milk painted dresser makeover

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Before and Afters, Furniture Makeovers, Master Bedroom, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint, My House, Painting & Refinishing, Tutorials67 Comments

I know that my followers love a good furniture makeover and I have a good old fashioned painted dresser makeover today!

This is a dresser I bought in the spring of 2019 when my mom and I were working on the guest room makeover.  We went out to a few local antique and consignment shops to see if we could find dressers to use as storage/nightstands and we ended up finding one for each side.  This is one of those dressers that was now replaced by an almost identical dresser we found when they were visiting a few weeks ago.  Are you tracking with me?

guest room | antique oak dresser | wallpaper | miss mustard seed

We ended up swapping out the one we bought last March with the recent find because the drawers work just a little bit better.  Since Jeff will be using it daily as a nightstand, it made sense to use the slightly sturdier one.  Be also loads it with books, and I mean loads it.  One drawer could be completely stuffed with books.  Which are heavy on those creaky, old drawers, so they need to be sturdy.

I want this dresser to complement the painted dresser that is on my side of the bed.  It’s painted in MMS Milk Paint Grain Sack

master bedroom | anthropologie mirror | blue and white | miss mustard seed

mirror | monogrammed pillow | antique books | 1920’s alarm clock

So, that meant this one needed to be painted, too.

Now, before I get further into this, I know the drill.  I know there are people who feel particularly perturbed when oak furniture is messed with and they won’t like that I painted it and that’s okay. I know enough about furniture to know this is not a rare, valuable, fine antique.    I also could tell it was refinished in recent decades, probably the 1980’s.  Painting this piece is not devaluing it.  I love beautiful, old wood and I have a lot of unpainted pieces in my home, but for the purposes of my specific space, I wanted to paint this piece.

I started off by giving it about a five-minute sanding with 100 grit paper.  This took off the shine and roughed up the surface enough to give the paint something to grip.

milk painted dresser makeover | miss mustard seed

I sanded the finish completely off of the top, so I could just do a wash and leave the grain showing.  If you’ve followed me long enough, you know that I don’t like painted tops.  I like to just add a light wash or stain or just put on a clear finish.  I think those options wear much better than paint over the years.

I applied two coats of MMSMP grain sack for this painted dresser…

milk painted dresser makeover | miss mustard seed

After two coats and a wash of Grain Sack on top (you can see a tutorial on creating a washed finish HERE), this is what it looked like…

milk painted dresser makeover | miss mustard seed

I finished the top with MMS Hemp Oil and the base with Tough Coat.

milk painted dresser makeover| hemp oil | miss mustard seed

milk painted dresser makeover | white wash | hemp oil finish | miss mustard seed

Initially, I loved the look of the original hardware, but once I got it in the room, it just looked off.  The brass was just a little too bright.

white milk painted dresser makeover | miss mustard seed

So, I replaced the hardware with some vintage pulls and knobs I found on Etsy that are a similar style.  They look much better on the piece and with the other decorative components in the room, like the mirror.

milk painted dresser makeover | blue and white | grain sack | miss mustard seed

Here is a closer look at the washed finish…

It allows the grain to show through but neutralizes the orange/yellow tones.  This is a particularly effective treatment on wood that has a deep grain, like oak.

Just for fun, here is a 3-second flyover of the painted dresser makeover…

You can find more furniture before & afters HERE if you’d like some more ideas for your own pieces!

And, speaking of paint, I’m going to be painting our bathroom cabinets today!  It’s the last step to getting our master bathroom makeover finished…

milk painted dresser makeover

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67 Comments on “milk painted dresser makeover”

  1. I love that dresser and I love that you leave the top more natural. Do you keep a record of how you treat each piece of furniture so you were able to match this one to the one you had previously painted?

    1. In an unconventional way, yes! I can always look back through my blog archives if I forget what I did to a piece, but 99% of the time, I just remember.

  2. I’m going to be one of those people! I don’t mind painted furniture and I’ve painted many pieces. However, I draw the line at quarter-sawn oak (unless it is very bad and irredeemable). If I need a painted piece for a certain look, I look for another piece of furniture of lesser quality wood.

    1. Yep!!! I have to agree with Katie….I am one of those people too!!!! Plus…it looked so perfect in the guest room.
      It came out pretty and all but……quartered sawn wood is a no-no. And there are plenty of other pieces out there.
      ….it’s funny how you knew it would be coming!!!

