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DIY dresser top after 3

I recently wrapped up a bedroom makeover for a client. One of the biggest problems with the previous setup was matching furniture. The bed, nightstands, dresser and chest of drawers all matched each other which made the room feel generic. To shake things up I brought in a new headboard and new (non-matching) nightstands along with a pair of vintage dressers. I really love the look of this West Elm dresser and think it would have worked beautifully in the space, but it just wasn’t in the budget. Instead, I sourced a pair of midcentury dressers from craigslist. For $45. Total.

dresser before 1

dresser before 2

The pieces were solid and I liked the straight lines and wood tone, but the laminate tops were down right fugly.

dresser before 3

They didn’t even come close to looking like real wood.

dresser hardware before

And I loved the shape of the pulls but they were badly scratched and brass-plated. They were too brassy for even a gold-lovin’ gal like myself.

I could see the potential though and for $45 the price was right. I figured I could spray paint the hardware. Easy. Inexpensive. Done.

For the tops, I considered switching out the laminate for marble but when I looked into having remnants fabricated the cost was >$500! Immediately, I thought of Ardex feather finish to give the laminate tops a stone-like appearance for cheap. But I really didn’t want a gray concrete finish. So I was thrilled to discover that Ardex is now available in white! The only problem was I couldn’t locate a supplier nearby. I finally found an online source (see the link above) that was able to ship a bag of the white to me from the west coast. Yes! It was a little pricier than grabbing a bag of the gray on Amazon ($32). I think with shipping + taxes I ended up shelling out $47 for the white. Still, it was way more affordable than marble.

When I finally had the white feather finish in hand, I set to work revamping the dresser tops.

DIY dresser tops

1 – I sanded the laminate with a medium sanding block to scuff it up. Then I wiped it down with a damp rag and let it dry. I didn’t tape off the dresser but I did remove the top drawers from each dresser.

2 – I gathered supplies for mixing and applying the Ardex. I used a small-medium glass bowl and 2″ & 4″ putty knives.

3 – I mixed the Ardex as directed, 2 parts powder : 1 part water. The mixture starts setting 20 minutes after mixing so I mixed small batches – 1 cup powder : ½ cup water. (After the first layer, I changed the ratio just a little for a creamier mixture and easier application. Keep reading to see that.)

4 – I spread the mixture on the dresser tops with the putty knives. The 4″ worked great for the tops and the 2″ gave me more control on the edges. I also found it helpful to use my finger on the edges for a smoother application. I applied the feather finish in the direction of the faux wood grain because I wanted any residual knife strokes to run the same way (lengthwise) along the dresser top for a cleaner look.

DIY dresser top 2

There’s always that moment during any DIY project where I think, “What have I done?!” For this project, it was right after I applied the first layer. It literally looked like I had frosted the dresser. Gulp. I let it cure overnight then came back the next day and sanded the first layer with an orbital sander. (I ended up applying three layers and worked my way from 150 grit to 320 grit sanding discs.)

DIY dresser top 3

I used the 2″ putty knife to scrape off random bumps from the bottom edge for a nice clean line.

DIY dresser top 4

DIY dresser top 5

After the first round of sanding, things were looking smoother and I was feeling better about my decision to frost the dressers :) If you look closely, you can see areas of laminate showing through on the edges. Not to worry, they were eventually covered by subsequent layers.

DIY dresser top4

I shop-vac’d and wiped down the sanded top then applied a second layer as seen above. For the second and third layers, I added a tiny bit more water (maybe two teaspoons?) for a creamier mixture. For me, it was easier to work with. It allowed me to spread on smoother layers with less ridges and bumps. I was worried that a thicker mixture would result in a more “rustic” look – something I wanted to avoid.

I let each layer cure overnight then sanded them with the orbital sander the following day. After applying and sanding three layers, I was satisfied with the appearance.

DIY dresser top 6

5 – I raided the garage and found some concrete and driveway sealer in a matte finish.

6 – I only brushed on one coat of sealer since these are dresser tops. If the feather finish was going in a kitchen or bathroom, I would have done at least two coats of sealer. The sealer goes on clear and darkens the feather finish but, when dry, it’s not noticeable.

