experimenting gone right

by | May 13, 2014 | Before and Afters | 74 comments

When I have a bunch of “subjects” in my basement, it’s a great time for me to test out some ideas, techniques and new products.  I do need to use the tried and true as well, so I don’t end up with a bunch of DIY disasters, but it’s not much of a risk to experiment on a few pieces.  Plus, I’ve learned that it’s really hard to ruin a piece with paint.  You can always sand it and try again.

My biggest recent experiment was on this piece…


I got this dresser from the same place I got the Boxwood dresser and the condition was pretty similar.  It needed to be cleaned, glued, sured up and straightened out.  The top was chipping and had gouges and water rings on it, so I stripped the finish.  The wood underneath was so beautiful!


I painted the body of the dresser in a custom-mixed MMSMP color (I’m working on some colors for a possible European line.)  This turned out to be a soft green, blue, gray color.  Think it’s a keeper?

Anyway, it chipped a lot.  I mean, flaking off the drawer fronts, so barely a scrap of paint was holding on for dear life.  At the time, I decided to go with it and tested out a possible new topcoat that can be applied to prevent a piece from chipping anymore.  (It worked very well at that, by the way!)  So, I let the finish dry and put on the hardware.

It was too much.  The chipping was kind of cool, but too much.  So, I made a rash decision and just painted over the places that chipped too much.  As it was drying, I thought that might’ve been a mistake.  I didn’t know how the paint would behave over this new topcoat.  Well, it stuck like a champ…without the bonding agent or sanding or anything.  (Hmmm…this topcoat could be a primer/sealer as well?)


Now I had places where the paint was opaque with full coverage and places where it chipped.  I needed to distress the full-coverage areas and, when I did, it brought out the amazing texture of the chipped paint underneath.


I did an “I-have-made-fire” sort of dance at the newly created technique that looks complicated, but was really easy to achieve.  I called Jeff in to show him the results of my experiment.  He nodded and got as excited as one who doesn’t really care about paint finishes could get and went about his day.  So, I took some time and admired it for the both of us.  And took lots of pictures of crackles and chips and fine lines.





I finished the wood top in Hemp Oil to bring out the beautiful wood.  I also like how the wood top quiets the piece, since the chipping and texture can make it a little in-your-face.


What’s really cool about this texture is it’s just visual texture.  The piece still feels nice and smooth, which I like in a piece of furniture.

I know this kind of piece isn’t to everyone’s taste, but in my mind, this experiment was a success!

Believe it or not, I still have more painting and upholstery to do.  Lucketts is almost here…


  1. Liz C.

    I laughed right out loud at your “I have made FIRE!” reference, because I totally do that, too! 🙂 This is gorgeous & giving me ideas about my Nana & PawPaw’s dressers I’ve got that are looking a little sad & tired.

  2. Quandie

    Fabulously gorgeous! Love the color, and the effect, and those fantastic delicate curvy legs. So … about these new European colors … are us poor old Americans going to be able to get our hands on them?

  3. Chrystal Younger

    This is off topic, but for some reason I am no longer getting your blog emailed to me. I found this one on FB.

  4. Tracey

    You did a such a GREAT job on this dresser…look back at photo #1 and #4, it looks like a smiling face…a look of approval for the up-cycle you gave it – looks really good!

  5. Marian@Gathering Branches

    hey lady, if you need some outside “beta testers” for that sealing product you were talking about, I have the perfect project in the works right now. I would love to see how it works over cured paint with hand painted detail to prevent further chipping. I have been holding off on top coating this piece to see if I could find something that did just that.

    Looking forward to seeing you at Lucketts! My booth is called “3 Vintage Vixens” this year and we’re in the same space as last time, just inside from the back parking lot.

    The Other Marian

  6. Susan

    It looks great! I’d love to see a tutorial sometime on how you strip the tops of these pieces, btw! Thanks for the great reading and inspirational blog! 🙂

  7. Rhonda

    Sometimes our “mistakes” lead to fantastic results and I say this was a complete success! This does not look like a newly applied finish, it looks like you just pulled it out of the barn and cleaned it up, and to me, is a very good thing! Very authentic looking, I LOVE it!

  8. Cathy Johnston

    Sometimes families put labels on things to help people in the early stages of Alzheimers

    • Jennifer

      I was thinking the same thing….. <3

  9. Lise

    The dresser became gorgeous – and the color is so beautiful! I could wish to paint some of my own old furniture/dressers in exactly that color. Any chance that your Milk paint will be sold in Norway ?
    Good luck at Lucketts 🙂

  10. Bridget from Refined Vintage

    The finish looks as if it is really old, which is so cool because it seems to be rather easy! Thanks for discovering a great way to distress and then sharing with us. It really does have n authentic look to it!