      1. Oh, it always does. I’ve been painting furniture for almost 20 years, so I can call it! 🙂

      2. me too, loved the look and contract of the natural wood piece. I think there is too much white painted furniture and the finish on that was beautiful as is.

    2. Yep, and I get that. I don’t mind because the piece has already been refinished and that quarter-sawn oak is still under there. I can always strip it and refinish it down the road. Truly, no harm done.

    1. I am researching milk paint and love how the chest turned out. Should I be concerned with bleed through on dark stained wood, such as mahogany, when using milk paint? Also, I didn’t see any chippy places on this piece. Was it because you sanded it good? Thanks!

  3. This turned out beautiful, and I am on board with your outlook on painting a piece. By that I mean, you consciously and respectfully choose and decide what to paint, and how to paint it. I like how the two pieces match WITHOUT being match-matchy !

  4. You made me so happy today with this dresser maker over. I’ve missed your furniture makeovers and this is as beautiful as all of your previous works of art. Thank you for making my day!

  5. How does an individual (me!) who doesn’t know wood and antiques differentiate between pieces that should be left as is and pieces that wouldn’t be devalued by painting? For instance, I’ve had the same two dressers in my bedroom for nearly 70 years, and they were second-hand when I obtained them. I don’t know what kind of wood they are (but I’m pretty sure they aren’t oak), nor do I know if they should be preserved as is, but they could definitely use a make-over.

    1. Based on your description, I would say paint them! A piece that is 70 years old is likely going to be machine-made and mass-produced and isn’t particularly valuable. Unless it was made by someone notable, handmade, etc. When you get into devaluing a piece is when it is 100+ years old, wearing the original finish, and is in pristine (or really great) condition.

  6. Hi Marion

    I have the same dresser! A friend gifted it to me may years ago when I was just starting to furnish our home. It was, and is, in great condition so I’ve kept it in it’s original condition. The problem is, I just don’t like oak. As soon as I was able to purchase a walnut dresser and highboy ( which I love) the oak got moved to the guest room. Other than to clean, I don’t go in that room much.
    When I saw today’s post I got so excited. I am going to follow your lead and paint the dresser. In my mind it will be turning an ugly duckling into a swan.
    I have had ( and disliked) that dresser for over 40 years. We should all love what we have. For those that like oak, keep it as is. For the rest of us- bring on the milk paint!

    Thanks for the inspiration.
    As an aside, I have had ( and disliked) that dresser for over 40 years.

  7. My parents had an ugly diningroom set from the 1930’s and it was oak. My father did the finish like you did on top and he called it Pickled. lol If the finish had poly on the surface someone could easily strop your paint off. I think in my opinion the natural finish was ugly. there is oak and then there is oak. lol My father’s pickling really rejuvenated the set.

  8. Beautiful work as usual, Marian. The 3-second flyover was fun to see and at the end, with the new hardware, the freshly painted piece seemed to smile.

    1. Nope! I have so many projects that I’ve finished over the past couple of months and I’ve only shared a few of them. I’ll be sharing the canopy soon.

  9. Kate, I could not agree with you more. As a first time “replier”, it hurts me to be negative on a site that I otherwise adore 99% of the time. Like yourself, I am not a newbie to the act of painting furniture and presently have plans for several more projects. Indeed valuing fine antiques is always a must, but for myself old or new, beautifully grained wood is also to be esteemed. Not only is the wood of this piece beautiful, IMO, but it complements the shape of the drawers perfectly..and admittedly, I have longingly coveted it whenever it appeared.

    1. Regina,
      It really is okay and I don’t see it as negative if you would’ve left it as is. For where I wanted to use it, I wanted to paint it. It’s okay that we would make different choices. That’s what makes my home mine and your home yours. I love old wood and painting this piece doesn’t change that. I have many, many wood pieces in my home that I would never paint because they have the most beautiful, glowing patina or I just love them as is. To each his/her own!

  10. Come on, people, it is just a dresser made of WOOD.
    If you like it painted, paint it. If you like it varnished to a high sheen, go for it. If you like it
    sanded down and oiled, good for you. If you like it in its original condition, wonderful.
    Do what you like, after all, it’s just a wood dresser, not something that deserves our reverence because of how it was originally made. The tree that it is made from is not offended, I promise. Being creative and enjoying it is the goal.
    It makes me sad to see you apologize for your choice, Marian. Knowing someone is going to have an OPINION!
    You are a master and we all know it. It is why most of us read your blog.
    Never apologize for what you love or create.
    It is nobody’s business but your own. You are just sharing because you do it so well!
    And if people don’t agree, why do they feel they should spew negative reviews? There is no right or wrong way.
    After all, in reality, it is just a dresser!

