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How to Paint a Craigslist Dresser in 4 Easy Steps

I finally had it one day with our cluttered hallway. It was full of plastic bins, boxes of diapers, items destined for Goodwill, and all sorts of odds and ends stacked precariously. We knew that some day in the future we would make built-in cabinets, but for now it was screaming for some TLC. So I began looking on Craigslist for some possibilities.

Tip: Use a Craigslist mobile app – so helpful when you’re not at a computer.

Step 1: Choose your dresser
Using the app, I found several that suited my needs both aesthetically and size-wise. I was looking for something kid-friendly and streamlined, no knobs or funky carvings. Just basic. One in particular was priced just right at $20, and solid oak to boot! No particle board for me, thanks. Ironically, there were two of the same model of dresser for sale (see above photo). The other was selling for $195 (and in much better condition)!

Step 2: Clean & Sand
After bringing the dresser home and taking out all the drawers, we noticed some mouse droppings in a few of them. Alarming, but not a deal-breaker. I looked on the CDC website how to properly clean and disinfect the dresser, including making a homemade bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. It sucked, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Then came the sanding. I was expecting to do the work myself, since my husband wasn’t crazy about my plan, but he kindly offered to do the remaining work for me. He used a palm sander and gave it a good once-over. I recommend using a mask and eye protection. A benefit of this dresser’s flat, no frills style is that there aren’t any details that require special sanding.

Step 3: Prime
We have a huge 5 gallon container of primer left over from when we did our home addition last year. Some people skip this step, and that might be okay on rarely used pieces, but this will be a working dresser. If you don’t want to see chips in the paint the first time you use it, or anytime soon, then you need to prime. Tape off any areas you don’t want to paint, or when a crisp line is desired. Use a roller for ease of coverage, but have a paintbrush handy to swipe corners and other details. We decided to not paint the inner drawers, but I plan to use drawer liners. Once the primer is dry, give it a once over by hand with fine sandpaper (and maybe a sanding block).

Step 4: Paint
Because we were looking for a small budget solution, we decided to use the leftover paint from our bathroom – a medium gray semi-gloss with a bit of blue called “Still Creek”. Make sure to roll it on smooth and constantly check for drips. You can see from the photo that David had a little helper. I thought this might leave streaks on the drawer fronts, but it doesn’t as long as you roll over it while it is still wet. Chloe loved “helping” daddy.

Now that the painting is done, don’t rush to use the dresser until the paint is fully cured. The longer you wait, the harder the finish will be – up to two weeks. Otherwise you risk smudges and marks. I asked at Home Depot about a top coat, but he assured us that one wasn’t needed as long as we waited for it to fully cure.

Ta da! Here’s our dresser sitting in its new hallway spot. Soon it will have a framed wall display to go above it, but that project is still in the works. I hope to be able to share it soon. Until then, good luck and happy painting!


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Before & After: Spray painted rocking chair DIY

I am often amazed at the spray painted transformations that you find among DIYers on the internet. So many inspiring projects! I wanted to give it a try, and this was my first painting effort – a wooden rocking chair that Chloe’s grandparents found for her. It looked to be well-used by the time we got it, with stains and pencil marks and a replaced dowel on the back. But Chloe loved it and so did I. It just needed a little freshening up.

Since there are plenty of “how-tos” on spray painting, here are a few things I learned from this project:

1. Keep a large cardboard box for a ground cover. It doesn’t blow around like plastic.

2. Don’t use primer unless you have to. I wanted to do this project “right,” including primer for best adhesion and coverage. However, the primer was rough and somewhat gritty, which required more sanding. I realized too late that the original chair would have been fine un-primed, and would have saved a lot of work.

3. One can of spray paint was not enough. This meant that I had to make a second trip to the store, and with a new baby and toddler, it took a while until I could get back there. Also, the first can of paint didn’t spray very well. I thought it was my technique, but it turned out there was just something off about that particular can.

4. In the case of this chair, it was better to start with it turned upside down, giving it a good coat(s), letting it dry, and then finishing it right side up.

