I was pretty worn out and still had more work to do. For instance, I sanded inside the dresser, to remove as much of the paint as I could. For that, I used my FERM multitool kit, with the sanding & sandpaper attachment. This allowed me to reach into tight spots, such as corners.

After that, (and wiping it down again), I sealed it all with Minwax Wipe On Poly in Clear Satin. I did 4 coats, and gently sanded between each coat with 2000 grit sandpaper. This makes for a super smooth surface.

I spent so much time on this restoration that my dogs got jealous. One of them was so jealous, that he photobombed me (then proceeded to knock over my kids’ crayons and peed on my youngest son’s coloring book). Clearly, he’s lacking in the belly rub department. Not to worry though… he’s about to get lots of snuggles!