Painting Furniture: the One Dresser to Rule Them All

So, the next victim on my rampage of craftiness was my bedroom dresser. First was this shoebox, second was a magnet board frame (that is almost but not quite done), and third was this dresser. I think it pretty much crafted me out for the rest of the summer.

We found this dresser on Craigslist a year ago. It was perfectly functional, only $20, but not very pretty to look at (especially up close).

So I decided I was going to be all crafty, paint it white, and decorate the top with all the coolest pages from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The book I used was actually James’s first Christmas present to me from when we were dating. He wrote “For Nichole: To Be Cultured” on the wrapping paper because I haven’t ever read the series, and it’s his favorite series in the world. A few pages were falling out anyway, so I decided to immortalize the book in this dresser, which is basically now a family heirloom. It turned out really awesome, if I do say so myself.

Super-Fun Process That Took Longer than it Really Should have Because I’m A Craft Rookie:

1) I took the drawers out and unscrewed the knobs from the drawers and washed everything really well. It was scarily dusty.

2) I sanded everything because that apparently makes the paint stick better. The Home Depot Lady said a 220 grit sandpaper (or finer) would be best.

3) I did one coat of oil-base primer because of the veneer varnish originally on the dresser (a sort of glossy finish…I think that’s what the Home Depot Lady called it when I brought a drawer in to the store (I’ve never done any serious painting before in my life.)) It ended up all opaque and splotchy looking:

This was the worst part of the process. I was ready to paint after priming everything, but I realized that I had no way to clean my only brush, which was covered in water-resistant, oil-based primer. And the dresser looked generally terrible and streaky, and I was worried that the finished dresser would end up looking like that too. I moped around for a bit because I didn’t have a way to get to the store to by paint primer to clean the brush, then I started mod-podging the pages onto the top (more on this in a minute). My lovely neighbor came by and asked what I was doing and if I needed help, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind terribly taking me to the store. And she did! (Well, she didn’t mind, she did take me to the store…you get it.) She drove me to Home Depot for paint thinner and then to JoAnn’s fabrics for another bottle of mod-podge. She even helped me mod-podge more pages onto the dresser in the hot sun for a while.

4) I cleaned my brush as well as I could with the paint thinner and did a coat of paint that made everything look much better. I waited the recommended two hours for the paint to dry and then did a second coat.

5) I poured some mod podge onto the top of the dresser and plastered book pages to the top of the dresser. I was sure to tear out the maps and pages with poems or cool runes or signs. I made sure nothing really cool was covered up but pretty much stuck the pages whichever way I felt like. I used a hard rubber roller over the pages to make them as flat as possible. I’m planning on really using this dresser, and I didn’t want stiff page corners getting caught on things. After papering the whole top (which took a lot longer than I thought it would–at least two hours), I covered it all with a final coating of mod-podge.

For one side of the dresser, I let the pages fall a little onto the side. I could have tried to cut the pages so they ended with the top of the dresser, but then I worried that the pages wouldn’t stay down as easily. And I’m not that precise with a rotary cutter. So I made it intentionally shabby and crooked because it will look better and last longer.

For the other side, I used a great idea that my husband had: to put pages down the side like they were falling off the dresser. I did the same uneven border as I had done on the other side, but added the two pages partway down the side, one of them folded so it would look like it was falling through the air.

6) Finally, I put three coats of a water-based varnish over the whole thing, the drawers, dresser, and papered top (two hours between coats, just like with the paint). Well, technically, my super helpful sister put one coat on, but the end result was three coats. This stuff was great and really smoothed out a lot of the unevenness of the page mod-podging. James helped me bring everything back inside and upstairs, I put the knobs back on the drawers (couldn’t find good replacement ones), and we both admired it and took a million pictures. See?

I did the whole project over two days while James was at work; it took probably 15 hours altogether. It was really sunny out too, so I got a bad sunburn on my right knee and upper calf (weird, I know). Totally worth it though. James and I love the way that it turned out.

My next project is already half done, but it’s much smaller than this. And it will probably be my last project for a long while. Crafts are never as easy in real life as they seem on Pinterest.