When we first got together, it was a running joke between my husband and me that he could never quite let things go.

No, I don’t mean disagreements, I mean actual items like an old, yellowing travel coffee mug in our basement from 1999. Every time we’re cleaning out a room or getting rid of old junk, his famous line is “but what if I can use it somewhere else”. It’s still a running joke between us, but also become something we now seriously think about when getting rid of things. Do old cut-off shirts with holes in them look like something he’d ever wear again? Hoping against all hope the answer would be a resounding “no”. However, they do make for great grease rags out in the garage. We make it a point now to repurpose old items instead of simply throwing them away.

My husband is the only person I know who still has his bedroom furniture from when he was 12.

It’s solid wood furniture that’s still extremely functional after 20 years of use and countless moves across several states. However, the dated look of the wood and years of wear and tear were not the best look. This type of furniture is perfect for a little DIY project because the functionality is still there, it just needs a slight makeover. You can see in the pictures below how 20 years can beat furniture up.

Remove the Varnish

I started with taking the varnish off the dresser by sanding the frame and drawers with an orbital sander using 150 grit sandpaper. This grit is a good starting point as it’ll remove the scratches and color, giving you a nice smooth surface to work with. Make sure to keep moving the sander at a moderate pace. If you keep it on the same spot for too long, it’ll create a low. After the first round of sanding, run your hand over the surface. Make sure all major scratches are gone and that there are no lows. Once you’re happy with the feel, wipe everything down with a damp cloth to get any remaining debris. Then repeat the process, including wiping down, with a finer grit sandpaper such as 220. This will help remove any minor defects leaving you with a nice, smooth surface.

Prime Your Surface

Before the fun part begins, prime the workpiece with primer to help the paint adhere to the wood. For wood projects, any oil-based primer will do. I typically use Kilz Oil-Based Primer, mainly because it works well and is sold at Ace which is the only store remotely close to our house. For the primer application, you can either use a foam roller, which I now prefer, or a brush.

A brush is needed for some spots that are too hard to reach with a roller, but I try to limit use to those spots as the bristles can leave streaks. This is just a personal preference. I’m rather particular about small details and once I see a minor, mostly unnoticeable defect, I can’t un-see it. Which is also why, I highly recommend after the primer is fully dried, sanding one more time with a 400 grit sandpaper just to make sure all imperfections are removed. One last wipe down with a damp cloth to remove residue and your workpiece is ready to go!

One small note about using a brush versus a foam roller. When refinishing this dresser, I used a brush for the whole thing not knowing about the foam roller option. It still turned out well, but not as well as it could have. I do not have the steadiest hands. Even with sanding in between coats of primer and paint, there are minor brush streaks that would not come out without sanding too much paint off. The foam roller eliminated this issue as the roller surface is smooth, unlike the bristles on a paint brush.

Finishing Touches

Now for the fun part! Pick a color and some fun hardware for the drawer knobs. Painting the color is similar to painting the primer. You can either use a brush or a foam roller. I would also use a foam roller here, then a brush where the roller can’t reach. Most of the surface will probably be covered in one coat, depending on the type of paint and color you choose, but I do two to be safe. I always miss at least one spot that I catch with the second coat. In between each coat and after the final coat, once the paint is dry, go over again with 400 grit sandpaper. This will help catch any paint drips and give the finished product a cleaner look.

This is the part I love most about refinishing old furniture.

You get to decide how it looks! No more searching endlessly for the color, finish, size, and shape that you want. I chose to go with Magnolia Home’s summer hay. This nightstand was being repurposed for our bedroom which is Benjamin Moore’s aegean teal. I didn’t want to use something with too much color on the furniture because it would look too busy. On the other hand, I didn’t want to go super plain with white or cream. Summer hay was perfect as it has a hint of a khaki green hue without being too overwhelming. Although it wasn’t my best refinishing project, I’m happy with how it turned out! We got a functional nightstand that now matches our new color scheme and I learned some helpful tips along the way.

Give it a try with some old furniture in your house!

Originally published on Paws, Peanuts, and Pastures.

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