The 7 Year Dresser Project

dresser before and after restaining and painting with chalk paint

I’ve been threatening to share this for weeks now, figured it was finally time I got around to posting my restained and painted dresser, complete with sexy new hardware! Ok, it didn’t really take me 7 years to finish it (thank God), but it took about that long for me to get sick enough of the yellowed finish to give it a makeover. The time came a few weeks ago when my husband was working a Saturday shift and I was bored, so I headed on over to see Katrina at Malenka Originals, my local Annie Sloan Chalk Paint stockist and furniture refinishing guru. I changed my mind about how to refinish it- originally I was just going to paint the whole thing, but a few people suggested the white paint/walnut stain combo that I finally settled on. I was also interested to see how the veneer surface of the drawer fronts would take to being restained, and if it didn’t work I could just stick with the original plan of painting it.

Katrina was as helpful as ever and recommended Finico environmentally friendly gel paint stripper for the drawer fronts that I was going to restain. This stuff worked really well, but it was on the pricey side. I needed more than the one jar to do all the drawers so I made my first rookie mistake: I tried to stretch it and applied the stripper too thin. Guys… don’t do that. It dried out, so not only did it not remove the old finish but it made even more crap for me to scrape off the drawers.

For my second paint stripping attempt, I used another eco-friendly brand called Smart Strip from Home Depot, which also worked well. It goes on kind of like frosting and you want a good thick layer so it doesn’t dry out. The guy at Home Depot (and my husband) thought I was nuts for wasting my time on an eco-friendly stripper when I could have saved myself time and money by using normal paint stripper (read: pretty nasty chemicals, lots of protective equipment required, messier and more hazardous waste) but I still stand by my decision. Plus I was working in our yard that is shared by our neighbor, his kids, and their dog, so I think they appreciated that. I will say though that using a water soluble paint stripper might not be the best move for veneer surface (like mine)- the veneer started to lift in places, but I fixed that with a bit of wood glue.

To make extra-sure that the stripper doesn’t dry out on you, cover the surface with plastic to prevent evaporation. Second rookie mistake: if you use grocery bags cut into strips for this, don’t put them on logo side in… or else the dye will bleed into the wood and stain it. Unless you want a nice “Loblaws” stamp on your wood, then go for it!

Here is a blow-by-blow account of all the steps involved. Once again I am rocking the iPhone camera so not the best image quality… another great thing about our new house is I will have a dedicated sewing room/workshop and will be able to take better photos! I might redo this post later with better photos of the finished product, I think my husband would have asked for the D word if I made him help me bring it back outside where the light is better.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint


restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Materials required and close-up of the damaged finish

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Drawers removed, time to pain the frame.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

One coat of ASCP in Pure White. I applied 2 more coats and then applied AS Soft Wax.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Paint stripper time! First coat was Finico Environmentally Friendly Gel Paint Stripper. Worked well but I didn’t buy enough. 2 jars and 2 THICK coats probably would have done it.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

After the Finico paint stripper. Look how sad the drawers that didn’t get a thick coat look :(

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Applying paint stripper #2- Smart Strip by Dumond. Should have bought the big bucket, I needed 2 coats. If I’d only applied a thicker coat of the Finico stripper!  

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Lining the stripper with plastic bags- see warning above, make sure the logo faces out!

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Using a putty scraper to scrape off the stripper + old finish. I let it sit for ~4 hours before scraping.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

After scraping off the stripper, I wiped down the drawers with a damp cloth to get the residue off. Then I cleaned with mineral spirits.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Next I sanded the drawers with fine grit sandpaper.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Almost ready for stain… cleaning again with mineral spirits.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

First coat of stain: Minwax Special Walnut.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

After applying the second coat of stain, we let it sit for a few minutes to darken before wiping it off.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Getting excited, it’s going to look so good! Don’t mind my glue stain.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Waxing the drawers with AS Soft Wax. I was going to use polyurethane, but my husband suggested the wax. It has a more “matte” and weathered look than poly and I’m glad I went with it!

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Using a slide rule to figure out where the new drill holes needed to go to cover the old ones.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint


Let me know what you think! It definitely took ages and was a lot of work, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Worth the 7 year wait!

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Coming Soon… Dresser Facelift

I have decided that instead of being bummed about the longest, coldest winter ever and about delaying our house hunt yet again, I am going to take my mother’s advice and focus on the positive!

One project that I have coming down the pipes is fixing up my old dresser. I inherited it from my sister back when I was a broke graduate student, and at the time I did the bare minimum requirement of replacing the broken/missing drawer pulls. But now that my tastes have matured (or so I like to think), it’s time for a full-on makeover!

2014-02-23 21.14.03

As you can see, it’s kind of an organgey pine and some of the drawers are a bit crooked… and it’s damaged in places. Are you starting to wonder why I’m bothering at all? Me too. I do like the lines though and it’s a good size. Since my nightstand turned out so well, I decided to try Chalk Paint to spruce it up… but I can’t decide on the colour or finish!  At first I thought I would use Pure White and distress with tinted clear wax, like Katrina at Malenka Originals did with this beautiful piece:

Malenka Dresser Pure White

But when I saw how good my cream coloured metal chair looked in my bedroom, I started to lean towards painting it with Old White (a creamier shade), and doing a bit of subtle distressing with dark wax. Sort of like this one, except without the gorgeous stained top since mine isn’t solid wood (also from Malenka Originals):

Malenka Dresser Old White

Decisions, decisions!

