Ugly and Cheap to Fab-U-lous!

Oh the joys of finding old ugly furniture and making it into a fabulous new creation to fit in your home!!  It’s fun, challenging, and rewarding right?

I didn’t always know this wonderful world.  For our first apartment, we purchased primarily IKEA furniture, in the blond-birch color. I hated it, but that’s what I had to do to have cheap….right? It wasn’t until we bought our first house and I splurged on a few items that I realized I had no money to furnish the rest with quality. I knew something had to be done.  You live and learn right??

While lamenting that I hated our birch and white dining room table and chairs (a hand-me-down from Shaun’s family) I wondered if I could somehow paint it.  We had stained a dresser that we got at “The Dump” (not the trash pile, but a ridiculously curious furniture store that sells off-price furniture).  How hard could painting the table be??

So rather than attacking the table like a raging bull (how I normally set out to accomplish things) I level-headedly googled “How to Paint Furniture.” I came across the wonderful tutorial from DIY blog super stars, Young House Love.  THUS, my obsession with home decor, DIY blogs began.  I was a mad-woman – obsessed with stalking their blog, finding tips and tricks to make my home as fabulous as theirs (or even half would be fine).

Some day I will share with you my first DIY attempt – the table. That story, however, does not turn out well. In fact, as I sit here blogging on it now, I stare at it with disdain and utter hatred! It was/is horrible.  But why start off a blog with that transformation right? Let’s talk success…..

Our “dining room” is part of our kitchen and is approximately 10×10.  Our house was blessed with only one storage closet on our main floor and that is the pantry.  I have some cabinets (that are full) and an island (full). I still had bridal shower gifts from 3 years ago in a box in our basement (can opener, crock pot, blender, etc.)  These needed a home in our kitchen rather than the basement where they were never used.

After 3+ years obsessing over home blogs and DIY superstars like Young House Love, Bower Power, and Thrifty Decor Chick, I knew I could find some ugly, unloved dresser/buffet that I could totally re-do to finally get some much-needed but chic storage.  This dresser by the always awesome Katie Bower was my inspiration:

I set out to find the perfect, ugly dresser/cabinet.  We live about 2 1/2 hours from the Jersey Shore.  Shaun and I were going to go to the beach one day in May to celebrate our 3 year anniversary (we’re wild and crazy, what can I say??)  I searched the ol’ Craigslist for the Jersey Shore to see what NJ had to offer (expecting a few fist pumps and tans in my search – not stereotyping!?)  I came across a $20 “beauty” that, when I googled its location, I assumed was right outside our beach of choice. WRONG, we drove about 2 1/2 hours to northern New Jersey (think close to NYC) and then another hour+ down to the beach. It was worth it though, to bring this beauty home…..(Sorry, I didn’t take an official “before” shot with the drawers and ugly hardware still on it).

This little find was the perfect size, but needed some major cosmetic TLC. Its previous owners, (who refer to Pennsylvania as Pennsy – totally random) must have restained it at some point b/c it was sloppily painted with hideously sticky stain. Time to go!

Sanding would have been step one. HOWEVER, the hubs is majorly against sanding (all stemming from our dining room table failure) so he thought it would be good to try liquid stripper (so easy to make immature joke here – but I will refrain).  Enter:

We picked up this Klean-Strip Green Safer Paint & Varnish Remover at Lowes.  After reading all of the terrifying labels about how toxic the other versions were, I settled on this. It seemed no different than the others except less toxic and good for the environment!! We painted it on the dresser, let it sit, then scraped it off. It took off the ugly stain but did nothing to rough up the wood for painting. Enter – me, sanding it all down to prime (I dressed up for the occasion, can you tell?)

Do you remember my inspiration above? It was a fully white transformation.  There was no other white furniture in dining room at the time, so I thought to ease the transition into the room, I would stain the top of the dresser.  I absolutely love this stain:

Its stain and poly in one! No wiping, just painting! Fabulous! But I digress….

After three coats of stain to get a dark, rich color, I primed the rest of the beauty-to-be using this.

After a disastrous experience with our dining room table primer (the suspense over this table is killing you isn’t it?) I did some research & settled on this highly recommended primer. Worked fabulously!

If you see above, the back of the dresser is off. Rather than having drawers like the original dresser, I wanted to put baskets in those spaces.  We popped the back off and the hubs made a piece of wood to go over the existing drawer supports to make a shelf for baskets.

After sanding the entire cabinet with 220 grit sandpaper, the dresser got 3-ish coats of Valspar’s Swiss Coffee, color matched to Olympic Premium No VOC paint in Satin.   After some new ORB (oil rubbed bronze) hardware, and a NEVER ending search for the perfect size baskets (17×4), the happy cabinet was moved into its home in our dining room.  ECSTATIC!! Love it! And for MAYBE $40 total, I have a new buffet to store my kitchen junk necessities (which is now totally full – go figure!)  LOVE!

SO much better right?!?!?

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3 Comments on “Ugly and Cheap to Fab-U-lous!”

  1. Katie Bower says:

    Awesome transformation! Love love love the two toned look. You did fabulous.
    And thanks for the bloggy love…shoutouts and blogroll listings literally make my day…make it amazing.
    xo – kb

  2. Desiree says:

    So glad I came across this blog! I have a question regarding the ‘swiss coffee’ paint. I’m about to redo a dresser and picked this color. How would you compare the whiteness of it compared to a regular white vs. antique white? Thanks!!


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