    1. I love this comment! I agree that it’s just a choice and it’s okay to paint it and it’s okay to leave it as is. I know some people just hate to see wood painted and I respect that. You’re right, we are all entitled to make our own decorating choices and I know I’ll get feedback when I share mine publicly. I’m used to it!

    2. Go Dominique!!! We all read this blog and learn from it. We love it and the creative talent that goes with it… We are all different…& how great is that.. Marian has a style that is uniquely hers and I personally, tune in every day to see what is going on in her home, & her life. She is not ‘afraid’.. How great is that? And no matter what she does-she brings it around to a great result.

    3. Could not agree more! If something as simple as a coat of paint can bring you some joy right now, bring out that paint! Well, maybe shy away from painting your kids 🙂 Also, if the biggest thing you have to be upset about today is that someone painted some oak furniture, I’d love to be you!

    4. Dominique- your thoughtful, well reasoned comment is just so ‘en point’!
      ‘Do what makes you happy’, is also my motto..

  11. I have that dresser in the garage right now. I got it at a flea market 34 years ago. I refinished it (wood stain) & used it for my son’s baby dresser. It needs the drawer guide fixed but otherwise is fine & really pretty. I have several old dressers or washstands that I just love … I think a birdseye maple, a cherry, & maybe a maple. They are all wood finish but I have a desk & several dresser that I plan to paint. I just recently got the ambition to start on my projects. Finished an end table with chalk painted legs & stained top. So pretty. Now I’m doing some louvered shutters in chalk paint. What a pain!!! But looking good.

    Love seeing your projects. Such an inspiration!

    1. Bird’s eye is my favorite grain! I just love the look of it. 🙂 Those sound like some great pieces that have already served you well.

  12. I have a waterfall dresser that i am in the process of refurbishing. It was originally a beautiful (maple?) veneer, but after my dad “antiqued” it for me about 50 years ago (at my adolescent request), that caused such “trauma” that I couldn’t restore it to its original beauty. So, I am doing the same thing with it that you did with this piece. I had thought of leaving the top “natural”, maybe staining it and putting on a clear coat. But, it was easier to just paint the whole thing. I will probably just paint or use a rub-on buff with the Keeler hardware (my dad “antiqued” those, too). Fun times!
    The piece looks great. Thank you for one of my favorites, your furniture makeovers!

  13. I love it; both ways actually! I am going to invite some girlfriends over to watch this tutorial and several others. You give such wonderful instructions. I think you are a natural teacher!
    Thank you for sharing all your projects!

    1. It looks beautiful and complements the room. If you ever decide to part with it in the future and the new owner wants the wood finish, it’s easy enough to strip and re-stain. I like how you do what works for YOU! Another beautiful transformation, Marian!

  14. I was just thinking of you today, wondering if you are still painting furniture. Funny this came up as my answer. 😃 This piece looks great! I like the wash on the top. And I always learn something new from your projects. I have a lot of oak furniture in my home , bought many years ago. I’ve been tired of oak and when I approached a dealer in regard to selling it to him, he said it didn’t hold much value being it was oak. So I painted it😌!

  15. Thank you for speaking to us non-furniture painters. I’m pushing 70 and painting oak pains me but when you give your little explanation it really helps me. Thank you. I really do love (most) what you do. 🙂

  16. I LOVE old wood and old patina but that dresser is easy to find and certainly not rare. I think it looks lovely in the space and it suits your style. Maybe some of the complainers can start their own blog called ” I NEVER paint wood EVER” instead of leaving negative comments on a blog whose founder started a paint line for furniture!

  17. It turned out so pretty. I just cant wait to see gour whole room, you have been quite the busy bee lately

  18. I loved how it turned out. The top is gorgeous. I have never painted any furniture because it scares me to death, I am so worried I will ruin it. I do have a question about how you clean the inside of an old dresser. Sometimes they are so dirty and musty smelling.

