It has been almost two months since I brought home that light blue/light green dresser – along with some other treasures from Goodwill – and the truth is that not only was I too busy to start working on it, but I was also very concerned that I would not be able paint over its top part which was made of the not-most-desirable-material for a bedroom dresser: formica*. The whole piece was made of nice and solid wood except for that one “countertop” formica part which was strongly attached to the top of the dresser. There was no way to remove it, so I spent a whole lot of time considering alternative ways to cover it in case that the paint wouldn’t adhere to it.
The dresser is definitely old and in a pretty bad shape. It dates back to the ’60s, and there’s plenty of evidence to prove it; 1) its overall geometrical shape and the style of the legs 2) formica was the most popular countertop material back then 3) the choice of colors. Whoever decided on that light blue/light green combo was definitely a true enthusiast of John Travolta’s ’64 Chevrolet Impala on Saturday Night Fever. Don’t believe me? Here is the proof:
No kidding, these two colors were a favorite duo back then! Here is an ad from back then that prompts the customers to combine the two colors.
photo found on www.modative.com
As I had mentioned in my post back in July, I had only one vision for this dresser and that was to use it in the boy’s room, doubling as a bedside table and making it look just like the Pottery Barn Jordan dresser. I could not see it going anywhere else in the house and I absolutely needed the additional storage space for my son’s clothes, so I had to make it work!
I first started working on the formica – the part that would define the entire project. I applied two coats of my regular primer but even after 24 hours it could easily be scratched off with the tip of my nail. After a little online research I concluded that this primer might work on formica. It was not available anywhere near me, so I ordered it online and had it delivered to my local store. I applied three nice coats with a roller brush and let each coat dry for 24 hours. The result was perfect – the formica was ready to be painted, and I could finally start working on the drawers.
I first removed the hardware as I was planning on using something more modern, more plain and with straighter edges. There will be plenty of opportunities to use these beautiful pulls on some other furniture in the future. There are six of them – the missing one was luckily inside a drawer. Aren’t they gorgeous?
To remove the many layers of green paint on the drawers, I used this stripper. This product has a gel consistency and it is very easy to use (make sure to follow the package directions very carefully). I applied a very thick coat onto the face of the drawers and on the sides of the drawers, wherever there was paint. Almost immediately following the application, the paint started bubbling and after just 15 min I was able to remove the first layer of paint with a plastic scraper.
I repeated the process three times until most of the paint was removed.
Then, I sanded the face of the drawers until raw wood was finally revealed.
I was planning on buying the same kind of ring pulls as my inspiration dresser, so I had to drill new holes in new spots. For that reason, I filled the old holes with wood filler. Unfortunately, I did not find the ring pulls at a price that I wanted, so I later reopened the same holes for the modern hardware that I ended up choosing. I also filled the drawer’s face engraved outline with wood filler – I didn’t mind the engraved contour, but I disliked its curved corners.
I sanded off the excess wood filling and all drawers were then ready to be stained.
I used three different types of wood stain that I already had (Minwax Special Walnut / Minwax Ebony / Varathane Stain + PolyWeathered Grey).
The drawers turned out a little darker than my inspiration dresser, but that was necessary in order to fully cover the different color of the wood filler that I used to fill the engraved contour. In the end, I decided I liked the dark stain better.
Before finishing off the drawers with two coats of clear satin polyurethane, I meticulously cleaned the inside of the drawers, using this method.
If I had overestimated the difficulty of painting over formica, then I had certainly underestimated the bad condition of the dresser’s wooden frame. It had plenty of small holes and cracks and was missing chunks of wood here and there.
Here is just the side panel of the dresser after I filled all the holes with wood filler and sanded it. The same work had to be done on all the sides of the dresser – they were all in a terrible condition. It took some time before the frame was ready to be primed and painted. I applied two coats of regular primer on the sides and front, and then painted the dresser’s frame and the formica top in white (Behr Bakery Box – High Gloss).
After all the hard work and three coats of fresh paint, the dresser finally looks like this:
The paint nicely covers the formica and the entire top part looks as one solid piece of wood. Would you tell the difference between the two materials?
From now and on, I will not be intimidated to paint over formica or any other non-porous material. Here is a closer look at the formica top.
The sides of the dresser and the legs look almost like brand new after the holes and cracks were filled with wood filler.
The drawers are nicely stained.
As for the new pulls, they weren’t the least expensive on the market, but I think they fit better with the new style of this dresser.
This dresser doubles as a bedside table and it gives plenty of low storage and easy access for clothing, something that was missing from my boy’s room. The old bedside table is actually the Ikea Alex drawer unit without the casters. I moved it to the other side of the bed. I also switched my son’s old blue bed with a same white one that was in the guest room. Photos of what the boy’s room looked like before can be found here.
The dresser is very wide and there is plenty of room to accessorize it and make it look pretty. For now, I’m just moving around some of the things that were already in the room and I will need to hang something nice on the wall above it.
The bright red bin that I placed on the floor, in front of the dresser brings in the color that was missing. Plus, it doubles as a good spot to store favorite books.
As per the cost breakdown, I ended up paying about $90 in total: $21 for the dresser, $18 for the primer, $16 for the paint and $36 for the drawer pulls.
* Formica has made a huge come back with amazing kitchen and bathroom countertops!