How to Make a Newish Dresser Look Old

Changing the color of a dresser adds instant age, as do vintage inspired cup handles and label holders.

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Have you heard the story about the curbside dresser Mr DIY and I discovered on a recent walk?

I'm pretty sure he tried to distract me as we walked by on the other side of the street, but my keen hunter's eye spotted it anyway 😉👀

It was in great shape, and I have a thing for upright dressers. They're so handy for storing so many things other than just clothes. I knew I could put this one to good use in my studio/office space!

Here's the thing...our large Tahoe had just bit the dust and there was no way the dresser would fit in our Honda...we tried! Nope, instead, Mr DIY borrowed a neighbor's dolly and wheeled this beast of a dresser 2 blocks home, down a hill! If that's not true love, I don't know what is ❤❤

Now that the dresser was home, you'd think that was the end of the story. But here's the office is above the garage...a flight of stairs up! And there was no way I could bear half of the weight with my wimpy back. So the dresser sat.

Until we had our kiddos over for dinner and games, and our son and daughter's boyfriend helpfully hefted the beast up the stairs to my office! Woohoo for strong guys!

NOW I could finally give this dresser the makeover it deserved. I really considered removing the stain down to the bare wood, but this guy isn't solid wood. It's got a veneer on top, and while I love wood, this orange-y color wasn't my fave so I decided to paint it and give it some vintage charm.

How to make a new-ish dresser look old

Here is how the dresser looked before its makeover. Very orange, very boxy, and I wasn't in love with the hardware. The tips I'll share below will help you to add age to a newish looking dresser too!

Change the hardware

After wiping the dresser down with Totally Awesome degreaser, I removed the hardware to prep the drawers for paint. As luck would have it, I remembered an unused box of vintage style cup pulls and they were a perfect fit.

The cup pulls, while a vintage style, had a modern, mirror-like finish that was way too shiny for my style. A little matte black spray paint gave them the vintage look I was going for.

Blocking Primer

To avoid the reddish/orange splotches that can result from tannins being pulled from a dark piece of furniture, I gave the dresser and all the drawers a coat of this blocking primer. I used an old brush, and just threw it away after painting.

This step isn't always necessary, but I have taken to doing it when I'm painting a dresser white, especially if it's a dark piece. This saves me from painting 4 or 5 coats of chalk paint, saves my more expensive paint, and ensures good coverage, no worries!

Chalk Paint

Then I painted two coats of Dixie Belle Cotton, a beautiful creamy white. I love this color and even after one coat, you can see the difference. If you're new to chalk paint, you can find out more HERE.

And yes, I painted this beast in my studio! I used drop cloths and was careful moving around the drawers.


Once the paint was dry, I used a sanding block to distress all the edges and give the piece a little vintage 'wear'. This also helps to break up all the white and keep the piece from looking like it was just painted!

I wanted to use this dresser to store all my faux garlands and florals, and I had a set of metal label holder frames that I knew would look great. I eyeballed the placement, and drilled pilot holes before screwing the metal plates into place with the screws that came in the package. This is such a small and simple step, but it made a huge difference in adding vintage charm to the dresser!

The last thing to do was print out some labels, and fill the dresser up! It was so nice to get all the florals off the floor of the closet and into the labeled drawers.

I styled the freshly painted dresser for summer with red, white and blue and it fits in perfectly with the rest of my home's decor! I think upright dressers have so much going for them because of their smaller footprint! They can be used in a bathroom to store towels and toiletries, in the kitchen to hold tea towels, decorative trays and candles, or even in a living room to store off season decorations. The white cottage dresser in our living room is filled with tablecloths and fabric!

I'm really pleased with this dresser makeover, and love the vintage charm I was able to add to this dated piece. I hung one of my mason jar lid flowers from the knob, and decorated the top a couple of different ways.

I added a coat of clear wax to protect the top of the dresser from scratches, but left the rest of the dresser alone. If you're interested in how I determine if a painted piece needs protection, read my Top Coat Protection Options for Painted Furniture.

See how I made this weathered Antiques sign from a printable and grab your free printable so you can make your own (free for subscribers)! Don't miss my vintage style bottles with faux rusted lids made from regular household items!

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  1. Cindy, the dresser turners out perfect! Great job. I think using furniture for storage is the best too! What a great find!

    1. Thanks so much Jan, I was so excited when I spotted it!! Saw the potential immediately 😉

  2. Beautiful Cindy! I love the transformation and the story! I can picture the whole funny and so worth it!

    1. Thanks so much Kim! I got a few eyeball rolls but yes, SO glad we saved it!!

  3. Oh, it was pretty before. Loved the wood.

  4. Well you sure revamped that dresser perfectly! Love the new vintage vibe and the cup pulls and tags you added! The colour of the dresser really makes this shape appear vintage!


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