I’m also going to update the hardware (again). When I first got the dresser, I pretty much went with the cheapest option that I could stomach. If I’m going to go to the trouble of painting it, I don’t want to scrimp on the knobs and then wish I’d splurged, since I have to look at it every day! Here are the ones I liked from Home Depot:

pull 3pull 2pull 1

knob 3knob 2knob 1

I want a less modern look than what is on there now, but at the same time I don’t want it to be too vintage-y, if that makes sense. As you can see, the top drawers will take 8 knobs in all and I don’t want it to be overwhelming. I’ve looked on Etsy and I will check out a few flea markets to see if I can get some salvaged ones, but I doubt I will be able to find 8 of a kind. I might paint the hardware as well, which will help me circumvent the problem of the knobs I like best having a brass finish (ick).

So what should I do? I’m totally torn!


Workshop at Malenka Originals

After months of blog-stalking Malenka Originals, I finally got the chance to attend an intro to Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint™ (ASCP) workshop! I first read about Malenka Originals and the owner, Katrina Barclay, in the Ottawa Citizen when the shop first opened. Ever since then I have been itching to try ASCP to refinish some old pieces of furniture- you know, the ones that you wish were a slightly different colour/style but that you keep because they’re functional, or the budget doesn’t stretch to replacing them just yet.

The beauty of ASCP is that it goes on with minimal prep work (read: no sanding or stripping required!), takes little time to dry, is very forgiving, and can be modified to do any number of finishes or techniques. You can thin it with water or apply it in thick layers, use waxes or layer the coats to change the texture, sand through multiple layers to give dimension, or paint it on in smooth, even coats for a more modern finish. The paint comes in a variety of colours that are really beautiful and richly pigmented, and they can even be mixed to extend the palette!

I knew right away which piece I wanted to take to the workshop: an old nightstand, inherited from my husband’s roommate in university. It had a dark reddish brown finish that was scratched in places, and it didn’t match anything else in our bedroom. But it was solid wood with a good little drawer and a shelf, so it was super functional. It just needed a makeover!

At the workshop, Katrina taught us how to do a variety of techniques using 2 colours of paint and clear or dark wax. I opted to go for a combination of a wet and dry distress using Old Violet, a blue with grey and purple undertones, and Paris Grey, a grey with blue undertones. I skipped the dark wax because it would have given the paint a brownish hue that I didn’t want.

Here is what my nightstand originally looked like:

nightstand1_watermarked nightstand1_watermarkednightstand1_watermarked

I first applied 2 coats of Old Violet,


and added some Paris Grey, wiping it off here and there to get a distressed look;


in some places, the original dark finish came through underneath, which actually looked pretty neat!


Then I alternated between applying clear wax and using fine grit sand paper to take off the Paris Grey, revealing more Old Violet underneath. The wax gave it a smoother, almost glossier finish. The wax can be worked into the different layers of paint and brushstrokes, giving it a sort of antiqued texture.


Once I was done painting and waxing, I exchanged the old drawer pull for one from the collection that Katrina sells, which really put the finishing touch on it!


I painted the inside of the drawer with only Old Violet, for a little pop of the pretty shade of blue.


My sweet little nightstand is now just as beautiful as it is functional!


Now I’m looking around my apartment and wondering what else I can use Chalk Paint on… whatever it is, I know what colour it will be: Provence, the colour I chose for the free sample pot that was included in the workshop!

Definitely check out Malenka Originals if you’re in Ottawa, and attend a workshop if you can… but be forewarned they book up fast! Visit the website for more info:


And so it begins…

Hey there! I am going to use this space to document my adventures in DIY. My plan is to eventually have photos and maybe even tutorials on some of my cool crafts/projects/adventures! In the past year I have tackled a variety of projects including the following: turned a flea market frame into a magnetic chalkboard;


refinished a hand-me-down generic coffee table to better suit my style (before/after);



fixed up an old sofa with a jazzy new slipcover (before/after);



and made cozy Christmas covers for throw pillows out of thrift store sweaters/old buttons!


Not to mention all the cool things I did for my intimate cottage wedding this past September… I made some of my accessories, hand-lettered our seating plan on salvaged window panes, and sourced tons of unique decorations from local flea markets. Here are a few teaser shots that one of my friends took… I’m going to put it all together in a future post, because there are too many things to mention and the end result was awesome (If I do say so myself).



Right now I am working on a mobile for my adorable nephew and in January I’m going to learn how to use Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint at Malenka Originals, an awesome shop in Ottawa that I have been dying to visit.

I love having a project to focus on. It’s so satisfying to work hard at something and then have a tangible result! Also, my day job is working as a research scientist, so I find myself really needing a creative outlet.

Here is a picture of me tackling the slipcover I mentioned above… I think it was the first time I had ever sewed a zipper on anything and I was SUPER proud.


More to come!