Mid-century Modern Dresser

You’ll find that most of my projects start with some sort of inspiration from Pinterest, because that what Pinterest is there for, right? Adam and I got this mid-century modern style dresser for free out of his old rent-house (roommates came and went often, sometimes leaving furniture behind in the dumping ground of the converted garage space). As you can see it’s a little blah and way too orange-y for my tastes, and I wanted to give it a bit of pop.


The only issue was that the top of the dresser has a sheet of laminate fused to it (common in 50s and 60s furniture), which is not something that can be sanded down and re-stained. I’m really loving the character of natural wood these days and I didn’t want to just paint the whole thing.

After a quick Pinterest search, I found this cool transformation that gave me a starting point for my re-do, without sacrificing my wood grain.


I have these neat driftwood looking frames from Ikea on either side of my bed, so I decided to go with a lighter, more natural looking wood, and a darker paint color. First things first I busted out my orbital sander and went to town on the drawers. They took a lot of sanding to get down to the natural grain, and I DO NOT recommend sanding inside like I did haha. One of the woes of apartment living. Next time I’m doing it out in the parking lot anyways.


If there had been a thick coat of polyurethane or any paint on these, I’d grab an eco-friendly chemical stripper to get the layers off before sanding away the stain, but I try and avoid that stuff when I can. Even the “green” kind smells god awful.


After I got all the drawers sanded, I set them aside and moved the body of my dresser over to the drop cloth. I did a quick sanding with my orbital to make sure that the paint had something to grab onto, but you could use a sanding block as well. Then I grabbed a damp cloth and wiped it down to make sure that I had a clean surface to work with, and let it dry out for a minute before I started painting.

For the last few years I’ve almost exclusively used Behr paint + primer on my furniture and walls alike. It covers so well in only a couple coats, and holds up to wear and tear really well too. I used a small foam roller on this to get a nice even finish without brush marks, since it’s a more modern piece. Here it is while still wet, so it’s way more shiny than the satin finish that it dried to. 


The body only took a couple coats, so after it dried I switched back over to the drawers. You want to make sure that your drawers are wiped down and clean as well, because paint, stain, and poly doesn’t NOT mix well with sanding dust. If you’re staining your drawers a dark color, you can actually go ahead and start staining before letting it dry out, because the water opens up the pores of the wood and helps it take stain better.

I did three coats of a matte polyurethane on the drawers, which darkened up the color a bit, but I still really like the finished product. If this had been a furniture piece that was going to see a lot of rough use, like a kitchen table or desk, I would have done a few coats of poly on the painted body as well, but I got lazy at the end of the project and knew I wasn’t going to be beating up the top and sides of my dresser much. So here’s the final product!


Yes, we watch TV in the bedroom…not healthy, I know. I figure we drink enough water and eat enough kale to cancel it out. I love how it turned out, and after getting the dresser for free, it was only about $40 in supplies (paint, poly, roller, tray, sandpaper). I’ll dig the paint out of my storage closet soon and post an update with the name of the color for those who are interested! (UPDATE: the color is Intellectual by Behr)


Great way to bring an old furniture piece back to life!

2 thoughts on “Mid-century Modern Dresser

  1. Pingback: Decor Sneak Peak |

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