Transform your old dresser.

Antiquing an Old Dresser

by Heather Montgomery

Thrift stores, yard sales, consignment shops, the side of the road and in the garage of a relative’s home are all great places to find old dressers. It is sometimes hard to look beyond the chipping finish, dents and scratches on old dresser, but with a little paint and some sandpaper, that old dresser will turn into a piece of furniture that shows its age well. One great benefit of choosing an antique finish for your furniture is that dents, scratches and other damage your children or others may inflict upon the dresser will only add to its appeal.

Move the dresser to a well-ventilated area and set it on a drop cloth. Make sure your children won't have access to the area while you are working on the dresser. Remove all hardware and set aside. Remove the drawers from the dresser and set them down on the drop cloth with the drawer faces facing up.

Put on chemical-resistant gloves, goggles and a mask. Apply liquid sander to the dresser to remove the gloss of the finish and prepare the surface for primer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for application methods and times. If the dresser was previously painted, sand down the old finish with an orbital sander or use a paint stripper according to manufacturer’s directions.

Spray the dresser and drawers with a layer of spray primer. When spraying the drawers, hold a piece of cardboard under the drawer edge to prevent overspray, allow the primer to dry completely and apply a second coat if you desire.

Choose a light-colored spray paint in satin finish for the top coat of the dresser. Pick a color that complements the surrounding decor but that is light enough to show the color of the stain you will apply to antique the dresser. Some rustic color choices are cream, sea foam green, light turquoise, light gray and tan.

Spray at least one coat of your top color onto the entire dresser, using cardboard to prevent overspray. Allow the first coat to dry and apply a second coat if you notice spots with poor coverage.

Fold a piece of sandpaper in half and sand over the areas that receive normal wear and tear over time, such as raised details, corners, edges, the top and feet of the dresser. Sand lightly to just mar the paint in some areas, and heavy enough to show the wood grain beneath the paint in other areas. Wipe away excess dust with a rag.

Dip a paintbrush in the wood stain color of your choice; a darker stain works well with this project as it will show better on the paint. Paint the stain onto a drawer of your dresser in a light layer. Immediately begin wiping off the stain with a clean rag until you achieve the antique look you want. The stain will leave behind a hue of darker color on the painted areas, and will color the exposed wood grain at full strength. Continue to apply and wipe away the stain on the dresser, working in one small area at a time. Allow the dresser to dry before moving it back into your home and reattaching the hardware.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver
  • Drop cloth
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Goggles
  • Mask
  • Liquid sander
  • Rag
  • Spray primer
  • Cardboard
  • Spray paint, satin finish
  • 320-grit sandpaper
  • Wood stain
  • Stiff bristle paintbrush


  • If your dresser will be in a kid’s room, a kitchen or other areas where it will see a lot of action, finish the dresser with two coats of non-yellowing spray polyurethane.

About the Author

Based in Lakeland, FL., Heather Montgomery has been writing a popular celebrity parenting blog and several parenting and relationship articles since 2011. Her work also appears on eHow and Everyday Family and she focuses her writing on topics about parenting, crafts, education and family relationships. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in early education from Fort Hays State University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images