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Monday, March 2, 2020

80's Dresser Turned Distressed Chest

Transform and modernize a dated 80's dresser into the perfect distressed chest! 

Are you starting to notice a theme with my recent furniture makeovers?

I'm kind of obsessed with transforming and modernizing dated 80's dressers.  I love painting MCM furniture,  but being able to build, transform and update unwanted or dated furniture is something that truly makes me happy.  Oddly enough,  I actually find painting and updating furniture relaxing and incredibly rewarding.  It's one of my favorite ways to relieve stress, so the more furniture I can redo the better.  
Painted and distressed dresser with bronze pulls
Just recently, I found a small dated dresser on Facebook Marketplace that needed a little updating.  The curved base and batwing hardware drastically dated the dresser, but it wasn't anything a little wood, paint and new hardware couldn't fix. 

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- 1" x 4" x 8' wood board
- 80 and 120 Grit Sandpaper
- Gorilla wood glue
- Purdy Paintbrush
- Putty knife
- Wax brush or lint-free rag
- Simple Green 
- Paper towels
- Screwdriver
- Drill and small drill bits
- Tape Measure


Dated furniture is great for updating if you can look past the curved bases and batwing hardware.  They're usually made of solid wood and have dovetail joints, making them perfect candidates for makeovers.

Dated 80's dresser before
Luckily, the curved bases are usually only attached with a few screws and wood glue.  If you remove the screws and beat on the back of the wood with a rubber mallet the trim will easily pop off.

This particular dresser also had curved details on the sides.  I thought about cutting down the dresser and completely rebuilding the base, but decided to attach the new wood directly over the existing wood. 
Curved base on 80's dresser
I measured and cut down a 1" x 4" x 8'  board into three pieces for the base.  I cut the ends of each piece of wood at a 45-degree angle to form a mitre joint for a cleaner and more finished look.
Cut boards for new dresser base
I added wood glue to the back of the boards, clamped them in place then secured them using my Ryobi Airstrike Nailer.
Attaching new boards to dresser base
I filled nail and old hardware holes with wood filler, sanded the dresser, cleaned it with Simple Green, applied two coats of General Finishes Twilight milk paint, heavily distressed the wood, sealed the paint with Amy Howard antique wax then added new brass pulls.

General Finishes Twilight painted dresser

Updated 80's dresser makeover

how to update and transform a dated dresser

New base on 80's dresser

I went a little heavier on the distressing than I normally do, but I think it fits well with the new hardware and style of the dresser.  It definitely doesn't look like it's from the 80's anymore!

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Before and after 80's dresser makeover

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Would you like to comment?

  1. Looks very masculine! I love the new hardware, too. Great job, Katie!

  2. That was mine when I was 12, and it's in our guest room now! You did a beautiful job and I'm going to try it myself. I painted our metal day bed flat dark gray recently so this will be perfect. Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. I absolutely love it and your style! I'm always amazed at your creativity. Awesome job!

  4. Another great project. Thank you. It looks great as always.

  5. Wow, you really have those mitered corners down! Wish I had room for another chest. Love this one.

  6. Love your ideas Katie! Nice to see your ideas again! Be well!