  11. Susan Sweeney

    Oh, Marian, I have to know the colors you mixed for this piece. I love it, and I am about to start painting a display cabinet in your shutter gray, but I think I like this even better. I have shutter gray, ironstone and eulalie’s sky. Any chance those are the three colors you mixed?

  12. Carrie Roberts

    Bravo! Love your work.
    I just used your paint on a dresser…it did a lot of chipping. Then I went over it with hemp oil. Will this help seal it so that it doesn’t chip anymore?
    Thank you!

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      It really depends on the piece. Most of the time, I can seal chippy pieces with hemp oil or wax, but sometimes a piece is really stubborn. This piece was really chippy, so another topcoat is a good option.

  13. Lauren H.

    Hi Marian! I am new to your site and your MMSMP and have been reading through lots of helpful information over the past few days. I was wondering if by any chance you have a tutorial on your typical method that you use most often for cleaning and stripping off a finish. What products do you use? I recently hit the thrift store jackpot and bought myself a beautiful china cabinet and dining room table set (two leaves and 4 chairs) for $60 and I’m thinking this would be my first step. I’m not opposed to chipping and I certainly don’t want a chip-free finish, but I also don’t want a ton of chipping either. I would love to hear your advice!


  14. Kelly

    The dresser looks incredible. I’m so happy you are having a ball with the process. I must tell you that I’m in the process of staining a c1900 twin headboard and curved footboard for one of my young boys. (A masculine version of your guest room bed). A Craig list find that looked good in the picture and then when the gentleman arrived from 45 minutes away there was a thick coating of bubbled shellac on the piece. I didn’t have the heart to send the man home with the piece because I’d been dreaming about that footboard. So, after reading your hemp oil/wax info I went to my Des Moines, IA retailer offering your products ready to purchase the hemp oil as a finishing product. They looked at me funny and didn’t understand? They asked what would the hemp oil grab on to? I thought it protected the wood from the inside. So, I left not getting anything. I thought the hemp oil would be nice as headboards and especially footboards don’t get much wear?

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Do the bed frames have a poly finish on them already? Is it intact or worn away? Or raw wood? If there is a ply finish that is glossy, the Hem Oil won’t be able to absorb into the wood, so it would just sit on top…not really doing much. It’ll add a little shine, but not really added protection. If the surface is porous, it will absorb the Hemp Oil and will look great. I hope that helps!

  15. Tonya

    I love it! 🙂 It looks fantastic! I’ve done the same thing several times myself, just painting over what chipped “too much” (in my opinion) and I loved how it turned out with the two layers of paint. I just did this on a wooden wine rack I painted up last night! (I used Shutter Grey over a “custom” purple color I mixed up with Tricycle, Mustard Seed, and Flow Blue… Sanded that baby down so the Shutter Grey would poke through and the wood in some places too… Beyond proud of it… If I remember to, I’ll be posting pics on my twitter account this afternoon!)
    Thanks for the inspiration, and the nudge of re-assurance that I’m not the only one who likes that look!

  16. cassie

    such a happy accident! can’t wait to see you in a few days! EEEEK!

  17. Ann

    It’s gorgeous! Looks like it came straight out of a seaside cottage. By they way, the reason they probably labeled the drawers is because the owner was suffering from memory loss or Alzheimer’s. We had to do that with our grandmother’s furniture.

  18. Jenny H.

    This is my favorite piece you’ve done! It’s perfect. Love the color!

  19. Bonnie

    I agree with Jenny H… This is my favorite piece of yours!
    I was hoping you would reveal the name of the top coat? I love the look of the chippy furniture, but hate the feel, so this would be a WINNER!
    Thansk for all that you do – inspire us all to create and have an outlet. You are wonderful.

  20. tanya

    This is beautiful! I hope you announce your top coat soon. I have a piece that is chipping way too much, and that sounds like exactly what I need. Here’s to successful experiments!

  21. Andrea

    Was the veneer intact on this, or was some missing (in fifth pic down from top) and you just went with it? Hoping the latter, since I have a similar dresser I’m staying away from due to veneer issues that are slowing me down…should I clamp and reglue? Fill in missing? What with?

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Actually, the veneer on this one was pretty well intact. On the Boxwood one, I had to do a lot of gluing and clamping. The veneer was there, but some of it had pulled away. If veneer is chipped, I just leave it. It can provide really cool texture if a piece is being distressed. If you want to restore it, it should be replaced.

  22. Karen G

    Beautiful piece! and…there are people out there that do not like this finish?!?!

