Lily’s Art Deco Dresser Renovation

March 4, 2013 in DIY Renovations, Life

Over many, many  months I have been slowly working on pulling Lily’s big girl bedroom together and finally, at long last, while her room isn’t complete – I did finish one piece of furniture!  Yay!

My former neighbour gave me a wonderful old art deco dresser for free that had been his mother’s as a young child. I fell in love with the gorgeous curves and details, however, while structurally it was fantastic, the veneer was extremely damaged with large stains and big chips missing.  The only way to restore it to its former glory would have been to have the veneer replaced completely.  So, I decided to paint it white for Lily’s bedroom.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the sorry state it was in before I sanded it — so the “before” photo I have is after I sanded the veneer down.  Luckily for me — it was the nice thick vintage veneer, so I didn’t have to worry about accidentally sanding through it.  After hand sanding (I don’t know about you, but I’m hopeless with an electric sander!), washing, sanding again, washing again and letting it dry, it was finally ready to paint!  Then, it sat in the back room for months and months until finally, I got around to painting it.  Ha!

Having never restored furniture before – I did an extensive amount of researching and spoke with the paint guys at the local hardware about the most suitable type of paint for this.  Armed with everything and assured by the paint guys that the primer/paint combination I had was perfect, I painted.  And painted. And painted again.  And cried. And pulled my hair.  Why?  Because no matter how many coats of paint I put on, the white kept turning to yellow!  Eek!  That was one thing I hadn’t expected.

After poking around online for yellowed white paint – I discovered I should have used an oil or shellac based primer to help prevent the yellow from coming through.  I read extremely good things about B-I-N primer, so off I went and purchased some.  After applying it, I cried again.  But this time, tears of happiness – no more yellow!  So after an additional two coats of primer and quite a few more coats of white paint, I achieved the perfect, brilliant and even white that I wanted!

The drawer pulls are a lovely floral design.  I gave Lily the option of a few different drawer pulls, and she picked these ones out:

Of course, I wasn’t satisfied with making just the outside pretty – I wanted to make the inside just as lovely.  After spending weeks browsing for just the right type of fabric, I finally stumbled across a gorgeous Japanese cotton by Lecien — a bright Spring green background with aqua polka dots and lovely pink and red roses.  It was perfect for lining the drawers — especially with the aqua matching the bedroom walls!  I also decided to paint inside the drawers the same aqua as the walls.  Having learnt my lesson from painting the outside, I did a layer of the B-I-N primer first, then two coats of aqua.

After pre-washing and drying the fabric, I cut it to fit, and mod podged them in.  The first drawer, I did a terrible job that I need to fix. Luckily I perfected my application method for the other two drawers, and they went in like a dream with nary an air bubble in sight!

It’s so pretty that it seems almost a shame to put clothing over the top!  Haha!

Lining inside the drawers wasn’t enough for me though.  Truth be told, when I finally found this fabric my first thought wasn’t drawer liners but rather wondering what applying the fabric to the outer sides of the drawers for a fun and very unexpected pop of colour would look like.  I had a very specific vision in mind, and thankfully it panned out exactly as I imagined!

And of course, I must share these two little thrift store darlings and a gorgeous embroidered linen found at an estate sale:


I do have to admit, it’s not 100% finished though.  I still need to pull out the mirror, sand the wooden base, clean, paint and then attach — but I think I’m going to leave that until the very end after I’ve finished painting the other furniture.

Lily’s Bedroom Renovation To-Do List:

  • Sand  and paint dresser white
  • Sand and paint large bookcase white
  • Sand and paint antique children’s table white
  • Find and paint matching chairs for table
  • Paint wicker swivel chair into a toadstool
  • Make loft bed
  • Paint loft bed
  • Find a dresser to convert to a dress-up closet
  • Finalize decorations


Lily’s Art Deco Dresser Renovation


    1. Justine says:

      I have a Lily too! And I just painted her dresser last week. Great minds think alike!

    2. WOW! What a great job. I had never thought of lining drawers or painting the insides. Beautiful!

    3. Wow, that’s impressive! I really like what the white does to the lines of the piece – the smoothness of it and the pattern become more pronounced, I think.

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Lily’s Art Deco Dresser Renovation

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