Before and After: Mid-century Dresser

Where I live, everyone wants a mid-century dresser topped with an old-timey typewriter and a pair of mini antlers underneath an antique cloche. (I just learned that word.) So antique stores in the city are keenly aware of what they have and what people will pay for such items — a lot. So I can get a little jealous of other bloggers when I read about the treasures they’ve purchased for pennies from their country junk shop (or more probably, junque shoppe).

But when I start to feel those pangs of envy, I just remember this:


Craigslist. $30. It is possible! Even in the city!

We brought this home last summer and it has been hiding in the guest room, embarrassed by scratches and general dinginess. But now it looks like this:

Dresser Portrait

Standing taller and prouder than ever, and looking worth far more than $30.

Dresser After

There are TONS of resources online about cleaning wood furniture (like here and here) and painting wood furniture and getting rid of dings. (My parents on the other hand had to buy VHS tapes to learn DIY techniques. My sister one time mistook “Paint Your Furniture” for a musical which led to a Schmunk family original song of the same title.)

Anyway, since there are so many great tips and how-to’s already on this subject, I’ll just give you an overview of what I did. The moral of the story is don’t be afraid! I thought this project would be way more time-consuming and daunting, which is why I put it off for an entire year. But it went really smoothly and now I can’t stop staring at this mid-century beauty.

Dresser Before and After

Here were the basic steps I took to clean this baby up:

1. Clean it inside and out with Murphy’s Oil Soap. It was amazing what this step alone did to brighten up the wood, get rid of all of the dust inside the frame, and remove general griminess on the drawer fronts. Here’s the inside of the dresser frame. Left is dusty pre-Murphy, right is clean post-Murphy:

Murphy's Oil Soap

2. Restore with Rejuvenate. In my mind, this step would magically erase all of the dings and scratches. It didn’t. It does however seem to be a good product for overall furniture maintenance, so it made me want to try it on some of our other wood pieces that I’m not so great at taking care of.

3. Sand, prime, and paint the drawer fronts. I learned a few things in my research that I will now summarize for you:

  • Sand first to remove the glossy finish and create a surface that will hold the paint
  • Use oil-based primer because it will cover the wood grain; let dry 4-6 hours (I went with overnight)
  • Use several coats of paint (you can use latex paint over oil-based primer, but not the other way around) and sand in between to remove drips or imperfections

Here’s what it looked like after one coat of primer:


4. While paint dries, “fix” dings with a marker. This actually did work like magic. I just colored over the scratches with a brown marker (!!!) and rubbed it in with my finger to blend it with the wood. Probably wouldn’t color on an heirloom piece, but worked great for this!


And there you have it. A two-day project that is really more waiting for things to dry than actual work. I love the two-tone look, and it’s WAY easier than trying to completely strip and refinish the entire dresser. Ta-da!

Dresser Close-up


I’m on Apartment Therapy!

Well, let’s be honest, reHabitat is on Apartment Therapy. They were the ones behind this genius bedroom makeover.

Either way, it’s pretty cool to get online and see this…

Apt Therapy screen shot

It’s our bedroom! On Apartment Therapy! And you can go vote for it right now!

And then go check out reHabitat. They’re good.

So to recap. Vote. reHabitat.  :)

You say goodbye and I say hello.

We have this great big dining room table that we painted with chalkboard paint (thanks, Emily) and we love it. It’s perfect for doodling during dinner parties and score keeping for games. It seats 10 people, comfortably: a rarity in a small city apartment. The problem is that I think by the end of every lingering dinner or game night, our guests go home cursing us because our chairs are so darn creaky and uncomfortable. Here’s the line-up:

You say goodbye

I’ve collected our dining chairs over the course of a few years at various Salvation Armys and thrift stores. The point was to have an eclectic mix with no pretense of them even trying to match. The lot of them cost probably less than $8. For good reason. So after some significant Craigslisting and comfort testing (Alex approved), we purchased six of these babies. Hello hello.

Hello Hello

The price was right (aka cheap). And you know I love a good DIY, so I’m ready to get out my spray paint and give these guys a makeover. Almost.

Brightly colored dining room chairs are so hot right now. Let me show you:


sea foam



So I’m wondering if I should try something bold. Or stick with a classic glossy white:


What do you think?

Dining room


Images from:,,,,

Before and After: Master Bedroom

Yowza! I can’t believe we lived in this bedroom for the first 9 months we were married! I look at this photo and laugh out loud. I would consider myself a generally design savvy person with good taste and an ability to make the best of any home situation. But this dark hallway of a bedroom? I was clueless. Here’s the other direction to show you just how clueless.

Vom. Clearly, I needed help.

This was a job for the lovely ladies behind the hott new {rehabitat}. Wanna see what they can do? (You might recognize this from the sneak peek I gave you in my DIY headboard post.)

Yeah. Talk about the extreme home makeover of every girl’s dreams!

Here’s how {rehabitat} helped.

I sent them the before photos, room measurements, and what I had to work with. That list included a bed, dresser, chair, some Anthropologie curtains, and a set of shelves. And of course I told them that I wanted a bit of antique and DIY flair.

They sent me a package in the mail that actually made me squeal! A polka dot folder with a floor plan, paint samples, fabric swatches, shopping list!, drawings that showed me how to hang curtains, and suggestions for how to add a bit of my own creativity and stay within my budget by repurposing things I already had. Genius!

And this…

We painted, hung curtains (over the mirror!) and shelves, bought new bedding from West Elm (their suggestion), found a very cool rehabbed night stand, hung an awesome drawing from Alex’s sister, Frances, DIYed our headboard, and shuffled around some lamps.

I love it so much! I feel like we’ve moved from an insane asylum into a 5 star hotel with a private music room. As savvy as I may be, I could have never done this on my own.

PS: Did I mention the design geniuses behind {rehabitat} happen to be my mom and sister? I’m kind of proud.

Before and After: Desk Chair

It’s amazing what a little spray paint can do, huh? I found this chair a couple of years ago at a Salvation Army. I’m pretty sure the price tag was $3.99. I knew it needed some paint and a new seat cover. But it wasn’t until we upholstered our headboard that I felt confident enough to try it. (And it’s the first time I’ve had my very own staple gun.)

I started by flipping the chair over and unscrewing the seat. I laughed when I saw that someone had covered some gorgeous gold silk with this cheap old cotton. To quote my design savvy sister: “Do you people have eyes???”

Next I took the chair frame outside into the alley with some precious spray paint. (Precious because we must drive 30 minutes to purchase it outside of the city limits.)

It took a couple of coats to properly cover the whole frame. (There are some good spray painting tips over here.) So while I waited for each coat to dry I went inside and worked on the upholstery.

I used a remnant we still had from our headboard so this project cost me exactly $0. (I’ve had the chair for so long that I don’t think that $3.99 counts.) $0 is good when you have a husband in full time grad school.

Start in the middle, pull taught, and staple away. Beware of whatever fabric grain you’re working with.

I let the spray paint dry over night and then screwed the seat back in place. It makes a loverly desk chair in our guest room.

If you have an eye sore in your home, don’t wait any longer to do something about it. I held out for too long on this one because I was a bit intimidated by the recovering process. But it was way easier than I expected. It also helped to “practice” on something that I didn’t really care about. So if you’re noivous about ruining a piece you own, go check out your local thrift store for something to practice on. You might even end up loving the result.