Curbside Beauty

20 Oct

So, you’ve heard of a diamond in the rough? I’d say this is the furniture equivalent.

As I was running errands one day, I drove past a house and saw two men dragging this dresser to the curb.

A bit rough? Yes. Coming home with me? Double yes.

I mean, this was a solid wood piece of furniture. Good bones, as they say.

And, I’d been stalking the Anthropologie chests/buffets that displayed pretty dishes and tea cups. This had potential.

Not being in the business of picking through garbage in my everyday life, I was a bit nervous to take a giant step into dumpster-diving territory.

But, technically, this thing was on its way to the curb. So, really, it was kind of in garbage purgatory and I could save it. There. Justified.

Thank goodness for the fold-down seats in the Jeep Liberty and the willingness of the two men to hoist the heavy dresser into the car. And they only laughed at me once.

Once I got home and some awesome friends helped me lug the piece into my place, I evaluated my find.


It was missing two drawers. The bottom molding was roughed up. Any luster it once had was completely gone.

This was a definite Before. I wasn’t sure I could pull off an After, but this was completely, absolutely free. So, why not see what happens?

After some Googling, I set out on the first of many trips to Home Depot for supplies.

After covering my patio with plastic tarps – and feeling a bit like Dexter – I started cleaning the dresser from head to toe. Then, I sanded. And sanded. And sanded. I wanted to make sure to buff out the imperfections so that I would end up with a nice smooth surface.

After thoroughly cleaning off the sanded bits with a cheese cloth (you just can use a clean towel if you prefer, but this was my first rodeo so I stuck with the expert-recommended cheese cloth), I was ready to prime.

I used white Kilz Premium Primer. It took a while to paint the whole piece plus the drawers with the primer, but it’s an important step to make sure the paint goes on nice and smooth. I let it dry for a full 24-hours, just to be safe.

The white of the primer almost convinced me I wanted to paint the dresser white, but I forged forward with my original idea to paint it black. (Cue the Rolling Stones.)

After the primer dried, I started applying the black paint.

I used Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch in Black.

There are different schools of thought on using latex paint v. oil-based paint for furniture makeovers like this. I’m in no way an expert and did plenty of Googling and YouTube video-viewing before making a decision. I found this tutorial helpful, too.

I started from the bottom and worked my way up, applying thin, steady strokes. It ended up taking three coats in the end to achieve the smooth finish I was looking for.

Since I’d been eyeing display/buffet-style pieces for pretty dishware, I decided to scrap the broken drawers, move one of the good drawers to the bottom and create two display shelves in the drawer space up top.

To do this, I painted the drawer space to match the rest of the dresser. (Be prepared for paint on your nose while doing this. Just roll with it.)

Then, after measuring the space, I had the friendly little Home Depot man cut some pieces of MDF for me to fit inside. Since I was going to paint the wood and it wouldn’t really be seen, the low-quality MDF worked just fine. It was solid enough to hold the dishware but inexpensive enough to keep me feeling good about me “free” project.

The final touch was to go to the source of my inspiration – Anthropologie – and snag some cute little drawer pulls to pop against the black. I decided to use them on the first and third drawers and keep the original pulls on the second. They had a bit of a retro vibe going on and they were a good link back to the piece’s previous life.

And, in the category of things I didn’t know back then…Hobby Lobby has a whole aisle of drawer pulls that are thisclose to the Anthropologie pulls, for about half the price. And every three weeks, they are at least an additional 40 percent off. You’re welcome.

Now, the reveal…

All dressed up for Christmas

What do you think?

It’s become an ever evolving display of pretty bowls, tea cups and platters, with a few odds and ends mixed in.

Up top, here’s what’s on display (minus the Christmas decor seen in this photo):

  • A vintage map of Memphis, bought from this shop on Etsy and framed
  • An old window frame found at my favorite antique store, Sheffield Antique Mall
  • Two vintage light fixtures found at an antique shop in charming Savannah, TN. They really are the same size, but I propped one up to create some dimension.
  • A pair of extra large candles from Pier One
  • A clock from Hobby Lobby
  • A few other candles holders I’ve gathered from different places

I was pretty excited about the way it turned out, given a) it was pretty sorry looking before and b) I had no idea what I was doing. This was definitely one of those cases where not over-thinking it paid off.

And speaking of the pay off, the whole makeover project was under $50 and it would have been less if I had the supplies already at home.

Dresser Before and After

So that’s the story of how a destined-for-the-curb dresser became one of my favorite pieces of furniture. It’s not perfect, but it has a story. And it’s a great reminder to take a second look at all those thrift store, Craiglist and garage sale finds.

Have you ever brought home a curbside find? Are you a thrift store shopper? What kinds of treasures have you found?

As mentioned in the post, I’m certainly not an expert in painting furniture. In fact, those who are experts may laugh at my methods. But so far, they’ve worked for me and I continue to learn on each piece. YouTube has some great video tutorials with real experts if you want to see how it’s done.

One Response to “Curbside Beauty”


  1. Pretty Quick: Drawer Pull Kitchen Hooks « Every Day Pretty - February 20, 2012

    […] hit up Hobby Lobby, my not-so-secret source for half-price Anthropologie-esque hooks and drawer pulls. I was disappointed in their hook selection, but in the drawer pull bins, I spotted these […]

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