Reluctant DIYer's Diary of a Dresser Makeover

By Becky Harris |
I had a secret New Year's resolution this year. It was to successfully complete a Do-It-Yourself project from start to finish. I'm just going to put this out there: I hate DIY projects. I'm lazy, I'm very far from being a perfectionist (do you remember Phil Hartman as the Anal-Retentive Handyman? I am the opposite of that) and I have no innate Ms. Fix-It skills.

However, my dresser has been bugging me. My grandmother lovingly stripped and finished this cute antique pine dresser for me in 1972, and it lasted a good long time, but it's due for a makeover. While I appreciate the beautiful wood, I've been looking at it for thirtysomething years and I'm ready for a change. I was hoping to wrap this up in a weekend, but it was not meant to be. Here's how it went.

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This is the picture that inspired my makeover. Photo by Tobi FairleyThis is the picture that inspired my makeover. Photo by Tobi Fairley Friday 4:45 p.m.: Hit the Ace. The one on Virginia-Highland is a nice walk from my house. You cannot walk two feet into that place without someone coming over to tell you exactly what you need and where to find it. I love that place.

The guy who greets me tells me that even though the last time this drawer was stained was in 1972, I should probably sand it. I buy some sanding stuff to fake him out and make him think I'm going to do that. I'm not sure why I care what he thinks, but the gratification I need from this project simply does not have time for sanding in the schedule.

He also tells me that the hardware can be spray painted. I buy some sanding stuff, silver spray paint and some glossy black paint.

Friday 5:30 p.m. Empty dresser. Realize I need to drag my giveaway bin from the closet into the bedroom so that I can purge a few things, like my T-shirt from Monster Jam I haven't worn in two years. I unearth crazy things at the bottom, like a picture of an old collage I did, an empty Swatch case, a random Mossimo hang tag and a bag of what I guess was formerly lavender but looks like an illicit substance of some sort. I thoroughly clean the drawers and send the old liners to the recycling bin.
Here's the dresser before. Here's the dresser before. This vintage pharmacy groom tools display case from Scott's Antique Market was also an inspiration for my project. This vintage pharmacy groom tools display case from Scott's Antique Market was also an inspiration for my project. …

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Photo by Becky HarrisPhoto by Becky HarrisFriday 5:45 p.m. I remove all the existing hardware and am careful that every screw and bolt makes it into the designated ZipLock bag. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a project like this and figuring out you are missing that last bolt.

Photo by Becky HarrisPhoto by Becky HarrisFriday 6:15 p.m. Somehow gather superhuman strength and wrestle the dresser (minus drawers) down the stairs. This is really stupid, especially if no one else is home. If you are going to try this, at least call a friend and say, "If I don't call you in 15 minutes, come over, let yourself in, and pry the dresser off me after you call 911."

Photo by Becky HarrisPhoto by Becky Harris
Friday 6:30 p.m. After spreading out my supplies (I can't believe I still had that brush with the Tiffany blue paint on it from a previous DIY. disaster about eight years ago), I realize I don't have that can of white glossy paint I thought I had. I decide to stir up the glossy black paint and do a little test to see if I need to sand/prime/whatever. This turns into me painting the whole thing. I find out Home Depot is open until 9 p.m. and head over there and get some.

Next I then head to Target "to get drawer liners." In an effort not to fill a cart, I grab a basket, which is a joke; I never make it out of Target without a cart full of stuff. I wind up with a bunch of those flat hangers, two boxes of ZipLock bags and a DwellStudio coverlet on clearance for $48.98. Oh, and drawer liners - at least I remembered those.

Secret Key Handle, $9.95 » Photo by AnthropologieSecret Key Handle, $9.95 » Photo by AnthropologieFriday 9:30 p.m.: I'm exhausted. I decide to sit a spell and watch Jersey Shore while doing some online browsing in search of new handle options. Oh goodie, Portlandia is on too! Anyway, I decide that these quirky keys could be a fun choice.

Zinnia Handle, Zinc, $18, Photo by AnthropologieZinnia Handle, Zinc, $18, Photo by AnthropologieFriday 10:30 p.m. Dresser seems dry; I add another coat of black and paint the drawers glossy white. Contemplate these handles as well.

Photo by Erika Bierman Photo by Erika Bierman Saturday 9:00 a.m.: Give everything another coat while contem-plating the handles, which I really like on this little dressing table.

11:00 a.m.: Hit Lenox Mall to pick up my recently-fixed laptop (Apple store on a Saturday - is there anything worse?) and a much more pleasurable task, hitting Anthropologie to check out the handles.

Pipeline Handle, $12 » Photo by AnthropologiePipeline Handle, $12 » Photo by AnthropologieSaturday 12:30 p.m. We have a winner! Glass knobs from Anthropologie. I will wind up calling every store in Georgia looking for eight, but wind up ordering them to be overnighted, which means I won't get them until Tuesday, which doesn't seem very overnight to me.

Saturday 6:00 p.m. Give everything one last coat for the night and dream of having my living room and kitchen back to normal. Go to bed thinking about drawer handles.

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Photo by Becky HarrisPhoto by Becky HarrisSunday 10:00 p.m. It's raining, and it's not going to stop for days. There is no way I'm going to get the hardware spray-painted, and I'm very impatient to see how this will look. I line the drawers with this fun black-and-white contact paper I found at Target, then carry everything back upstairs.

Photo by Becky HarrisPhoto by Becky Harris
Sunday 10:30 a.m. Add the one glass handle I bought at Anthropologie to the dresser and put the old hardware back on to see how it will look. Decide on the glass for now, but will certainly save the metal for another day. It's fun to put things back on top, even if my clothes are still in laundry baskets and piles elsewhere in my room.

This makeover had a fun side effect: It made me find a new spot for Mr. Elephant. I kind of like him in his new shelf on the nightstand, underneath the yellow donut phone.

Sunday 12:00 p.m. Get busy cleaning so that I can move on to what's really important, the Sunday Times crossword puzzle.

Tuesday 1:00 p.m.
The handles arrive. They are lovely but they are a nightmare. There are no bolts involved, and the screws are ridiculously long. They are kind of backwards, and the old handles were much more forgiving; the existing holes are too big and some are not lined up properly. Somehow I didn't realize any of this over the weekend when testing the first one. Making it worse, my friend Heather never returned my drill, and now she's in Dublin. Now I'm wishing I could have my overnight shipping money back.
Photo by Becky HarrisPhoto by Becky Harris
One week later: I no longer hate DIY projects, some of this was fun, but overall it was a pain in the neck. However, I would do something like this over buying something new any day of the week, no question. Without the new handles, the project cost less than $50, with the handles it was about $150.

It's been a long week. Heather still has my drill, the handles are still pulling in and out loosely, and my stuff is still all over my bedroom.

Should I keep the old handles as they are? Should I spray paint them silver? Should I try to make the glass ones work? Do your D.I.Y. projects usually go smoothly or do you stink at it as much as I do? What kind of projects are you working on right now? Please share in the Comments section.

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