hand painted empire dresser makeover

by | Oct 17, 2014 | Before and Afters, Hand Painted Furniture, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint | 30 comments

It has been a marathon getting ready for The Chapel Market, which is just over a week away, but it’s been so fun, too.  I am most focused and intentional when I’m working towards a specific goal.  And this time has been even more fun, because I’ve had a lot of great help and the amazing studio space to work in.  I’ve been relishing it!  I have been a little overzealous with filling the “green zone” (aka my mockup booth for the event), because I’m starting to wonder how it’s all going to make it down to Alabama.  Has anyone invented a way to beam furniture, yet?  That would make things much easier.

We have a plan A and a plan B, so hopefully it’ll all fit.  It’ll be like playing Tetris.

Anyway, here’s the latest makeover…

Here’s how this piece started…

Now, you know me and paint.  I don’t usually have an issue painting a piece of furniture, but this wood was really beautiful and I debated with myself over it for a few weeks.  I saved it until I had painted all of the other dressers and was down to this last one.  What finally helped me make the decision to paint it was that it didn’t have the original finish.  Someone recently applied a sloppy, shiny coat of polyurethane and, while it looked nice in pictures, it didn’t look that great in person and close up.

Exhibit A…

The top was pretty rough as well, so between that and the drippy finish, I put a coat of paint on this empire beauty and slept like a baby after doing it.

I painted it in a coat of MMSMP Flow Blue with French Enamel on top.  I used Hemp Oil in a few strategic places between the coats to act as a “resist” and allowed the Flow Blue to show through once the piece was distressed.  After looking around for some inspiration, I opted for a simple folksy tree design for the front to set this piece apart from the other blue empire dressers I’m taking to the Chapel Market.

Here’s how it looks…

I styled this shoot with fall accents… preserved oak leaves (Wegmans), a gold throw (Target) and some antique finds that support a “wanderlust” sort of vibe.  Maybe you’re not picking that up, but that’s what was going on in my head!  I’m picturing this dresser in an Alpine cabin, welcoming someone who just went for a hike and collected leaves in their woven backpack.  I’m picturing the dresser filled with thick wool socks and checked cotton shirts.

Are you feeling me?  It’s like my “internal monolog”…something from my acting days.

I allowed the milk paint to remain a little “chunky” for the first coat, to provide a lot of texture when I later distressed.  Can you see the little speckles that look like worn and flaked paint?  That’s from the texture underneath created by the first coat of milk paint.  Once sanded, it feels smooth, but just gives the appearance of texture.


…and here’s a few more detail shots, just for fun!


This piece will be for sale at the Chapel Market coming up next Saturday!


Just a reminder before I sign off…  in case you missed my post about it, the Joss & Main #holidayhostess event with my picks is still running!



  1. Sara

    I think this is the most beautiful dresser I’ve seen you paint! Love the color. Sara, Ohio

  2. Scribbler

    This piece is so pretty! Looking forward to meeting you at the market. We were wondering how we get our purchases back to our vehicle because I read that you have take a shuttle into the market. We may not be there super early, but we will be there!

    • marian

      Last year, there was a place to pull up to pick up furniture. Jeff as well as Kriste’s husband will be there for our space, so we’ll make sure things get to your car! 🙂

  3. Jody

    I’ve always found that my painted furniture needs time to cure. Is this different with your milk paint? I sure wish you were doing a show closer to your home! I hope you sell everything in Alabama but if you don’t maybe you could have a little after show sale at your studio!

  4. Katy

    Breathtaking! Had to admire it several times.

  5. Rhonda

    Love the dresser Marian! Good luck at the Chapel Market! Do you ever refinish furniture? This would have been gorgeous refinished!

    • marian

      Yes, I actually do! I don’t do it very often, though, because it’s messy and time consuming AND, this is the biggie, people want to buy my painted pieces. The wood ones just don’t sell as well for me.

  6. Carolyn

    so pretty! I have a question: do I sand between each coat of milk paint?

  7. Teresa

    Georgeous and the hand painting puts it over the top perfect. I’m curious, would this have been a good candidate for the wet sanding with hemp oil or was the poly too thick?

  8. ellery

    I was just thinking about your home today and what talent you have. I found a piece of fabric the other day that I love and then I thought about painting a piece of furniture to match. I don’t want my house to look contrived or fussy and I want it to have a very organic look, like it naturally came together. That is how your home looks….like it just came together. Beautifully..

  9. graham

    I was wondering what kind of paint you used to paint the tree and other designs you have added to other pieces? This one is fabulous!

  10. Lindsay Eidahl

    The dresser turned out beautiful. My mom always thinks it is horrible when I paint over wood furniture, but sometimes you just have to do it! I love this piece!

  11. Adrienne

    Marian did you use extra bond on this piece? I’m assuming yes because it is not chippy, just distressed. And what did you seal it with? More hemp oil or wax? It is so beautiful! Always in awe of your work and creativity! You inspire me 🙂

    • marian

      I used the Bonding Agent on the first coat of paint, but not the second. I finished it with hemp oil. Thanks so much! 🙂

  12. Jelena

    Love the tree design on the front of this piece!

  13. Jessica @ Dear Emmeline

    So pretty! The styling immediately made me think of a brisk fall picnic on a sunny day. not far from your vision. I have that gold blanket and love it. so soft and snuggly.

  14. Lynn Dumouchel

    Your dresser is just beautiful as usual but i was wondering how did you preserve the leaves?
    Good luck at the market!

  15. Judy H.

    It’s beautiful! Love the color and the white tree and leaves. I was not aware that hemp oil could be used as a resistant and make a piece look as lovely as this dresser. That may be a procedure I’m not ready for yet, but it makes for a lovely finish. The styling of this dresser with the gold accents in the vignette on top and the cozy gold throw on the chair beside make this such an inviting piece AND place in a room. I’m in love.

  16. Danielle

    So, so beautiful, Marian. I LOVE how it came out and your styling is perfect too! Wishing you so much luck at the Chapel Market.

  17. Joanne

    i love the grain in the wood and it’s such a lovely piece. Was there no way to strip and restrain it? While I love painted furniture, this is one piece that I would love with just a stain.

    Good luck with your market!

  18. Ellie LaJuett

    Simple , classy and beautiful! Love your work!

  19. AuburnCathy

    I sure do wish Layla would change the Chapel Market to the spring so as not to compete with my Auburn Tigers.

  20. Jeanne Bell

    Please put me in for a chance for the beautiful bedding…it would look great on my antique iron bed.

  21. Chrissie

    Always beautiful and Iove your before and after shot!

  22. Joann Belcher

    Simply gorgeous. I have a question. What did you do to get it ready to paint? Thanks

  23. Carolyn

    Is that trappers pack for sale? I’ve been looking for a small one for sometime.

  24. Cindy

    A 100 years from now someone will fall in love with the warm blue paint, the primitive stylized design, They will wonder who painted it and what was their inspiration. They will see the tree design and leaves, they will know it was meant to be in their home for years to come.

  25. Anne Murdoch

    The dresser is beautiful. No doubt about that! I wondered if you drew the “tree” freehand?
    What I want to know, is how do we get a schedule
    of where you are showing? I live in Atlanta and when you said you were going to Alabama, well
    I could make it to a show depending on where and when. Also, are these pieces, like the beautiful dresser, for sale?

    • marian

      The show is in Pike Road, Alabama on October 25, this Saturday. The address is 24 Ring Around Rd, Pike Road, Alabama 36064 and the show starts at 9:00, $3.00 admissions.


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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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