Worth the Wait Dresser

This dresser, most likely from the 1920’s, was in great shape except for the nasty old musty smell that spilled out every time you opened a drawer. I thought the smell would be easy to get rid of. Wrong. It’s cold and wet outside and I couldn’t cout on the sunshine to help me out this time.

This dresser had me changing things up every step of the way!  I assumed since it was in good shape that it would be a one to two day project, depending on my schedule. I greatly underestimated the time it would take to complete this dresser.

To start with, I had to get rid of the odor. I researched and found a ton of options. The problem was choosing one that I thought would work. I started with the easiest option-wiping the wood down, inside and out, with a wood cleaner. Although the dresser looked a bit nicer, it didn’t get rid of the smell.  Next, I tried putting coffee grounds in a small bowl in each drawer. I let the drawers stayed closed for 24 hours with the coffee grounds in it. I was bummed when I took out the grounds and could still smell the must. The coffee grounds didn’t even make an impact. Then I tried a mixture of vinegar and water. It was a half and half solution. I sprayed the drawers and the inside of the dresser, including any bare wood. We spayed it enough to see a color change but not enough to leave puddles in the drawers. The following morning there was an improvement. So, I sprayed it a second time and luckily the moldy must smell had vanished. I will use this treatment the first time around if I ever have another piece that needs a new and improved smell.

Now that a few days had passed and I hadn’t even stared to prepare, sand or paint, I was anxious to get started. Enter second problem.  My husband noticed that some of the corners on the drawers were starting to peel away from the drawer fronts. Nothing wood glue couldn’t  fix, however, the gap was so small you could not squeeze glue into it. More research led me to try using a syringe to squeeze glue into the opening. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. We even watered the glue down a bit but the medical syringe we used was just too small. What did work was pushing the glue down the crack with a notecard. The notecard was thin enough to fit and firm enough to push the glue. After we pushed the glue down behind the wood veneer, we clamped the drawers and let them sit overnight.

Finally, I got started. I know from experience that dark stain and furniture pieces that date prior to the 50’s typically need primer. You hear all the time that if you use chalk paint that you don’t need to prime. Let the picture below be used as evidence that this statement is not always true. You do need to prime in some cases. The dark stain came right through the CoCo within seconds.


So, I had to let the CoCo dry and then go back to prime the entire dresser. Using Zinsser primer with the gold label is my primer of choice. It goes on thick and easy and dries pretty quickly. Once the primer dried, about 2 hours, I gave the dresser a very light sanding.

Although days had passed, I finally was able to paint. I painted the front and sides Annie Sloan chalk paint Old White. The top and drawer fronts were painted in CoCo.  Then I distressed the piece and applied clear and dark wax. Only the CoCo got the dark wax. Remember to put on clear wax first before you apply the dark wax. If you don’t like the dark wax or think it’s a bit heavy or streaky, put clear wax right on top of it and rub hard. You can rub the dark wax off. This is another reason I prefer using a thick cloth to apply the wax. A brush would not remove dark wax.

I didn’t use the original hardware because I just didn’t like it. Even painted I didn’t think it would look nice on the dresser. Luckily I have a Hobby Lobby near me and their knobs are cute and don’t cost a lot.

Even though this piece was a royal pain, it turned out well. I really like the CoCo paired with Old White. I think my favorite part is the sides of the dresser. I love how the vertical lines add texture and detail to the otherwise simple dresser.

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  • Laura Bright

    Love it!!! It got many compliments at the shop on Sunday. ;)

  • Kim Nichols

    So glad you got all linked up. I love what you did to this dresser. I love using the chalk paint. Thanks for sharing at Wow.

  • Kelli Rich

    Great job!  I love it!

  • stonetoad

    Wow.  What an incredible transformation.  Outdated to totally fab!  I especially love the feet. 
    Very nice job! 

  • http://profiles.google.com/lindajwilkes Linda Wilkes

    Great work, the dresser is a lovely addition to your home! Thanks for the tip on which is the best primer to use on furniture projects. 



  • Kellyn Prehm

    I just read about using kitty litter to remove the musty smells out of vintage suitcases. I wonder if it would help a situation like this dresser?