An Inheritance Makeover

An Inheritance Makeover

Some furniture you purchase new, some you find used, and some you inherit. This tale of a furniture makeover begins with an inheritance.

One part of marriage I didn’t anticipate was what I like to call “the consolidation of the stuff.” In said consolidation, we decided to keep my chest of drawers because it has more drawers = more storage. Once we got our bedroom arranged , we decided we could really use a second dresser for storing things other than clothes. I looked on Craigslist for a few days with no luck. Since we were on a budget and hadn’t sold Jeff’s chest of drawers yet, we decided to use what we had. And so this project began.

Please ignore the bed risers – this was originally intended for a Craigslist post. Jeff used this dresser all throughout college, as evidenced by the water spots, bumps, and bruises. I thought a little paint, some fresh stain, and new hardware could go a long way. I have been loving the look of white with wood, so I decided to take it that direction.

Materials used:

  • Minwax oil-based stain – Espresso
  • Minwax polyurethane – Clear
  • PPG Pure Performance semi-gloss paint + primer – Pure White
  • Sander with 150 grit sandpaper
  • Brushes (3) – stain, polyurethane, paint
  • Paper towels
  • Tack cloths
  • Drop cloth

Our balcony can hardly fit one chair, so I had to set up in the hallway of our apartment. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Midway through the endeavor – my husband was humored by the set up.

On new projects, I think it’s best to start with what you know to build confidence for the rest of it. I’ve worked with stain before, so I decided to go to work on the drawers first.

Sander at the ready.
Sander at the ready.

REALLY important tip to note while sanding wood: You MUST sand with the grain. In other words, follow the direction of the wood grain and sand parallel to that, never perpendicular. Otherwise you run the risk of making sanding marks in the wood.

Drawers after sanding
Bare wood in all its glory – isn’t it beautiful!?

After quite a bit of sanding (and crossing my fingers that the noise wasn’t too obnoxious to my neighbors), I got down to the bare wood. I originally wanted to just remove the gloss of the existing stain, but sanding all the way down to the natural wood gave me the best chance of an even color upon re-staining, and I’m glad I did it.

Drawers apply stain

Dip your brush into the stain and apply to the bare wood. It will initially look way darker than you intended – this is normal. The longer you leave the stain on the wood, the darker of a shade it will be. I allowed about two minutes before wiping the stain off with a paper towel.

Drawers wipe stain

Use (several) paper towels to wipe off the stain. You will probably need to wipe the same area multiple times to make sure you remove all of the wet stain. If you’d like for it to be darker, let this dry for 24 hours before lightly sanding, wiping the wood down with a tack cloth, and repeating the steps above. If you are happy with the color, smile and move on! Allow 24 hours for the stain to set in. At this point, I called it a day.

The next afternoon, I picked up where we left off. Apply polyurethane to the drawers to seal the stain. I like Minwax Clear Semi-Gloss Polyurethane for projects like this. This will go on clear and needs to set for 48 hours after application.

Minwax polyurethane

Now on to the cabinet. This handsome guy needed some work.

photo 1 (3)

I did things a little out of order here, but who says you can’t make up things as you go? I decided to sand this whole thing down first. The main goal here was to remove the gloss since I would just be painting over it. I wish I had been a little more diligent about sanding on the rounded edges, but I’ll get to that later.

photo 3 (4)

Some things look worse before they get better. That’s okay. See all those lovely watermarks? Our goal is to make them disappear.

Removing molding

I got one coat of paint on it before removing the rest of the molding on the legs. I might have enlisted the husband’s muscles for this part. Between a flathead screwdriver and a hammer, this wasn’t hard to do. We just worked the flathead under the wood and used some leverage to pop out the nails/glue holding it in place.

photo 5 (1)

I like where we’re going! Simple, clean lines. Moving on.

{Side bar: I accidentally stepped on the inside of the cabinet while it was laying down and popped out the plywood along the back. Things happen. Half the fun is problem solving solutions as you go.}

Nothing a staple gun can't fix!
Staple gun to the rescue!

After the second coat of paint, I ran into a bit of an issue. This is what can happen when you don’t get a good sand everywhere to rough up the surface. The paint just kept sliding over the top and not gripping the wood.


Seriously, so frustrating. I re-sanded this whole edge with a hand sander as best I could and finally got a few good coats on it. The perfectionist in me could have been really annoyed, but I chose to repeat the Nester‘s mantra to myself instead: It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.


Some new pulls from The Home Depot really pulled the look together. I love the contrast between the crisp white and beautiful wood. And here it is in our bedroom!

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