...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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


Congrats to Mary Ann and Kelly! I have already emailed you two with more info about your prizes. Thanks!

studio kitchenette 2

My kids are on summer break which means they are either bored or hungry until mid-August. Ha! (I’m half joking.) I signed the boys up for a free camp program that our local park district offers three mornings per week, and they are taking a tennis class twice a week in the evenings. Mabrey takes a gymnastics class with her cousin (same age) once a week. Other than those activities we have the library, a pool pass and the studio to keep us busy this summer.

studio kitchenette 6

The kids have been good sports about hanging out in the empty studio while I clean, take measurements, check in on progress, paint and make plans. In fact, they’re usually excited to go and that makes me happy. (It could have something to do with the NatureBox snacks.) I’ve always envisioned them playing, crafting, messing next to me at the studio. I want it to be a creative haven for them, too. But a few changes need to be made in order for that to happen.

For one, I need a large work table. I’ve been stalking an old dining table on ebay that would fit the bill, but I want to add casters to make it portable. It’s located here in Ohio. I could avoid shipping costs by picking it up myself. I haven’t pulled the trigger just yet only because I’m working on painting the floors. The table has been up for auction numerous times and keeps getting relisted when it doesn’t sell. With the floors almost done, I think I’m pulling the trigger this week!

studio whiteout 2

The other must-have is storage. Originally, I had planned on bringing in a wardrobe or armoire for storage, but with the kids in tow I’m leaning toward adding a few cabinets with drawers. I’ve rolled the idea around in my head over and over and I think a simple dry bar setup would work best. The space doesn’t have plumbing and there’s a cleanup sink just down the hall. I’m thinking a small bank of base cabinets, a mini fridge and a simple open shelf would suffice for housing the kids’  art supplies, snacks and packed lunches. The entry wall (shown above) would be the perfect location.

I busted out a very rudimentary sketch of what I have in mind. On graph paper…because that’s where the magic happens for me.

studio dry bar

As far as aesthetic, I’ve been writing down words that come to mind when I think of how I want the studio to look and feel: industrial, modern, farmhouse, imperfect, casual, durable, versatile, informal, functional, ever-changing, simple, inspiring. That list is pushing me toward Ikea cabinet frames paired with notched, flat panel drawer fronts similar to these.

studio dry bar 2

Lately, I’ve been drawn to cabinets painted in earthy greens. If I can make it work with the painted concrete floors, I’d love to use the DIY slab-style drawer fronts from Semihandmade and paint them a shade of green. I’ve always wanted to try Semihandmade drawer fronts / doors and this seems like the perfect excuse to do so. Even though there is a cleanup sink down the hall, the water isn’t drinkable as-is. Hence, the mini fridge so I can utilize a water filter.

One of the cabinets will be designated the snack cabinet. My kids are huge NatureBox fans. The monthly snack subscription is great for busy (summer!) months when we’re traveling back and forth to the pool, the library, the park, the studio, etc. They make great snacks for longer trips, too. I’m able to select which snacks are delivered to my doorstep. With over 100 options and no high fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oils, no artificial colors, it’s easy to find delicious snack options everyone loves. Each bag contains 3-5 servings so one bag feeds my crew. The salt & pepper lentil loops, antioxidant boost and granny smith apples are their favorites.

studio kitchenette 1

Does NatureBox sound like something your family would like to try this summer? Maybe you have a vacation coming up? Today NatureBox is offering TWO free 6-month subscriptions. See entry details below.

PRIZE: Two H*T readers will win a 6-month subscription to NatureBox.

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the U.S. or Canada. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Browse NatureBox’s snack selection here then leave a comment on this post sharing which snack(s) you’d like to try.

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST Tuesday, June 23rd. Two random winners will be announced Wednesday, June 24th.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: Join NatureBox today and get a FREE sample box of some of their fan favorites. Click here to get started.

Good luck!

*This post sponsored in part by NatureBox, a product and service I use personally. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

images: 1-4 & 6) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 5) (clockwise from top left) Lincoln Barbour for Jessica Helgerson Interior Design; The Urban Farmhouse; Mazen Studio; Laure Joliet for Remodelista

06.15.15 / Liked & Linked

studio floor paint

dresser rehab

Last week Mabrey helped me choose a paint color for the studio floor. Don’t get me wrong. I love concrete floors but these are badly stained, cracked, crumbling, etc. If paying someone to fix and polish them didn’t cost an arm and a leg, I would totally do it. But, alas, it seems the going rate for finished concrete floors is one arm plus one leg. So a few gallons of porch and floor paint it is! I literally threw a bunch of swatches on the ground then we walked all over them. I picked the one that showed our dirty footprints the least.

I also finished rehabbing a pair of vintage dressers for a client. Fancy new dressers weren’t in the budget so I found a matching midcentury pair via craigslist for $45. The tops were fugly laminate and I used Ardex feather finish to give them a new look. I’ll be sharing the tutorial and before-and-afters later this week. It was a really fun project.

More fun stuff…

*Real estate finds: I want to show it some love. I want to save it.

*A dreamy marbled duvet.

*Browsing Remodelista’s considered design awards. (You must check out the amateur garage-turned-kitchen by Jo Flavell under the “Amateur – best kitchen space” tab. So mooooody.)

insieme house

*I have two new instagram crushes: Gray Benko and Insieme House. One makes me laugh and the other makes me want to buy a teeny A-frame ASAP.

*I just finished reading this book and now Steve is reading it. The tiny house lifestyle really appeals to me. I’ve all but decided that when we’re empty nesters we’ll have a tiny house. Steve says okay as long as he gets a big workshop.

*Steve has been dropping hints as to what he wants for Father’s Day. It’s either a food processor or a BBQ Dragon.

Happy Monday!

images: 1 & 2) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 3) Insieme House