Frugal DIY | Painted Dresser for Guest Room

$45 Mid-Century Dresser Make-Over

I had been looking for a new dresser for our guest bedroom for several months. The room, located in our basement, is small and simple (some might even call it spartan!), with just a trundle bed and a closet.

The space definitely  needed a dresser – only I didn’t have any room in my budget. I figured we could spare maybe $50, which pretty clearly ruled out anything brand new.

I stalked Craigslist for several weeks, but couldn’t find anything that was in our $50-tops price range. Especially since I was holding out for something with interesting lines – and preferably made out of real wood.

Then one day in February, when I had all but given up (don’t you love my drama?), I found her (And yes, she is a her.)

(I apologize for this oddball before picture. I’m horrible about remembering to take “before” pictures. I snapped this one right before I started painting – and it actually  makes the dresser look better than it was. )

Beautiful lines, real wood, and located right around the corner from my house (i.e. no hidden gas costs to get it home). And the owner was only asking $25!

She was definitely in rough shape, though. The top was stained with something pink and sticky (eww), the sides and drawers were nicked and even gauged in a few places. The damage wasn’t awful, but it definitely wasn’t “move ‘er right into your house and call ‘er done” either.

But that was okay, because I had plans.

Did ya’ notice that I said I found this dresser in February? Apparently my “plans” included leaving the dresser to sit in the middle of our garage for the entire spring of 2012.

Everytime I had to sneak by that dresser to get to our garbage bin, I guilt-tripped myself for being a procrastinator. I even thought of reselling the dresser on Craigslist – since who knew when I’d get around to painting.

But I just couldn’t part with her.

I loved those legs. Those sleek mid-century lines. She was like a dresser out of Don Draper’s apartment.

I knew she needed to be painted white. And I could clearly see that shiny glass knobs were meant to adorn her top row of drawers.

Finally last week – three months after we had schlepped this $25 baby home – I got down to business. The fact that my in-laws were coming for a visit and would need a place to put their clothes definitely helped to motivate me.

Given my procrastination, I decided to use spray paint. It goes on fast, doesn’t need to be primed, and cures in less than 48 hours.

Or so the can said.

I started by roughing up the surface with some sand paper and then dusting it off. I grabbed my Heirloom White Rustoleum spray paint, shook it good and started spraying. I did one coat – thin and quick.

And then I did a second coat.

And a third.

And a fourth…

And, ohmygosh!! whatisgoingon?? thisstuffisn’tworking!!

I admit it may have been my technique, although I have successfully spray-painted other things in the past, so I’m not sure what I did wrong. Maybe it did need to be primed after all? Maybe I didn’t sand it enough?

It was forecasted to rain that night, so my husband and I dragged this heavy nine-drawer dresser back into the garage, where it sat for another three days. (While I sulked about my spray paint failure.)

A few days later, the paint guys at Home Depot recommended that I use Behr Ultra Paint and Primer in one (the primer is built right in).

Since I’d already bought three cans of spray paint (I used a whole can in that first failed pass, but I will return the other two), I was a bit reluctant to shell out more money for fancy Behr Ultra.

Instead, I poked around our garage, as we have many cans of paint in there from the previous owners. Guess what I came across? A practically untouched can of Behr Ultra! In trim white! The perfect shade for the dresser!

To give my little 1950s-style dresser a true fighting chance, I dug out our electric sander, and really gave the whole thing a thorough sand-down, then used a tack cloth to get off all the bits of dust.

I started painting at 4 pm and by 5:45 that evening, I had applied a good first coat to the dresser, drawer fronts, inside trim and those awesome tapered legs. (I unscrewed them from the dresser and poked the screws through a recycled cardboard box so they’d stand upright – it worked like a charm.)

I hit everything again the next day, catching a few places I had missed. Then I let the whole thing cure in my garage for 36 hours.

Meanwhile, I headed to Target for some glass knobs.

I was a bit surprised by how much they cost. $14.99 for FOUR glass-like knobs. (They don’t have them available on anymore, but I found very similar ones — for a much better price ($1 each!) — at Amazon.)

Since I had saved some money by using paint we already had, I allowed myself the indulgence. And I’m so glad I did – they are perfect!

Excuse the excessive number of photos of this one little dresser, but I can not get over how much it looks like the picture I had in my head! As the most novice of DIYers, I am so proud of this little project.

Mind you – it’s far from perfect (see all my paint messies inside the drawers???), but it’s exactly what I wanted and I couldn’t be happier with that price tag.

Final Cost

Dresser – $25 (Craigslist)

1 can of spray paint – $6 (worthless)

4 glass knobs – $14.99

1 can of Behr Ultra One – FREE (we had it on hand!)

1 Purdy brush – FREE (ditto, we had it from past projects)

= $45.99

A few bucks under my $50 target – and hundreds cheaper than similar ones sold today at stores like Pottery Barn.


Has anybody else furnished their guest room off of Craigslist? Maybe you’ve got a flubbed spray paint story to share? I can’t wait to hear all about your frugal DIY adventures!


  1. That dresser is BEAUTIFUL. And you are right, Don and Megan Draper would gladly have it in their Manhattan apartment. 😉

  2. Rochie Schwartz says

    I this! Great job!

  3. Beautiful!! Knobs are expensive (when I see them in thrift stores, I grab ’em), but they totally make your dresser. It looks great with the green accents also.

    • Thank you, thank you! I loved those curvey lines on the lamp base. It seemed to somehow complicated the straight edges of the dresser – or something like that 😉

  4. really love it. great job

  5. Could not be more proud to be married to you!

  6. Ayelet May says


  7. Michelle says

    Wow! That dresser looks great.
    We got our girls furniture for a great price…FREE!!! It was originally mine and my sister’s (and luckily my sister didn’t want it or we would have had to split up the set). My mom and I repainted the accent trim on it to match my girls’ bedding. That was at least the 3rd color that the trim has been over the life of the furniture. I didn’t even have to pay to move the furniture from NJ to MA…once I had permission to take it, as various family members drove between NJ and MA (sometimes with a stop over or meetup in CT) they would bring it up to me one piece at a time…it only took us close to a year to get 2 headboards, 2 armoires, one dresser, one desk, one desk chair, and a mirror for over the dresser up to my house.

    • My daughter is using the furniture that was mine as a little girl (and my mom’s before that) – there is definitely a nice sentimental feeling to that 🙂

  8. I love the dresser — am totally inspired to do something about various mismatched pieces of furniture which we have picked up for free over the years.

  9. I always thought of sanding and repainting as a horrible chore I might need to do but nothing I would want to do. After reading your post and seeing your pictures, I am so inspired–I am actually looking for something to fix up and repaint!

  10. I LOVE THIS! I love projects like this, and yours really came out SPECTACULAR. Love the lime green finishing touches on top. CONGRATS you really did a great job. I did a project like this (albeit on a much smaller scale) about a year and a half ago. I was determined to replace the gawd-awful light fixture above our dining room table that had been there for the 2 years since we’d moved in. But they’re SO expensive to replace. So I happened upon a blog post that inspired me, and managed to find the EXACT brass chandelier at Goodwill for $5. Spray painted it black and I’m just SO proud of it. (I didn’t use the beads as pictured.)

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