Gray and White Wax Thrift Store Dresser Makeover

Gray white wax dresser

I couldn’t wait to get this project done and then post about it!

I’ve been casually on the lookout for a short dresser to redo and put in our living room for storage. We have one bare wall that is just awkward, and I seem to have major commitment issues when it comes to hanging anything on walls. Not to mention, I’m always open to more places to store things away!

A couple weeks ago, I meandered into the thrift store to see if they happened to have anything good, and I found this dresser.

It immediately caught my eye! It had a matching tall dresser to go with it, but that one was already sold. Fortunately, this baby was available, and in really good condition.

I stood by guarding this thing with my life as I waited for Justin to respond to my “hey soooo…” text. Not only do I like to get his approval (or at least his “I don’t care”) before buying stuff like this, but since he was going to be the one doing the heavy lifting (literally) I needed to know if he was on board.

When I got the “sure” text, I snatched this guy up! It was $55 and perfect for what I had been envisioning. We got it home and I couldn’t wait to get to work. The drawers all pulled in and out nicely, and other than a couple of minor flaws it was perfect, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

Here’s the coolest part, though. I began cleaning out the drawers and found some mail inside one of them. I pulled it out and immediately noticed the name on the envelope. After a moment I realized, this dresser belonged to a client at work who recently passed away. Crazy, right?! Now I knew I needed to take extra special care of it.

I started out by hauling it outside and taking a belt sander to the top. I sanded off the finish and a few big surface scratches to expose the beautiful, smooth cherry wood underneath. Then I cleaned the whole thing inside and out using a vacuum and Murphy’s Oil Soap and water.

Then, as it does, Monday morning came along and I had to wait another week to get a chance to work on it. In the mean time, I read and stressed about whether or not I should stain the top. I had read that cherry doesn’t take stain well, and as someone who seems to have horrible luck with stain the first place, that scared me.

I ended up staining the top using Minwax Wiping Stain, which is a gel-based stain that is a lot easier to work with than traditional stains, because it goes on more like paint and doesn’t immediately soak right down into the wood. I used a color called Natural Chestnut. On the body I used Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint in Parisian Grey. I painted two coats of this while watching old episodes of Sex and the City and wishing I lived in a TV show.

After two coats, I lightly distressed it using sandpaper. I ran the sandpaper over all of the corners (very lightly) to wear away some of the paint, as well as in some other places where natural wear and tear would occur, like around the drawer pulls.

Speaking of drawer pulls, I debated buying new hardware for this project, but ultimately decided that a) I wanted to save the money and b) I actually really liked the original hardware. So I cleaned them and then dabbed some paint on to give them a rustic, aged look. I used some craft acrylic paint that I had from a gazillion years ago in a color called Raw Umber (the same paint I used to hide the screws in the handles of my turquoise desk). I also dabbed a bit of black chalk paint on as well in some spots.

To finish the dresser, I knew I wanted to add a whitewashed element to it, but I wanted to experiment with another technique rather than actually whitewashing. I decided to use white wax. I made my own by mixing my Valspar Sealing Wax with a spoonful of white chalk paint, mixed it well, and then used an old paint brush to brush the wax on, working it into all the crevices and corners. I followed the directions on the can and let it sit for a couple of minutes before using a clean cloth to wipe away the excess. A little while later, I disregarded be directions on the can and went back over it in some spots to add a second coat. 

I love how the wax gave it a nice, old, textured look and collects in the corners. I think it really brings out the character and shape of this piece, which is what drew me to it in the first place. 

After a few hours I reattached the hardware. Confession: I have yet to fIrish the top. I was too anxious to get some pictures of this beauty while the sun was still out. I’m going to add a coat of one-coat polyurethane, which I’ve never used before but I’m pretty excited about because normally when you poly you have to wait hours and sand in between coats, and ain’t nobody got time for that. 

Another confession: I totally stole objects from the fireplace mantle to decorate it for the photos. I’m terrible with decorating, so I’m trying to work on my skillz.

I absolutely love how this dresser turned out!

Dani loves it too and couldn’t resist getting in on the photo shoot. 

I feel like now that I have something on this wall I can finally decorate. It’s taken some time but I think our house is finally starting to come together decor-wise. It’s hard sometimes to just be patient and know that it will all fall into place, but I’ve found that it truly does just take time to get to know yourself and your house in order to pin down your style. 

I still can’t believe the story behind this dresser. I love love love refinishing old furniture and giving it new life, and just knowing that this belonged to someone I know makes it so much more meaningful. 

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again… If you’re thinking of painting something in your house, just do it! You’ll be very pleased with the results, I promise!

Thrift store dresser makeover

Leave a Reply