Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons

Hello friends. Before I dive into this Mid-Century love fest I want to chat briefly about my posting schedule. I decided to tackle some new projects this year and they’re taking longer than I expected (you’ll see one example in this post). As a result the blogging side of things has slowed down. A lot. Hopefully it will pick up again as I learn more and can work faster. Until then, I’m still sharing, just less often.

Now that that’s out of the way, get a load of this.

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

I. Can’t. Even.

The Mid-Century Modern lover in me wants to whisper inappropriate things to it over cocktails in a dark, smoky bar.

Sure, it’s got a broken leg – a new one has been ordered and will be here soon – but it’s still so damn sexy I just couldn’t wait any longer to share.

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

So for now we’ll do some cropping to hide the “stump” and show off the gorgeous legs it does have.

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

You might also notice there’s no fancy staging or styling – the paint job on the wall isn’t even done. That’s because this room is (eternally) under construction. This dresser and another one I plan to share soon are the only finished things in the space. Gotta start somewhere.

THE STORY

You can probably guess from the title of this post that the refinishing process did not go smoothly. I’ll start at the beginning with this not-so-exciting “before” shot.

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

Not in bad shape but there were some scratches and dings that needed attention. Worst of all, this ugly laminate top.

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

So I started by stripping the drawers with Citristrip. Then I hit them with a few coats of General Finishes Java Gel Stain. Everything looked beautiful so I finished them off with General Finishes Gel Topcoat, patted myself on the back, and went to bed.

The next morning I found this on all nine drawers.

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

What the what? What happened? And more importantly, how do I fix it?

THE INVESTIGATION

I asked everyone I knew. Instagram friends. Facebook family. General Finishes customer support. Everyone. In the end no one was exactly sure why it happened but most seemed to agree on the solution: re-strip, re-sand, and re-stain.

But I wasn’t convinced. Repeating the same steps and expecting different results seemed ridiculous. I wanted to find out what actually caused the spots so I decided to do more investigating.

My plan was simple: Follow the same exact steps but on a different dresser. If the spots appear again then I know it’s something I’m doing. If not, then it must be something on the wood. Maybe a spill or splatter from the previous owner?

Here are the discouraging results.

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

It’s a different kind of wood so it doesn’t look the same but there are definitely spots.

So what the bleepity-bleep was I doing wrong? I had just finished another dresser last week using the same products and it turned out beautifully – no spots, no problems, no drama. Why was I having so much trouble now?

Then I remembered something! I had done one tiny thing differently on that spot-free dresser from last week: I used a liquid deglosser to remove the paint stripper residue. On the spotty dressers I used a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water that I had on hand. If that mix wasn’t strong enough to completely clean off the thick, waxy stripping goo it could prevent the stain from soaking into the wood evenly, which would result in spots. Mystery solved!

THE LESSON

The Citristrip label clearly states, “use a paint stripper wash or odorless mineral spirits to loosen remaining residue”.

I used something else and it was an epic fail.

So today’s furniture refinishing lesson is: FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS ON THE PRODUCTS YOU’RE USING.

It’s so simple that it’s embarrassing. Let’s move on.

THE HOME STRETCH

Now that I knew what to do – and what not to do – it was time to finish this thing up. I scrubbed everything down with a Scotch-Brite scour pad and deglosser, then sanded and stained. The top coat went on beautifully with no spots to be seen. Success!

With the drawers finally done it was time to tackle the dresser frame. I started with a light sanding, followed by a coat of Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer (my go-to product for laminate surfaces). Lastly, a few coats of Benjamin Moore Cloud White and it was done!

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

Refinishing A Mid-Century Modern Dresser: Mistakes & Lessons | laughingabi.com

I’m not gonna lie. This one was slow and painful and aggravating. But I definitely learned from it and I absolutely LOVE the results. Now I’m just waiting on that leg to show up in the mail so I can officially call it finished.

Have you conquered any painful projects lately? Was the challenge due to a simple mistake like mine? Or something more complicated?

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Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score

I was all prepared to share a Roadside Redo today – a hanging light fixture on the back porch – but then I walked into the thrift store, innocently looking for a picture frame, and this happened.

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

OMG CAN YOU EVEN STAND IT?! $70!!!

Those of you who aren’t fans of Mid-Century Modern or Danish design might be saying, “big whoop.” But I guarantee the MCM lovers out there who scour Craigslist and eBay for beauties like this are dying.

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

Confession: I almost didn’t buy it. Not because I didn’t love it but because in some circles I could be classified as a chair hoarder. Seriously, I’ve got one stuffed in every corner of the house and even a few out in the garage. It’s kind of a problem.

So I told myself to walk away.

But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Truth is I sat in the store, in the chair (no one else could buy it if my butt was planted in it, right?) for an hour and a half silently arguing with myself. I reached out to every person I could think of via Instagram or FaceBook or Hometalk hoping someone would tell me it was worth a mazillion dollars because hoarding valuable items makes you a collector, right?

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

I never did get any concrete figures but in the end it didn’t matter. Eventually I just surrendered to my wild, aching chair desires and brought him home. And later that night when I gently sat him down next to the fireplace it was sooooo good.

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

The next day it was time for some leather TLC. Overall everything was in good condition but there were a few spots that looked like they needed conditioning. My go-to product for leather is called Blackrock Leather ‘N’ Rich. I buy it at our local feed store with the horse and tack supplies. If you don’t have a feed store down the road a spell like we do you can get it here.

It was no surprise that the arms were in the worst shape since they get so much wear and tear. Here’s a peek at how well this stuff works.

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.comAnd here’s another shot of the inside of the same arm. It’s harder to see the dryness and scratches but if you look closely you’ll notice a big splotch right above the seat cushion. Looks like maybe somebody spilled something. It’s totally gone in the after pic!

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

I still want to treat the wood but I don’t have a go-to product for that yet. I would love to hear any suggestions you guys have. I’m considering the same DIY mixture I used here.

For now though, let’s gaze at some more photos of my new love, shall we?

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com
Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

Sigh. I just love him.

Love. Him.

Before I go here’s a quick look at the new vignette that happened when I started shuffling furniture around.

Mid Century Modern Thrift Store Score |laughingabi.com

Nothing fancy but it holds some of my favorite things so it makes me happy when I see it. Doesn’t get much better than that. (The portrait is our first fur baby, painted by my mother-in-law and the children’s book is my new favorite entitled The Day The Crayons Quit. You should check it out.)

So that’s the story of my new love chair. What’s your most recent thrift store score? Something small and functional? Or black, leather, and comfortable?