5. Try not to let weeks (or months) go by from start to finish. Because I left it with a coat of rough primer for a long stretch of time, Chloe kind of got out of the habit of sitting in it (that or because the cold set in, she now prefers her little upholstered rocking chair instead). However, we have another kid who will love it once he gets a little older (and a big reason we didn’t choose the color pink!).

 


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Chloe's Nursery Mural and Decor

It seems I’ve never gotten around to sharing anything about Chloe’s nursery. Probably because it was rainy the day I took these photos and I think they look a tad gloomy. Anyway, like most parents on a budget we outfitted Chloe’s room mostly using white Ikea furniture. With the room barely measuring 10′ x 10′, and the closet taken up by David’s clothes (I take up the one in our bedroom), storage and organization were our biggest issues.

To increase storage we have two side-by-side 4-drawer Malm dressers , plus a Billy bookcase. One set holds clothes, shoes, and accessories, and the other set holds diapers, wipes, blankets, linens, toiletries, some future clothes and other items.

Chloe sleeps in a Gulliver crib. I like it because you can see the baby from all sides, plus it can convert to a toddler bed. For a while we were able to store boxes of future clothes underneath it, hidden by a beautiful bedskirt made by her Grandma Sandy. Then Chloe learned to stand, so we had to remove the bedskirt to lower the mattress, and now the bins sit out in the open next to the crib. Not so pretty, but not much choice. Grandma Sandy also painted the lovely flower and branch wall mural for us, following the design on this birth announcement. The ABC and 123 wall prints are by Sandra Isaksson. The only other piece of furniture is a navy fold down sofa that we already had. Originally we also had a rocking chair I bought through Craigslist, but David removed it to make room for the bins. Overall, it is a bit of a squeeze, and it continues to overflow despite our efforts to contain it all thanks to generous hand-me-downs that we won’t get to for a while. It is pretty functional, though, at least for now. 🙂


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Amazing DIY Dressers

I am always amazed when people are able to take an old, ugly or plain piece of furniture and re-purpose or refinish it into something new. David did a great job on our bedroom dresser and side table, turning it from a beat-up honey, to a smooth and modern walnut. These are a few other examples that really wow me:

This is the Decades, No. 1 chest of drawers by Wis Design. I wish I owned this gorgeous masterpiece. Their web site describes the project as a “Chest of drawers made out of discarded drawers, found and rescued from flea markets. A mix of different styles from earlier decades, with woods and knobs of various kinds, in a single piece of furniture. The old drawers are enhanced by the new frame in white lacquered MDF.” Check out their web site for the other 4 versions.

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One very enterprising DIYer re-purposed this dresser for his son’s nursery. He was given the dresser as a gift, and decided to turn it into a modern dresser/changing table. Very impressive. Via Apartment Therapy.

And lastly, I really dig this stenciled dresser by Lena Corwin, author of the book Printing by Hand. You can check out her process and tutorial on the Etsy blog.


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The perfect craft table

I thought about mentioning my new Norden gateleg table from IKEA in the previous post, but since it is not in actually stored in the office I thought I’d add it separately. David got fed up with not eating at the dinner table because of all my craft and sewing supplies spread out all over, so for Christmas he bought me this.

Although IKEA categorizes this as a dining table, I think it works far better as a utility/craft table. It’s not much of a looker, but as you can see from the image above, there are drop leaves on both sides, which each lift individually. There are also 3 drawers on each side, perfect for storing notions, balls of yarn and knitting needles, and other items that need a home for themselves.

Our 10′ x 10′ spare room is used as the “TV” room, and David uses that closet as his wardrobe (he’s generously allowed me full reign over our bedroom closet. All I can say is that decent closet space was not a priority in the late 1940’s). We’ve squeezed in a futon, a TV stand and two bookshelves into that room, which just leaves the two windows, door and closet accessible. So you can imagine my skepticism when David said we’d find a table to fit.

The great thing about the Norden table is that it folds down to be a mere 10.5″ (x 31.5″). No bigger than a small bookshelf (which we had to take out). When it is not in use it fits my sewing machine perfectly on top with plenty of room to spare. When I want to sew I pull out just one side, and when I want to spread out large sections of fabric or other projects I can extend both sides for a whopping 5 feet (and no, the gateleg does not seem to get in my way with the sewing pedal)


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Ode to our home office (or, yay IKEA!)


