Operation Dresser – My first Upcycling Attempt

I recently visited a friends house for the first time since she had her kitchen redone, the whole thing was gorgeous but the piece de resistance was her beautiful charcoal grey painted welsh dresser, I was smitten and had to have one.

I contacted the company she has got hers from and asked them what it would cost for a smaller size dresser fully painted and finished in the style of my choice. Too much for my budget was the answer, so I thought hey why not give it a go myself, how hard can it be!

Harder than it looks is the answer but I did it anyway, so here’s how it went.

First of all I had to find a dresser, I trawled Gumtree and some other sites but it was my dad who came up with the goods at an auction house just long the road from him. He sent me a picture of a plain pine dresser which fitted my size requirements and asked me if he should bid on it. So £55 later (that included delivery) I was the proud owner of this (the picture is how it was displayed in the show room, so no it’s not my lovely lampshade!)

dresser2Next step was getting the right tools for the job, I did a little research and spoke to some craft friends and decided that a chalk paint and wax finish was what I was looking for, and the name that kept coming up was Annie Sloan, so I ordered the cream chalk paint and clear soft wax from Annie Sloan and started watching instructional videos on youtube (see earlier posts).

paint1Luckily we have a large garage we could store the dresser in because the next step was to take it to pieces.

I filled the couple of large holes with wood filler and set to painting.

The great thing about the chalk paint is you don’t have to do any sanding or priming before using it. the not so great thing is getting to grips with applying it..

The paint can be thickened by leaving it out for a while before use or thinned by adding water. Chalk paint is perfect for a distressed finished where it is applied thickly and you can often see brush strokes and then parts are sanded off before applying dark and clear wax to give a worn look.

I had opted to go for a clean look though and and so presumed applying a thick coat would give a nice smooth covering, I set to applying the paint as it came from the tin. Then I promptly removed it all as soon as it had dried  because it had set into an uneven lumpy texture, perfect had you wanted to sand it and add texture, not good for a smooth finished look. The good thing is the paint is easy to remove by wetting it when it is newly applied and you haven’t yet sealed it.

After another botched attempt I discovered the way to get the look I wanted was to apply really quite thin watered down layers of paint (the water melts the chalk lumps) in several layers and for a few days dressers parts lay everywhere in my house in various stages of painting.

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Once I’d got the hang of applying the paint, I was flying. The paint dries quickly so I was able to apply 3 coats over a couple of days and although it’s only a small pot because I was adding water there was more than enough paint.

I decided to have a contrasting shelf, cup hanging rack and drawer handles so gave these a light sand and painted them in a deep chestnut varnish which gave a lovely deep warm colour against the cream paint.

Finally I was ready to put all the bits back together and then came the waxing. Chalk paint is sealed and protected by applying wax rather than varnish to keep the matt finish. I’d read up on this and watched some videos but in the end it was much easier than I had expected.

You are best to keep the wax in a warm place to soften it and make it easier to apply. I used a normal large, soft paintbrush to apply it, but make sure it doesn’t have loose bristles or you will be picking them off forever. Apply a good coat of wax all over, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies and don’t worry about any lumps you can remove them later.

Once you have given it a good coat used a soft lint free cloth, or like I did kitchen towel which worked really well, to gently buff the wax and remove any built up areas. If you want a shiny finish just buff for longer.

One coat of wax is usually enough but if you are using it as a surface like a table two coats are recommended, leaving 24 hours between each coat. Annie Sloan suggests it can take 30 days for the wax to properly cure but as long as you are gentle you can begin using the item right away.

So my finishing touch for a proper country cottage feel was to line the heavily marked drawers with some gingham design Fablon I got at Homebase and then I all I had to do was dress it.

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This was certainly a learning experience but I’m really glad I did it, not only did it save me a fortune it also gave me a great sense of accomplishment, and I fear the beginning of a chalk paint obsession!

The final result.

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