7 – With the tops done, I turned my attention to the bodies of the dressers. I wiped them down with Bona then used an old t-shirt rag to wipe on Restor-A-Finish in walnut. I’ve used Restor-A-finish before and I’m still amazed by its awesomeness. It’s like an airbrush for wood. I think the walnut color helps tone down orange-y finishes.

DIY dresser top 7

The finished dressers! I spray painted the pulls with paint I already had on hand. One of the most frequent questions I get is “What kind of gold spray paint do you use?” I like Rustoleum Universal pure gold metallic for a champagne / antique brass finish. (That’s what I used here.) I like Design Master 24K pure gold for a truer gold finish. I usually have a can of each on hand.

DIY dresser top 8

I’m super happy with the white feather finish tops. Everyone who sees them can’t help but pet them. They look like natural stone minus the veining. They remind me of light limestone or white slate. From far away, they definitely read white but up close there are light gray shadows which I love. They’re smooth to the touch but have an organic texture. I’m glad I went with a matte sealer versus gloss to keep the look natural.

Here’s a peek at them in my client’s space…

DIY dresser top after 1

DIY dresser top after 2

She LOVES them. I can’t personally attest to how the feather finish holds up in a kitchen or bathroom (I’ve heard oils stain it) but these dressers easily withstood a long, bumpy ride and loads of (wo)manhandling before landing in their new home. I would say their hardness is similar to that of real concrete.

Two midcentury dressers for ~$90? Not too bad. With a limitless budget, I would have never bought these dressers or tried the feather finish. Instead, I was forced to think outside the box and ended up with two crazy affordable, unique pieces. And that’s why I love budgets and DIY. You get one-of-a-kind results.

Have you ever tried Ardex feather finish? Would you? Seriously, if you can ice a cupcake, you can do this. Just think of all the laminate you could hide! Haha. I would definitely use it again. Which is good considering I have nearly a full bag leftover from this project.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

51 Comments

17.June.2015

WOW! Those dressers look amazing!! I am in awe – and am furiously looking around our house for something to re-do!

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17.June.2015

You really outdid yourself here, Dana! So impressed with the look of these, and man, are they sharper with all the work you put into them. Thanks for sharing this DIY facelift! PS: I love that you use the word “fugly”, too. ;)

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17.June.2015

:-O I wish I could score a bargain for even double that amount here in Aus!! :(

LOVE them! What a lucky client! xx

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This is amazing! Taking that risk really paid off! And I love the feel of the room (from the peeks that I can see). So good

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17.June.2015

Why did you choose to spray paint the pulls instead of polishing them?

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replied on June 17th, 2015

I mentioned within the post that they were brass-plated…not the real thing. Not polishable.

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17.June.2015

Stunning!! Excited to try both products (actually 3, spray paint too). Totally relate to that feeling, “what have I done.” For me sometimes I still feel that way at the end, but it’s so rewarding to get a before and after like this and taking something old and making new and fresh again.

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17.June.2015

Wonderful pieces. I’d have snagged them in a heartbeat and probably splurged with slate or marble tops. Terrific find and creative treatment of the eyesore laminate.

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17.June.2015

These look amazing!! Do you feel like this mix would work well on a lateral wall? I’m considering using it on the tile around the fireplace, would love your thoughts from experience!

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replied on June 18th, 2015

I hadn’t considered it on a vertical surface but I think it would work. Maybe try it on a scrap piece of wood vertically and see how it goes first? As long as you don’t mix the concrete too runny, it should stay put while it cures. Such a great idea for a fireplace surround!

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18.June.2015

I am so gonna do this with a pair if mid century night stands I bought off craigslist here in Los Angeles. I paid $150 for the pair. Pricing here is not as good as some other cities. :( They are beautiful wood with laminate tops just like your pieces. Yay, I’m so excited to try this! Thank you for doing the things you do and experimenting, then telling us about it. So cool, love it they turned out gorgeous. Getting restore a finish, too!

