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refinishing a sad old laminate dresser

Laminate Dresser Drawers: After

While we’re putting the finishing touches on the Hideaway and getting it ready to rent out, I thought I’d share some projects we’ve been working on along the way. The task? Spruce up the furniture to get everything looking fresh and new.

I started with this laminate dresser that had definitely seen better days. The owner (we manage the property and live next door; he owns the place) dropped it off when I added dressers to the list of “must-haves” for the bedrooms. I took one look and knew it was going to be my next project. John was practically in the car already to head to Home Depot for supplies. 

The drawers were looking pretty gnarly…all scratched up from the hardware getting loose. And in one area, the material was held together with glue and scotch tape!

The old brass hardware was looking pretty sad; I decided to remove them, clean them and spray paint them oil-rubbed bronze (I used Rust-Oleum Universal spray paint in Oil Rubbed Bronze, which is FANTASTIC). Obviously, this is the before shot:

Since the dresser was laminate, not veneer or hardwood, I couldn’t just sand it down and stain it…the sanding would have totally removed the top layer and ruined the piece. So I decided to go for a vintage, casual beach house vibe with some creamy white paint.

First I sanded down the scratches, dents and rough edges, and then went over every surface really lightly, by hand, with some fine grit sandpaper. After cleaning up the dust, I applied a coat of Zinsser BIN primer with a small foam roller. I learned about this primer when researching how to refinish laminate furniture, and I LOVE IT. It sticks to laminate even without sanding, and since it’s alcohol/shellac-based, it’s completely dry in 45 minutes.

When the primer was dry I lightly hand-sanded just to make sure there were no bumps or bubbles, and then moved on to paint. I used Behr Swiss Coffee in flat, an off-the-shelf color I picked up at Home Depot. It’s a nice creamy white, just barely off-white and not too bright. It took 3 coats to get a perfect, even, saturated finish, but with the foam roller it was done in no time.

The next morning I grabbed my electric sander and decided to add some distressing to the edges for that rustic beach cottage look. One quick pass over all the edges and it was just the way I wanted it!

To finish it off, I coated the piece with Minwax water-based Polycrylic in Satin. Regular oil-based polyurethane will amber or yellow over time, so for white/light-colored projects, water-based poly works better. This was my first time using spray poly, and by the second drawer I really got the hang of it. Easy! Just use even strokes that overlap slightly, keep the can moving, and start spraying BEFORE you get near the piece, to minimize any bubbles or blobs that can sometimes happen. I ended up using 3 thin coats of the spray poly, with a little light sanding in between, for a perfectly smooth, nicely-protected surface.

Here’s the finished product in the master bedroom. I love the way the hardware came out!

I even lined the drawers in a retro-looking green print wrapping paper to round out the whole vintage beachy vibe I was going for:

Linked up at Shanty 2 Chic, Simply Cadence, The DIY Home Sweet Home Project, The Shabby Chic Cottage and Domestically Speaking

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17 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is great! I really love the end result, the white looks so clean and classic!

    May 11, 2011
    • Thanks so much! It’s amazing what a coat of white paint can do, isn’t it?

      May 15, 2011
  2. I really love it! The hardware is really cool looking and I love how you lined the drawers!

    May 15, 2011
    • Thanks! I really lucked out with that hardware, it was so cool looking with a little cleaning and some spray paint.

      May 15, 2011
  3. I am AMAZED by this project! I have a couple of laminate bookshelves I want to redo, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Thanks so much for the tutorial…you’re amazing!

    June 11, 2011
  4. cece #

    Thanks so much for posting this. I found it just in time as I am about to redo my sad old laminate topped dining table. Even the color you picked for your dresser is EXACTLY what I am looking for. Thanks for being so thorough in you description of how to and of the products. I hope my project turns out as well as yours!

    September 20, 2011
  5. jennifer #

    I’m so happy I found this page! I think I may try it on an old kitchen table I recently got. My only question is what kind of zinsser bin primer you used? Is it just a simple interior primer?

    November 5, 2013
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