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1920s Child’s Dresser Restoration

1920s Dresser Restoration

This child’s dresser was found out to the road in front of a house that is for sale in my neighborhood. What a score! That is if you can see past the paint. But, that’s about it. The drawers are dovetailed, the knobs are original and it’s a heavy, sturdy piece. Inside one of the drawers was a fragment of the maker’s mark where we were able to see that it was made in the USA. Everything is here except the dresser mirror, which without the mirror this piece is much more versatile.

The Restoration Process
1. The first thing we did was apply coats of paint stripper. This is done by pouring the stripper into a metal bowl and applying it to the dresser with a paint brush. For us, this took days of applying, waiting for the paint to bubble up and then scraping off the paint layers. We found the dresser had been painted dark green, lime green, pink, blue, light peach, and cream.

Tip: people may tell you to be patient and let the stripper sit for a long time. We found that 2-3 hours did the trick. Too long, like over night will cause the stripper to dry, then it’s hard to scrape.

2. Next came the sanding. When we knew we were mostly down to the bare wood we sanded with 100 grit sand paper.

In the photo my son is using a Rigid Sheet Sander. It’s easy to use and safe enough that allow my nine-year old son to operate it. Here is a link to the sander through my Amazon Associates account if you want to check it out!
Ridgid R25001 2.4 Amp 1/4-Inch Sheet Sander
Sanding Tip: wear swim goggles to fully protect your eyes. They work the best and can be purchased in clear or tinted.

3. When the dresser was fully free of paint, we used 400 and 600 grit sandpaper to make the surface super, silky smooth.

Tip: You cannot skip the very fine sandpaper step. You may think the surface feels very smooth after using 200 or 330 grit, but for an optimal finish use the super fine grit.


4. The finished look. Since it took three of us to get the dresser stripped and sanded down to the bare wood, we took a couple days to search Pinterest for visual inspiration for how we wanted to finish the piece. You can visit my Restored Furniture” board to view my inspiration.

While you’re soaking up some inspiration, sign up for the Reduction Rebel Newsletter for exclusive project ideas, crafts and bonus tips. Sign up here.

I was really attracted to paint and wood stain used together. I thought the paint really highlighted the wood finish and the lines of the furniture.

We also looked at swapping out the original knobs with some brass ones that fit better with the style of the room. Flea markets and thrift stores are great places to find old hardware.

Look at the finish on the top. It reflects the dishware! We achieved this level of reflection through thorough sanding. There is no top coat of polyurethane. So, if you don’t have a good, electric sander, you may want to invest in the Rigid sheet sander. When you buy the large sheets of sandpaper, you just need to fold the sheets in quarters and cut. You’ll be left with 4 small sanding sheets that fit perfectly in the Rigid sheet sander.
What a difference the details make!

Winner of Best of 2012 Before and After Dramatic Transformation

Winner of Best of 2012 Before and After Dramatic Transformation

Eve of Reduction: Free Seasonal E-Newsletter; Extra tips and wit on Facebook; Reduction Beauty on Pinterest ; The debut DIY lifestyle book (includes 10 upcycling tutorials); and the guide to creative streams of income ebook (only $2.99).

I’m Cristin Frank (AKA Eve). I love all things frugal and crafty. My mindset is always on upcycling, repurposing, reducing waste and saving money – and Eve of Reduction is my roadmap. You might also want to check out my book, "Living Simple, Free & Happy."

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17 Responses to 1920s Child’s Dresser Restoration

  1. Yana September 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    awesome! well done!

  2. Julie Taylor September 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm #


  3. J&J September 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Gorgeous! So impressive-nice work with the attention to details. Thanks for sharing!

  4. twinoaksstudio September 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    WOW!!! Your patience and determination paid off. Beautiful!

  5. Robby Johnson September 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Gorgeous! I love the paint + stain combo as well. This would be a fabulous bathroom vanity with a porcelain vessel sink, but only if it weren’t in such great functional shape. Well done!

    • Cristin419 September 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

      Thanks for the tip. I’m looking into doing the vessel sink with another piece I have.

  6. Linda September 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm #


  7. Alex September 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Came across you on Apartment Therapy and just want to commend you on your work. This is phenomenal.

    • Cristin419 September 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      Alex, I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  8. Angry Asian September 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    this is beautiful! very professional looking.

    PS. your pinterest link in this post is not correct, i had to click on the link in your sidebar to find it. just wanted to let you know!

    • Cristin419 September 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      Thank you! I just fixed the Pinterest link. Much appreciated.

  9. Nancy September 30, 2012 at 6:58 am #


    Did you do the paint first or the stain/varish first?

    • Cristin419 September 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      Hi Nancy, I did the paint first. I felt it was easier to wipe the stain off the paint if went out of bounds. I masked off the edges when I did the paint and went freehand with the stain.

  10. committedgifts October 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Stunning! I’m impressed with your patience to do this. It was worth it!

  11. Kim January 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    So the top has no finish coat! That is amazing. I love this piece and the knob change was genius.

  12. Alea Milham August 19, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    What an amazing job you did on your restoration project! The dresser looks wonderful!


  1. How to Sell on Craigslist and be Safe & Successful - August 6, 2013

    […] if you’re selling a restored dresser or something large that you cannot transport, and you need the buyer to come to your home, […]

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