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18.June.2015

Wow! I have an end table with the same issue and I love this idea! Thanks for sharing it :)
Can you please tell me the wall paint color?

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replied on June 18th, 2015

The wall color is Benjamin Moore kendall charcoal, color-matched in Lowe’s Valspar Reserve. I’m so happy my client was willing to go dark. It’s a very sexy, moody color for a master bedroom. I love it.

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replied on June 19th, 2015

The wall color is a beautiful back drop for the dressers! Yes, very moody and sexy! Gorgeous!!! Just wondering what color curtains did you go with? Would your client allow you to post another couple of shots showcasing the room? Would love to see other angles. It looks as though it is just stunning!

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replied on June 20th, 2015

Full reveal is next week ;)

18.June.2015

A lot of bloggers used Ardex last year in projects. Remember LGN used it in her laundry room. I’m sure you could ask them how it holds up. Great score on those dressers!

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replied on June 18th, 2015

Yes, I saw Jenny’s laundry room countertops, YHL’s kitchen countertops and Kara Paslay’s man cave waterfall edge…they were definitely inspirations! I’d be curious to know how the Ardex is holding up in each environment.

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18.June.2015

now i wish i had done this for my night stand. the top was faux laminate! but that’s an amazing transformation!

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18.June.2015

Amazing transformation, thanks for sharing!! I need to try it soon :) Can you also share the paint color used in the bedroom?

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replied on June 18th, 2015

The paint color is Benjamin Moore kendall charcoal, color-matched in Lowe’s Valspar Reserve. It’s such a great color.

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18.June.2015

Dana, you have outdone yourself! I have seen many a beautiful vintage piece I have passed on due to the fugly laminate tops they include. This is a great affordable solution!

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replied on June 18th, 2015

I’ve passed up many laminate-topped pieces, too. No more!

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18.June.2015

Gorgeous transformation and they look fabulous in that space.
Can you share the paint color in the client’s finished room – I love that grey!

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replied on June 18th, 2015

It’s Benjamin Moore kendall charcoal, color-matched in Lowe’s Valspar Reserve.

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18.June.2015

Budget or no budget, I would prefer these over anything new. Great job and lucky client.

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replied on June 18th, 2015

Thanks Alison!

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18.June.2015

Dana these are awesome! While I was reading the first thing I thought of is my kitchen countertops could use some white feather loving! Also, do you have any advice for searching craigslist/ebay?

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replied on June 18th, 2015

As far as craigslist goes, sometimes I go for months without finding anything I’m searching for. These turned up at the right time! They were originally listed for $100. A week later they were at $75. When I went to look at the dressers, they were $60. I bargained down to $45 telling them I would need to redo the tops to make them work. I searched “dresser” “vintage” “midcentury” in different variations to find them. Luckily, the sellers were only ~25-minute drive away and they helped load them. They were selling because they were between houses and were storing them in a relative’s garage so they were taking up space. I think that’s why they were willing to come down on the price – they needed them gone yesterday.

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18.June.2015

Are you kidding me?! This is brilliant and gorgeous!! LOVE! I cannot wait to try it on about 5 different things in my home?! Thank you for sharing! Great tips and great design! BRAVO! (wow that was a lot of exclamation points)!!!

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replied on June 18th, 2015

!!!!

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18.June.2015

The dressers turned out great! I’m normally a “do not touch” MCM furniture person but the tops look really nice. You did a great job and really improved the look of the dressers.

The only thing I might recommend for next time is using Watco Danish oil in Natural instead of a Restore-a-Finish. I can understand using a tinted product to change the colour of a piece but usually just the Danish oil will restore scratches and darken the wood with adding pigment. But that really depends what you’re trying to do with the piece.

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replied on June 18th, 2015

I will have to check out the Danish oil! Thanks for the rec. (Normally, I’m a do-not-touch MCM person, too.)

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18.June.2015

Wow those dressers are beautiful. Why can’t I ever find awesome stuff like that on craigslist?!

