Black and Wood Dresser Makeover

Antique furniture restoration doesn’t have to be terribly time consuming or expensive. Find out how to update a water damaged antique dresser quickly, giving it a two toned modern flavor, with a little chalk paint and wax!

four drawer tall black dresser with warm brown wood drawers

Am I the only one who feels like almost everything in life is more costly – both in terms of time and money – than you expect it to be? Well, I’m so pleased to say that this was one of those very few things that wasn’t! With nothing but leftover chalk paint and some paste wax, I was able to rescue an antique dresser.

We actually got this old dresser from my husband’s grandparents, along with the antique bed that I refinished (and resided in my daughter’s room before we got the bunk beds). The bed was a simple strip, restain, and seal job… but the dresser had suffered some serious water damage.

antique dresser with water damage

We removed the warped veneer and were left with what you see. The solid wood could have been completely stripped, sanded heavily, and refinished… but the veneer was completely gone. While you can actually repair veneer, that was beyond our goals for this water damaged dresser. So it sat. For 15 years. Eek.

The other day, though, I got the urge to do something about it.

Black and Wood Dresser

On further inspection, the drawers were in pretty decent shape, so I decided that a two-toned black and wood look might just be perfect. And oh, how beautiful it is…

white room with black beams and black dresser with wood drawers

Just the right addition to my boys’ bunk space at the ranch.

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure.

Two Toned Dresser Makeover Video

I put together a video for you of the process. Even with breaks to cook dinner, break up sibling quarrels, eat said dinner, and put kids to bed, I finished completely in a single afternoon and evening. A fabulously quick and easy DIY project if I ever saw one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Antique Dresser Restoration Tutorial

For those of you who prefer written instructions (and for a few extra details), here is the step by step process.

Materials needed

process pictures of someone chalk painting a dresser

How to restore a water damaged antique dresser with chalk paint and paste wax:

  1. Remove drawers and hardware (and assess the situation)

    By removing drawers and hardware and cleaning them well, we were able to determine that the original drawer front finish could remain.

  2. Sand body of dresser

    Due to the water damage (and other wear and tear), the dresser body needed a light sanding. I did not have to remove the previous finish, but I did need to smooth out major imperfections, and it’s always a good idea to rough up any shiny places so that the paint will stick better.

  3. Clean dresser

    Before painting, it’s always important to clean furniture well. Remove all dust and grease (though sanding probably did most of that). For this piece, which still had quite a bit of the old finish, I used an all purpose cleaner I had on hand and some paper towels. If you have lots of exposed raw wood, though, you might prefer to use a tack cloth so you don’t dampen the actual wood.

  4. Paint two coats of chalk based paint

    I had some old black chalk paint left over from a previous project (but see how to make your own chalk paint from latex paint here if you don’t have any on hand). And I love the slightly warm hue to this black paint color.
    The advantage to chalk paint is that I didn’t have to remove the old finish entirely. It was a 2-minute sanding job, rather than a laborious stripping and sanding job. The chalk paint will adhere even to the leftover old finish. It also dries very quickly, so I didn’t have to wait very long between coats.

  5. Wax the piece

    Since chalk paint is porous, you have to seal it with a wax. I don’t have any boutique furniture wax on hand right now, so I used plain old paste wax. This stuff isn’t as soft or smooth as most furniture waxes, but it definitely does the job. I like to scoop a small amount (think dime sized at most) with a lint-free cloth and rub in circles until it is all absorbed into the paint.

  6. Give it time to cure

    The key to a beautiful wax finish is giving time for the wax to cure. I waited overnight, then very carefully moved it from the workshop to my boy’s room. I recommend treating it gingerly for a week or so for the wax to fully harden.

Lessons in Antique Furniture Restoration

Working on this piece turned on a few light bulbs in my head that I thought you might find helpful, too.

black matte dresser with rich brown wood drawers

I like a modern touch to an antique piece.
I feel like I need to admit: I know this isn’t a traditional restoration. A traditional antique furniture repair would, of course, mean replacing the veneer, filling the cracks and other water damage, and stripping and refinishing the entire piece. But sometimes I think the greatest beauty comes in enjoying something old in a new way.

A really good cleaning can go a long way.
I was amazed that we were able to keep the original finish on the drawer fronts. I did have to sand away one of the top edges of a drawer that had warped over time and wasn’t closing properly. Thankfully, though, I had a similar enough stain color on hand to touch it up after I sanded. Otherwise, the finish on the drawers is all original.

You don’t have to paint the entire piece.
I think a lot of people are afraid to tackle stripping and refinishing wood furniture (which, I admit, can be very time and labor intensive)… But if they are too sad to cover up all the beautiful old wood, then options are limited. Fortunately, by painting only the damaged body and leaving the drawer fronts original, I feel like I was able to capture the best of both worlds: maintain some original old wood but keep the project quick and easy.

Chalk paint is such a fun DIY tool.
It’s been a while since I did a chalk paint makeover, and I had almost forgotten how therapeutic it is! If you’re looking for a quick, easy DIY project for home, you might try painting furniture with chalk paint, too.

Black and wood is such an elegant combo.
This one surprised me a bit! I knew I loved wood with black and white accents (just look at our kitchen at the ranch), but I had no idea how much I would love the effect on this painted dresser. I can’t believe I waited so long to do this.

Do you have a piece that could use a little black and wood makeover? Be sure to pin this for later!

Similar Posts


  1. It makes me so happy to see old pieces get a second life. I was just browsing thru Wayfair the other day and I cannot believe how expensive furniture is. I would much rather restore my old furniture. This was a great makeover. Thank you for sharing

    1. Yes! I so agree. Restoring furniture can be economic, green, and so fun to have something with history in your home… Thank you, Cheryl!

  2. Your dresser is stunning. I love the black wood against the natural color of the drawers. This is a piece of furniture anyone would be proud to own!

  3. You did a great job and it looks really nice. It is a beautiful antique piece and now it shines.Thanks for the diy.

  4. Wow, Rachel! That’s amazing! And how cool that you could pass their great-grandparent’s piece on to your boys to use. Well done!

  5. Looks gorgeous! Do you have a trick to get rid of the old furniture musty smell.

    I refinished my grandmother’s chest. Looks beautiful, but I can’t put clothes in it.

    Tried leaving drawers out in the sun , kilz paint nothing worked.

    1. Hi Linda!

      I’m so sorry! Have you tried cleaning with a wood cleaner? Multiple coats of Kilz- maybe an oil formula over a water based formula?

  6. I am ready to do the same to an old dresser my Dad made for my son 25 years ago. But I have seen where hemp oil is recommended over paste wax for dark finishes. Do you agree? This is my first furniture restoration and appreciate any insider tips! Thank you!

    1. Great question, Debbie. I imagine it depends on a lot of factors: the color, the paint type and brand, and even the wax or oil brand. Personally, I’ve used paste wax, Miss Mustard Seed Wax, Annie Sloan wax, and Fusion Beeswax (which is a mix of beeswax and hemp oil) on light and dark colors without any trouble. However, I have heard that some people have problems with fingerprints on darker pieces, so if you’re worried about that then hemp oil or beeswax/hemp oil might be a better start. I hope this helps!

  7. Rachel, you inspired me to tackle a dresser that I have had in my bedroom for about 15 years! It was previously my mom and dad’s, and they probably had purchased it shortly after they were married in 1950. I didn’t really want to paint over all of it, for sentimental reasons. This was a great idea to mix old with new! My whole family absolutely loves the finished product! Thank you for the inspiration–it turned out beautiful!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *