Trash to Treasure: Painted Scrollwork Dresser

Kicking off a Trash to Treasure Transformation Series is the always amazing Miss Mustard Seed. Her furniture elicits involuntary oohs and ahhs from me everytime. Visit her blog to see how she inspires us all to move mountains in our homes.

I'm so excited to have to opportunity to show off one of my most recent before & after transformations here at Brooklyn Limestone. This dresser has come a long way...

Here's how it started...

I didn't dig it out of the trash, so it's not a true trash to treasure, but I did find it for a great price at my favorite junk shop. A previous owner had dressed it up with strips of contact paper.

At first I was sad that someone would do such a thing to a pretty wood dresser, but then I realized it was really a clever idea. The execution may not have been great and the choice of paper wasn't my taste, but it is a cheap and easy way to give a piece a new look. It wasn't the look I was going for, though, so I pealed off the contact paper.

I had another issue to deal with...the top had a major cosmetic problem. There was some water damage that had caused the veneer to bubble and chip away.

Now, I do a lot of furniture repair and refinishing, but messing with veneer like this is beyond my repertoire. I almost didn't buy this piece because of that one spot. I thought about having my husband replace the entire top, but I decided to try to smooth out the bubbled area. I removed the loose veneer and filled in the space with 3-4 layers of wood filler. I sanded each layer heavily until the top was smooth (or as smooth as I could manage.) Once painted, it blends in pretty well. Most people probably wouldn't even notice it unless they knew it was there.

This is definitely an example of my philosophy when working on vintage furniture. It's old and some of these pieces have had a pretty rough time. I've bought pieces with missing drawers, missing legs, warped boards, wonky drawers and even one that had been a home to a family of mice. I make them functional and turn them into a beautiful piece for someone's home, but I never strive for perfection. I embrace the quirks and dings and dents and chipped veneer the pieces have acquired along the way. They're a part of the story of the piece and I don't need to try to make it look new. I think furniture makeovers are less intimidating when tackled with that in mind.

I painted the body of the piece in black milk paint, refinished the drawers and added a decorative painted design. The entire dresser was finished with a soft furniture wax.

Fortunately, the dresser still had the original casters and glass knobs, so I didn't need to replace any of the hardware.

This piece is a little different for me, since I usually don't work with black paint, but I love how it turned out. I'm glad I took a chance on the ugly duckling with the contact paper stripes.

Thanks so much, Stefanie, for letting me share!


  1. Anonymous9:07 AM

    beautiful! I just don't have the eye to envision things like that!

  2. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Beautiful! And so refreshing in this era of white paint "transformations"

  3. So pretty! I have a dresser in dire need of a little TLC, so this is wonderful inspiration.

  4. The way you casually threw out "added a decorative painted design" makes me want to curl in a fetal position and weep. Was this free hand? Out of your head? Using a stencil - oh please let it be so. The beautiful design is what makes it truly awesome in my opinion. (sigh of jealousy)

    1. Anonymous3:27 PM

      My sentiments exactly. Miss Mustard Seed does free hand all the time

  5. What a beautiful transformation!
    Take a look at this one, it's different... but also beautiful:

  6. Anonymous11:47 AM

    So crazy! I have a very similar dresser that I picked up for $30 at the thrift store - right down to the peeling water damage on the top veneer! This is like a peek into what it's future could be. Thank you! It's beautiful!

  7. Was this dresser at Lucketts yesterday (near the front door with a sold tag on it)? We were admiring it. Nicely done.

  8. Anonymous11:49 AM

    I love to refinish old furniture pieces, and this piece turned out great...I have never used milk paint. Where do you buy yours and what kind of wax did you use to seal your finish? Good Job!!!!!

  9. Wow great inspiration...I plan to re-vamp my entry way table soon!!!

  10. Anonymous3:17 PM

    Love this! How rewarding! Check out my similar find:

  11. Anonymous3:24 PM

    I would also be interested in how you did the design work on the dresser. It is lovely.

  12. She is amazing.

    Your blog looks awesome, btw. Love the dark chalk look.

  13. i love what you did with the dresser!:D

  14. Looks really good! Wow!

  15. Oh my goodess. What you've done here takes my breath away. Would love to know more info regarding the design. Freehand, stencil and
    where to find? I would just love to try something similar. Great work!

  16. Oh god! You make the dresser great!!! Hearted❤

  17. Hi! I'm visiting from Go Haus Go! I couldn't NOT leave a comment about this dresser. Gorgeous! You did an outstanding job. I might not have purchased it b/c of the top as well, but it is so stunning now!

  18. Anonymous4:00 AM

    Great inspiring effort. We've got lots yet to do but take hope from reading yours.

    Brooklyn Dreamers

  19. WOW! Not only did you see the hidden potential in this dresser but you transformed it into a stunning piece. Love how it's got a high-end look yet still retains its vintage "soul".

  20. I love how this came out! Love, love, love all your stuff and love your philosophy on the quirks and stories of furniture.

  21. oh my... swoon! i'm in love with this dresser!!!

  22. Z_silva8:08 AM

    It is amazing, it makes me want to work on a few dressers i have..GREAT JOB!


There is nothing that thrills me more than hearing from readers. Please share your thoughts. ♥

Follow @ Instagram

© 2007-2020 Brooklyn Limestone. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy
Back to Top