  23. Kathryn

    loving the color. I mean LOVING THE COLOR! nice job there, Fire Dancer

  24. Anne

    i think you do beautiful work…but i don’t get this piece…it must just be me but i see nothing pretty about it…..it just doesn’t look like you

  25. Carol G

    Beautiful color! I think it’s a keeper! I just ordered several colors from my closest retailer and can’t wait to start some of my “projects”!!! Will definitely send pics when they are done!

  26. Deana

    The labels may have been there to help an elderly individual or someone with disabilities…….

  27. Kristi

    I totally dig this piece! It pops with rustic beauty! Well done.

  28. Nancy

    WOW love it!!!

  29. Misty

    I LOVE it! Is this amazing top coat/base coat/primer something we will soon be able to buy from you? I have yet to be able to achieve these amazing chippy looks you are so good at. It’s the one thing I haven’t figured out. 🙁 I sure wish you would do a seminar in Texas!

  30. Lisa

    I absolutely LOVE everything about this dresser! I actually have a old armoire that came directly out of a barn and into my arms that is so similar in color and crackly effect!! I adore it! This is definitely my favorite!! Three cheers for an amazing success!

  31. Sarah Lahrman

    This is a total keeper! I adore the color and the way it turned out. And those legs!!! I would love to have this piece ~ so wish I was going to Lucketts so I could snatch i up!

  32. JeanFB

    OH my gracious this is my favorite MMSMP piece EVER! I adore that French Grey color…. a true and ever-elusive Tendre Gris! Please please please sell that color here…. in the USA…. I need it! Yes, need! And I soooo wish I could go to Luckett’s and buy that dresser. 🙂

  33. Birgitta

    I love this, all of it, except….the knobs…..There are so many Nicke old knobs to be found at garage sales etc, so why do you keep to these in glass?
    Having said this, i go back to praiaing you….I’ m so happens I found your blog, it’ s filled with inspiration and you have a way of writing and describing what you do that make me fel I could do, if not as well, at least somethingof the kind. Thanks you for sharing everything so generously!!

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Yeah, I love fun knobs, but glass are my go-to, especially when I want the paint finish the be the star. I always try at least 3 different knob styles on each piece and these looked the best. 🙂

      • maureen

        Love the glass knobs you used! Where did you find them? Thanks! p.s. love the dresser too…F.A.B.!

  34. Sheila

    I absolutely LOVE the color!!

  35. Marianne Davies

    Hi Marian, love how your dresser turned out. I noticed I had not been receiving your blog for a week or so. Not sure what happened, but I did resend my e-mail and hope I am back on track. I look forward to receiving the blogs in my in box everyday!!


    • Jane

      I have not been receiving your blogs either along with several other blogs I subscribe to. I am wondering what has happened also.!

  36. Barb Labine

    It is funny, that you talked about the dresser chipping, and continuing to chip, even though it was sealed! I had done another dresser, with your paint, and used wax to seal it with, and it continued to continue to chip, I had it in my space at Farmhouse Inspired, and I finally, brought in my topcoat from another paint co. and sealed it on top of the wax, which worked to stop it from chipping! Have used a topcoat in other ways, we all are learning as we do each piece , and that is part of our journey, as artists of furniture!

  37. Margaret

    Beautiful and beautiful! Love the color, love the finish. And I agree, it’s just paint! If it all goes wrong you just sand it off and start again., I think that’s what makes it so fun since every price can be as unique and special as the person working in it. Just beautiful!

  38. cait

    Please share the color mix! It’s magic!

  39. Sandy

    What bonding agent do you use. I am not a fan of the chipping but would try the paint with a bonding agent.

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      It’s the bonding agent that’s sold with my line.

    • Kathy

      There could be lots of reasons the drawers were labeled. As you found with your son recent diagnosis , loved ones do lots of things to help assist . Some you never even consider until you are faced with finding a solution. I have labeled drawers for learning disabilities and dementia. Hope you have nice weather for your big event. 🙂

      • Miss Mustard Seed

        Yep, I didn’t thing of that. I’m sorry if you or anyone else was offended. I wasn’t trying to be insensitive.

  40. sandi

    Love the color, the top, the whole piece!!
    Just wondering – attended a demo last Saturday with The Ironstone Nest – hemp oil needs about 30 days to be totally cured, right? So it makes me nervous about placing items on freshly applied hemp oil as you do in your pix (and most certainly a buyer will do the same). Is it really ok to put stuff on oiled pieces only after 24 hours?

    ps – I’ll be placing a large order soon to do my kitchen cabinets.