  19. I think it looks lovely. There are plenty of wood pieces out there for those who love it. This was not a priceless 1800s antique. and yes, this is the blog of the person who sold a line of MILK PAINT! Lol . We all have our own preferences, I think the oak looked dated and love that it matches its friend. I have some pieces I’ve painted that my dad cringes over (he’s a wood fan), but consider this- no one was buying the pieces I got at the flea market when they were wood. Sometimes it just looks dated. I too would never paint a valuable old piece, but have no problem updating furniture that was most likely mass produced. To each his own, but I love milk paint!

  20. I was given two small painted/antiqued dressers that were quite ugly, and I wanted to strip them to their natural unstained state and keep them that way. It was a difficult job – the antiqued finish had seeped into the wood and I spent hours getting all the paint off the first one. The wood was cherry, and I was so excited until I realised that whoever made them had obviously intended them to be painted because the drawers were put together with different “colors” of cherrywood – some pieces were greenish, some very dark and some light. I was so disappointed, and ended up having to paint them again. But, they look wonderful in a light grey that’s slightly distressed. And needless to say, the second dresser didn’t take nearly as long to strip since I knew I was going to paint it!

  21. Some years ago I bought an entertainment center furniture piece it was a DARK wood finish. A few months ago I started chalk painting my dining chairs and then the kitchen chairs all 10 in white. Then I starting wishing I could buy a new entertainment center but I couldn’t afford the expense so I painted it. At first I was really afraid to paint it, it took me months to get over the fear. I even had my sister telling me don’t do it. But for a couple of hundred dollars I have given my furniture a fresh new look. The painted pieces are mixed in with wood finished antiques and I am in love!

  22. actually, this is her furniture, and she is gracious to share with us. Let’s love what she does! And, be thankful we have her and her inspiration!

  23. I’m really curious, what is that little “X” on the left corner of the top drawer? I can see that is appears on the last picture of the flyover. Is this some mark that you make on your painted pieces? I never noticed before!

  24. Can you tell me where you found the drawer pulls? I have the same dresser that I painted. I wanted to replace the pulls but had trouble finding any that would sit on the curve of the drawers. The original ones are so hard to put on and remove because the hole on the inside of the drawer is very deep and really small. The smallest of pliers barely reaches in the hole to tighten the nut. Any thoughts?

  25. Hi I am one that does not paint quartersawn oak I like other posters look for other things to paint. I have found quartersawn oak pieces painted and attempted to strip and they will never strip all the way down there will always be paint in the grain however I feel that each person should do with their piece what they wish and enjoy them these type dressers are not easy to find where I live with the serpentine drawers and it will never sand all the way back down unless there is a trick that paint stripper and sanding can’t do but it does look great in your room and you will love it for many years to come! Love the top finish I popped over from fb cause you asked on fb to paint or not to paint I had to sew and I tend to only say no on the quartersawn oak especially serpentine

  26. I wanted to add to my above comment that I love in a 1903 Victorian home all the trim is oak stairway oak baseboards and there are 4 oak fireplace mantles we bought a lot of quartersawn oak and even though I painted the walls white it is still dark in here and my husband and I went to a bed and breakfast recently where they had painted all that white it was so light and cheery my husband wants me to paint it all white so I may be eating my don’t paint quartersawn oak words eventually! We should just all do with our stuff what pleases us

  27. Grain sack is one of my favorite colors in your collection and mine! Did I miss the reveal of the drape over your bed? I love what I could see!

  28. I have the same dresser and they are from old Sears and Roebuck catalogue. They tend to have a very “oaky” smell so I keep a container of Damp Rid in the lower drawer and it takes the old dresser smell away. Your dresser looks very fresh and pretty.

  29. Hi, I found this article very interesting and easy to follow. I actually worked on my son’s nursery last summer and fall. I decided to repaint the crib and a very old beautiful solid wood dresser. I learned as I starter my project that the final look on the dresser was going to depend on the material that is made of, so I was kind of nervous about it. I actually used wax paint and it took two to three coats of the solid color I picked, and two more for the final protective coat. At the end I was able to compare the crib and the dresser finishes with the same number of paint applications. The result was different because the crib is made of engineered wood so the look was more solid/uniform, perhaps cleaner. I loved it! Now the dresser is solid wood, so it ended up with a different look. The dresser had absorbed the three coats of pain that I had applied and when it was dried and the protective coat was applied it looked distressed, although I didn’t do anything extra to it. The furniture did look amazing and I am so happy I tried it, even with the two different finishes.

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