I purchased this antique dresser from a friend who lives down the street from me. Isn’t she a beauty? The mirror was in excellent shape, no scratches or anything, which is very rare. Now on to the two-toned vintage dresser makeover.
The dresser had some severe veneer damage. On the drawer fronts as well as the top. It appeared it may have been in a fire and suffered a little smoke damage. But nothing that could not be fixed of course. The bottom had veneer damage, but I decided not to repair it. My goal here was not to make the dresser look brand new. I wanted to leave some of its damaged character in place (sorry OCD peeps!).
Two-Toned Dresser Makeover Process
The very first thing I did was remove all the drawers, hardware, and mirror. I removed the original casters and soaked them in vinegar and water to remove all the gunk. Even if some of the rust remained, it was okay with me.
Removing the Veneer
It was important to me to maintain as much of the “worn” characteristics as possible. After thoroughly inspecting where the veneer was damaged, I decided that the veneer needed to be removed from the top and drawer fronts. This would be a project that I had never conquered, so I was a bit hesitant and scared. Some of the areas were just too large to patch with wood filler.
I have read horror stories where the veneer had been removed and the wood was in awful shape, so I was skeptical and kept my fingers crossed that there would be gorgeous wood underneath all that worn out veneer. It was time to break down the veneer barrier!
After doing a lot of research, I decided to use the heat-gun method (I got mine from Lowe’s).
Heat Gun Method
It worked like a charm on the drawer fronts. I worked in small sections, applying the heat gun directly on the section of the drawer, but not so close to leave a burn mark, for about 5-10 seconds. Then using a paint scraper, I would gently place the scraper under the veneer that was hot and lift it up. Careful here folks, it does get hot! Look at that GORGEOUS wood! I was so excited!
After removing the veneer from all four drawers successfully, yay, it was onto the top. The top was not so easy. After trying to use the heat gun on a small area, there was this green, thick stuff under the veneer! If anyone knows what this is please comment or send me an email and tell me! It was not coming up (I believe it was some kind of adhesive).
The Wet Towel Method
I did not want to damage the top of the dresser. So, I decided to go into one of the Facebook Groups that I am a member of and ask for advice. I am so glad I did! A fellow DIYer told me she used the “wet towel” method to remove veneer from a large area. I was a little skeptical at first. But after so much frustration with the heat gun, I decided to give it a try.
Her instructions were simple. Place a “drippy”, not soaking, wet towel on top of the dresser covering the entire top. Allow it to sit for 2-3 hours. After about 2 hours I couldn’t stand it, I had to go and see if the method was working. I removed the towel and placed my scraper underneath the veneer on one of the corners. Bam, the veneer and the green adhesive lifted right up as soon as I placed the scraper underneath. I was so stoked! (I was so excited at how easy the veneer lifted off, I forgot to take a picture, sorry!).
It did take some time, there were certain spots that were a little more challenging. I had to apply the drippy towel to these areas and allow them to soak for about a half-hour or so. Lookie at the beautiful wood underneath! This was so WORTH the work!
I gave the top and the drawer fronts a good sanding with 120 grit sandpaper and followed up with 220 grit for a smooth finish. I decided I wanted the two-toned look for the dresser. The raw wood exposed would be beautiful!
The wood was just too beautiful to cover up with paint especially after all that hard work. I did an antique washstand and believe it or not decided to keep the raw wood and not paint! Can you believe it haha! You can see my antique washstand transformation here.
I had a jar of Dixie Belle Caviar that I had not used. A deep, rich black. This would be a perfect color to really make the wood pop! I painted the dresser, the trim of the drawers and the mirror frame. The distressing was done using my sandpaper.
I decided to use clear wax to seal the piece. Dixie Belle’s Best Dang Wax was used over all the black painted areas. On the exposed wood, I used a light coat of Polycrylic.
I found this gorgeous hardware at Hobby Lobby for 50% off. It really complimented the raw wood and the antique character of the dresser.
Here she is! I am so in love!
Here are a few other projects to take a look at!