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19.June.2015

Dana, those dressers turned out amazing! I have never heard of Restor A Finish before now and I’m wondering if it will work on an antique table I was just gifted. I really hate to go through a full sand, stain and clear coat when it doesn’t need much work. Does it really come as as good as it looks in the pics? And….Do you know if this product is able to stand the rest of time? I would appreciate your input…:-)

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replied on June 20th, 2015

I used it on the dresser in my boys’ room as seen here…

http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/04/17/midcentury-dresser-revival/

I followed up with Howard Feed-n-Wax conditioner. I just dust with Bona and a soft rag and the finish has held up beautifully!

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19.June.2015

The dressers are gorgeous! I would add though that they were $90 plus how many hours of your labor? As someone who is also in business for herself (unrelated to design) I hope you count your time and charged your client accordingly! I know, I k ow $90 reads so much better:)

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replied on June 20th, 2015

I posted $90 as the cost from the stance that this was something a reader could DIY. Yes, I did charge for my time.

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19.June.2015

Honestly YOU are BRILLIANT :)

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19.June.2015

oh. myyy. goodness… these are phenomenal! such an inspiration for a dresser i have at home with a laminate top! do you feel that the ardex adhered well to the laminate? and why have i not known about this restor a finish?! seriously- love love love, dana! great job!!

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replied on June 20th, 2015

From what I could tell, yes. Just make sure to scuff up the laminate surface first.

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22.June.2015

My goodness Dana they look AMAZING and how the hell did you score them for $45 TOTAL!!!! so so good girl!! Lucky clients

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23.June.2015

Curious, can the Ardex crack? Can this be used in floors?

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replied on June 23rd, 2015

I believe using it on floors is the original intent. I think it’s meant to be used as a subfloor preparation material. Not sure if anyone has used it as actual flooring, but I would be curious to see the results as well!

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25.June.2015

[…] choose to have one in theirs. To make it less conspicuous, we mounted it on the wall above one of the vintage dressers I rehabbed. (The dark walls go a long way in hiding the TV, too.) An accordion-like bracket allows the screen […]

26.June.2015

What an awesome idea!! I have an old lane cedar chest I got at a garage sale $20 however the top veneer is in disrepair. I’ve been searching for an idea for the top and I think this would definitely work. My other option was going to cover it using paint sticks in a chevron pattern, but this even sounds easier!
I’m only worried about if it would hold up but looking at how you used it I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I can’t wait to try now!

Question: In your experience would the restore a finish change a stain color or only clean up an existing stain color?

Thanks for the post, great work for your client and great pieces you scored as well!

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replied on June 30th, 2015

The Restor-a-Finish won’t change a color drastically. If that’s what you’re looking to do, you would need to sand down to the wood, stain and seal. I do find the Restor-A-Finish helpful for making orange-ish finishes look less so…but it doesn’t completely change the color.

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01.July.2015

Wow, I’m so impressed with how it turned out! I love the artwork above the dresser, could you tell us the artist?

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replied on July 7th, 2015

The artist is Christiana Hudson. The print is called Round and Round. Here’s a direct link to the print…

http://www.minted.com/product/wall-art-prints/MIN-TRB-GNA/round-and-round

Hope that helps!

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01.July.2015

These look amazing! I am thrilled you found the Ardex in white! We are redoing the laminate counters in our kitchen (for phase one…) and I’ve always felt the gray was too dark. Is the white bright white, or more of a soft grey? I wonder if the two colors could be mixed…. We would love a soft grey. How many square feet would you say the one bag would go?

Once again, fantastic job! These pieces are great. Your home is definitely an inspiration for ours!

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replied on July 7th, 2015

I would say it’s white (pure, not warm) but with light grayish shadows. Experimenting with mixing the gray + white could be fun! I say go for it. As for square footage, I covered both dresser tops (~11 to 12 sq ft) with three layers of the feather finish and still have probably 75% of powder remaining. Unless you’re covering a crazy big kitchen, I don’t see why you would need more than one bag of powder.

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[…] will be to stain the chairs, then spray paint the table and give it a concrete top, similar to this gorgeous dresser. Depending on how disastrous the results are, photos to […]




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