  41. Vicki

    This is gorgeous! Please post a tutorial of the techniques you used. I have never seen anything you’ve done that I didn’t love…thanks for sharing your beautiful work!

  42. Pat

    This is just a guess, but the labeling of the contents of the drawers may have had something to do with the owners memory. Both of my parents had dementia, and it was often suggested to label dressers, cupboards, contents in the refrigerator, etc to lessen the stress of not remembering where things were. In the early stages of dementia, folks can read and understand what they are reading (for the moment, anyway), but then they quickly forget.
    Just thought you might want to know. I’m not saying this is the reason your dresser was labeled, but it very well could be the reason.

  43. Carrie -Curate & Co.

    I love how it turned out! I’m loving all of the before & after furniture features this week. I just purchased my first round of MMS milk paints this weekend from Laura at Ironstone Nest at Urban Farmgirl’s Main Street Market. Laura is so sweet & she shared some great tips & tricks. I was so inspired! I’m looking forward to my first paint project this weekend.

  44. Maria (Magia Mia)

    I know exactly what you’re excited about regarding the newly-discovered finish. I found that out a few projects ago, when I got over-zealous with the distressing. After I re-painted some distressed areas, I truly loved the paint edges that were showing underneath. Really made it look more authentically old. We could call those happy accidents, but I like to think of them as Divine Artistic Intervention……:)

  45. Susan Sweeney

    I noticed you responded to most every question except the colors you mixed for this piece. Since there were several requests made for the formula and you didn’t answer any of them, I was wondering if there was a reason you don’t want to disclose it?

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Sorry! I am not trying to be evasive about that, but I didn’t answer because I used colors that aren’t in my paint line, yet, so it wouldn’t be helpful for me to share the colors. I’m using pigments and colors directly from the manufacturer. When I make custom mixes with just my colors, I’ll always share the recipe! 🙂

  46. Elizabeth

    Once again, everything looks awesome. I’m wondering if there something going on I’m not receiving any email?

  47. maria

    Gorgeous!! The paint color, definitely a keeper – it is king!!

  48. Mary

    I don’t know if I missed it or what but could you please tell me what did you use as the topcoat on your dresser. I love the way it turned out. I did a project on an coffee table but now I don’t know what to put on it to protect it.

  49. Laurie

    I like the texture you achieved when viewed in the close up photos. But I don’t care for the way the piece as a whole looks. The large areas of distressing [or not sticking] Look Like they were made on purpose and by power tools. I’m not saying they Are that. But how it looks is what matters in the end.

    I do think the new color is a keeper, especially for Europeans.

    Best of luck at Lucketts!

  50. Kim Svahn

    I too am not getting any of my feedburner email subscriptions anymore!!! I noticed other people have commented on this. Another blog I subscribe to (The Enchanted Home) finally started coming again (after weeks of not getting it) and in the blog she mentioned that she had to switch to Mail Chimp because so many subscribers were not getting their feedburner emails. I miss my Miss Seed emails!!! Love your blog and your home and your energy!

  51. Colleen of Vintage Home

    oh I love me a crackly finish! It is beautiful! Dressers are my all time favourite piece of furniture and this one with the beautiful legs and darling wheels, is FABULOUS!
    Thanks for all the tips, and I am going to try the Hemp Oil!

  52. Debbie McCallen

    I love it. the color, the texture and the end look. can’t wait to get some of your new “possible topcoat”

  53. Laura

    So what was the magic topcoat that you used? Love the color!

  54. sharon

    Great results. Love the colour and the chippiness, especially if the finish is smooth to the touch. Looks very authentic.

    colour definitely a keeper.

  55. dori

    I absolutely LOVE it! and ‘fine lines’ at age 43 usually makes me cringe – but perfection here!!

  56. Sherry

    Marion, I’m not getting my feed burner email subscriptions anymore either! What do I do? I love getting them!

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      I’m working on the problem. Sorry! I think I may have to switch to a different distributor.

  57. Lesley

    Beautiful color, and love the effect of the hemp oil, the wood looks really rich. I don’t understand the glass knobs, though. A rough and tumble piece of furniture with “indoor” glass knobs?

  58. Diane

    Before I go any further I want to say that I love what you do…the landscape chest of drawers is darling! I feel like this cabinet has something missing and I believe its the drawer knobs…its like it needs a pop of colour because its hard to see the door knobs with the washed out grey/green colour! I am not a fan of over chippy paint, but I do know that everyone is different and some love it…but I do really think that the drawer knobs get lost which is a real pity because they are beautiful, far better to use some block colour knobs…just my opinion Marian and I am no great expert!

  59. Cathee

    I think it looks amazing, I really like the look you achieved. It pays to experiment with these things!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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