Earlier this month, I threw a limited amount of money in my pocket and decided to hit a few garage sales. I told myself if I found something that fit that budget, great. If not, I would walk away, no matter how much I loved the piece.

I ended up at the house of friends I hadn’t seen in a while who just so happened to be having a sale that day. I didn’t see anything I loved, but I casually mentioned I was looking for something to refinish. They said they had an old dresser they had meant to pull out to sell, but hadn’t gotten around to it. When I told them my price range, they said I could have it for that. They quickly dug it out and I knew I wanted it.

dresserbefore1It had damage, but I knew it was damage I could work with. The veneer on the drawer fronts had water damage, so I knew it would have to come off.



dresserdamage3Other than that, and a seriously old and crackled finish…

dresserdamage2…it was a good piece.

Now my only question was, what was I going to do with it.

I am a lover of wood. I love the way stain brings out the beauty of the wood grain. Paint has it’s place, but with something this old, my heart was leaning towards refinishing it with a beautiful stain.

I brought it home and, first things first, took the veneer off. That’s when I noticed a gouge in one of the drawer fronts. It was easily fixable with some wood glue and one of my weights from my weight set to hold it down. (Those weights actually came in handy for something, because I know all too well they’re not getting used for their intended purpose.)

The gouge still had to be filled with wood filler, but it was minimal and I used stain-able filler.

There were also a few chips of veneer taken out of the bottom sides, but they weren’t enough to take that veneer off, especially because I was afraid if I did, it would leave the sides too flimsy.

Despite these flaws, I was still leaning heavily towards stain. I knew the stain would look different on the drawers where the veneer had been stripped, but I was inspired by this piece so I was okay with that. (Isn’t that vanity beautiful?)

I sanded the piece down to the bare wood, and that’s as far as I got before I took off for Upstate New York (where it just so happens I scored a car load of stuff to salvage when I got back home…woohoo!)

But I still had to finish the dresser.

When I returned, I started to question my original decision to stain. There were the minor flaws on the side that would look better filled. There was the repaired gouge that I was unsure how it would stain. There was the fact that I could not completely get the old finish out of the mirror, no matter how much I sanded. I even tried stripper with no luck. And there was the fact that I knew the body, the still-veneered sides and the drawer fronts would all be a different color stain.

As I mulled it over in my head, I sanded some more, and that’s when I came to my final decision…


I decided to paint the body, and stain the top.

The Great Debate had turned into the Great Compromise.

I painted the body with Behr Premium Plus Ultra in Pale Palomino.

The top is stained with Minwax Early American and finished with two coats of polycrylic. I used polycrylic because apparently it’s monsoon season here in Indiana, and I had pulled this piece indoors to finish it.


Which reminds me…my next house will have a garage. A beautiful well-lit and well-ventilated garage. I don’t care much about what the house looks like, but I will have that garage.

My final indecisive decision was what drawer pulls to use. After I cleaned up the old drawer pulls I decided they didn’t fit the piece any longer. I almost went with oiled bronze, but decided I was going to be all matchy and I stained wood knobs to match the top.


And then it was done. Finally.

dresserbefore1 dresserafter1

6 thoughts on “Dresser Debate: Paint or Stain

  1. AWESOME!!!! DAD SAYS “AWESOME” TOO. He wants to know if it’s his free bottle of stripper at work? LOL.

    1. LOL…I used it on the mirror and it helped get some of it off that the sanding wouldn’t, but not all of it.

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