Before & After: An Outdated Garage Sale Dresser Gets a Shabby Chic Makeover

eHow Home Blog


We recently gave this outdated wooden dresser that we’d picked up on a garage sale budget a complete makeover with the use of chalk paint and updated knob hardware. It’s hard to believe that it’s the same piece of furniture! For those who love the look of those shabby chic pieces found in high-end furniture stores, this DIY project is for you.

Outdated dressers are easily looked over but oftentimes carry so much hidden potential that can be brought out with a fresh coat of paint and a little distressing. They can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets and your neighborhood Craigslist.


Today we’ll show you how simple it can be to update an outdated dresser or garage sale find by using chalk paint.

Dresser After

If you’ve never heard of chalk paint, listen in. It’s an amazing new type of paint that is easy to work with, requires little to no preparation, such as sanding or priming, and can be used for indoor and outdoor projects on all sorts of surfaces. It’s best known for how it transforms furniture into beautifully aged and distressed-looking pieces. We love working with chalk paint, but the big-brand versions can be expensive. So we’ve learned how to mix our own using a mixture of household paint, plaster of Paris and water, and we’re sharing our best recipe in today’s post.


Things You’ll Need:

  • Screwdriver
  • Cloth or rag
  • Palm sander, sandpaper sheets and sanding block
  • 3 disposable plastic cups, 16 ounces
  • 1 plastic mixing bucket, 1 quart
  • Plaster of Paris, ½ cup
  • Water, ½ cup
  • Latex paint, flat finish, 1 cup
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paint tray
  • Paint roller and frame, 3-inch
  • Small paintbrush
  • Cabinet pulls, if replacing


To prep the dresser, we removed each of the cabinet pulls and wiped the entire surface down with a clean, dry cloth (an old T-shirt will do), followed by a light all-over surface sanding with a palm sander to remove any hidden debris (sand in the direction of the grain). Wipe away any remaining sanded particles, and then remove drawers, setting them face up for easier painting, before moving on to the next step.

To make chalk paint for the project, start by mixing the plaster of Paris and water together in the 1 quart mixing bucket. When combined, stir in the full cup of paint. Continue to stir until combined.

How_to_make_chalk_paint_eHowAfter it’s mixed well, pour it into a paint tray and begin rolling the paint over the entire surface of the dresser and drawer faces, going with the grain of the wood. Use a small paintbrush to reach any areas you can’t cover with the roller.


Because of its chalky consistency, the paint will roll on with what looks like grainy particles. Don’t worry about these — when dry, they will sand away to a smooth finish with minimal effort.


When fully coated with paint, allow to dry for at least two hours (we told you chalk paint dries fast!), and then gently sand the entire surface with a palm sander to make it smooth. If you are happy with the paint coverage, move onto the next step. Otherwise, add a second coat of paint for fuller coverage (we used two coats here).


Use a sanding block to apply pressure over the corners, edges and detailed areas to achieve that beautiful aged and distressed look.


Clear away any remaining sanded particles and give the entire dresser another wipe down with a clean, dry cloth. At this stage you can continue to distress areas of the dresser to your liking or apply paint over areas you’d like less distressing over. It’s a bit of a “building up and wearing away” process.


When you’re happy with the overall look of the distressing, install new cabinet pulls into the drawers and bring your new dresser inside to marvel at the new look and feel!



It’s amazing how this once outdated piece of furniture is now the statement piece of this room.


Our friends and family who have seen it can’t believe the transformation, saying it looks as though it’s a nicely worn and aged family heirloom. It’s easily our favorite new find.

Mary & Tim

Keep up with Mary and Tim’s adventures in DIY, home and gardening on their collaborative lifestyle blog, 17Apart. Find them on Instagram (@17Apart) and page through delicious recipes on Tim’s food blog, E.A.T.

Photo credits: Mary & Tim Vidra

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