What my corner of the office looks like when it’s neat.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about our office space. Not that I think this small room is particularly great in any way. However, when it’s tidy and not too strewn with supplies or works-in-progress, it is decently comfortable and serviceable for two people sitting in desk chairs less than two feet apart.

The first thing I’ll say is IKEA. Over the past 5+ years, we’ve slowly rotated out ugly, semi-useless, and cheap office furniture and replaced it with good-looking, functional and affordable IKEA pieces. The only remainder from that bygone era is David’s ugly, stained, worn-out, circa 1998 Office Depot chair. I don’t know why he won’t replace it. Well, actually he did buy a new one once. He gave me that old one, and used the newer one for a while until he spilled coffee on it, which ended up suspiciously looking like a large urine stain. So disgusting. Eventually, I got fed up and purchased a white IKEA Jules Swivel Chair just so I could throw it out. I like the Jules chair fine, but David doesn’t because he says it’s too hard and has no armrests. Boo hoo.

IKEA items in our office (left to right, top to bottom): Helmer drawer unit, Jules swivel chair,
Handklaver pendant lamp, Expedit bookcase with optional Lekman boxes, Antifoni work lamp,
Salma storage boxes, Erik file cabinet, Galant drawer unit and Kila work lamp.

Basically, our IKEA office consists of these things: two modular Vika Amon desks that butt up against each other on one side of the room (straight for David, slightly curved corner-style desk for me), a wall-sized Expedit bookcase (with 6 Lekman storage box/drawers), a Galant drawer unit, a Helmer drawer unit, and three sets of Effecktiv wall cabinets with doors. Most everything is either birch or white. If we had more space, I would be all over getting an Alex drawer unit perfect for stacks of specialty papers, notions, and general easy-to-see-and-access storage. Instead we use a much smaller flat file organizer from Staples that fits in the closet along with the many Salma clear plastic boxes with lids that hold everything from inspiration and paper sample books to old portfolio pieces and ribbons. Now that I think of it, all of our lighting is IKEA, too: my Antifoni work lamp, David’s Kila work lamp, a Tarby ceiling lamp, and a Handklaver pendant lamp in the corner that we bought as a wedding decoration and never used. Even our old dark blue Vinde rug is IKEA, and matches the two dark blue and two light blue walls of the room. Where else can you find a decent rug for so cheap?

All of these pieces work really well for us. The only problem, especially for me, is taking the time to neaten up my work space and put away my tools every once in a while.

Some Things I’ve Learned

  • Higher wall space is too often overlooked as usable storage space.
  • Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and make a purchase that will outweigh its initial cost by providing long term organization and clutter control.
  • Prioritizing and purchasing individual pieces over time is much more affordable than overhauling a whole room at once. We bought some of these pieces back in college. The good thing about Ikea is that it is easier to match other items later because their styles and colors are pretty standard.
  • Consider buying a few of the additional organizational items, like the Lekman boxes that fit perfectly with the Expedit bookcase, or plastic drawer dividers for filing cabinets to help keep things organized.
  • Don’t overlook lighting. Overhead lighting is important, but individual space lighting comes in handy, especially if it can be repositioned for each job.
  • IKEA furniture alone can look sort of bland, but it is easy to jazz up the space with a colorful rug, complementary wall paint, nice curtains, wall art and/or some easy-care plants.

I should note here, that most of these furniture ideas came from David. He does a really good job of organizing space and choosing the right tools to do it properly. I think part of that skill he got from his mom and part of it from a stint at Pottery Barn many years back. Sometimes it takes him a while to talk me into getting new furniture, like the Effective wall cabinets. I didn’t want to spend the money (despite their comparative affordability) and I didn’t think I’d like the idea of cabinets looming over our desks. However, we were in serious need of more accessible storage. He eventually wore me down and now I’m glad for that extra hidden space.

Now he’s trying to talk me into re-doing the back wall of our laundry room.

We’ll see, honey.

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