Painting a dresser: paint the drawer sides/insides? Prime?

collins designNovember 15, 2010

I'm making a bathroom vanity out of an antique dresser (topped with the most delicious remnant piece of marble/quartzite!)

I hope people who've done this before can offer some advice. I've painted furniture before but I have some specific questions. Since this is to be a permanent fixture -and the marble was expensive!- I want to be sure I do it right the first time...

1) The dresser is currently painted a burgundy color. I'll be repainting it a light, warm grey. Should I prime first? I'm concerned about building up too thick a coat, since it already has a few coats on it...

2) I normally would just paint the drawer fronts and leave the sides plain wood, but the previous painter slopped some paint on the sides so they look crummy. Should I paint the entire side of the drawer? Will that make the drawers stick?

3) I've been researching paints... I prefer a waterbased paint and especially prefer a low-VOC paint. Lots of folks like Ben Moore Satin Impervo Waterborn or Cabinet Coat, but those aren't very low-VOC. Maybe Aura?

4) Should I top-coat with something clear?

5) The insides of the drawers aren't very pretty: a couple have had sides/backs replaced over the years and all are sort of grimy, dark wood anyway. Should I paint the insides? Or line with something? If so, what would be durable for a bathroom vanity?

Thank you!!!!!


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Hi Stacey!

If it were me, I'd sand, then prime (probaby with an oil-based primer like BM's Fresh Start (available in both oil- and water-based). Then I'd paint. I've used Aura for everything you can imagine (other than cabinetry, but for dressers, bookcases, trim, walls, etc.) and I really like it.

The only paint I like more is Fine Paints of Europe's Eco Satin (you'll have to order it but they can match any color). Not sure about the VOCs on that.

I guess I'd paint the sides of the drawers since they are already painted, but otherwise I wouldn't. Just make sure you let them cure long enough before you stick them back in. I'd wait a good couple of weeks.

I wouldn't top coat with anything since the only surface that should get a lot of wear is the top, and that's marble.

I think I'd probably line the drawers if you think that would be adequate to deal with them. Otherwise I guess you could paint them but ugh, what a pain!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 3:29PM
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stacy, can't wait to see pictures. Regarding the drawers, will you even be using them? Maybe I am missing something, I was under the impression that there would be a sink on top of that marble....Anyway, if you have a sink on it, wouldn't you need the plumbing under it and thus the drawers would just be "faux" or fixed?

Make sure to post before & afters, I'm sure it's going to look fab.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 3:48PM
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I wouldn't paint the drawer sides cause they will stick. Instead try sanding them to remove the old paint. Or if it's latex they do have latex remover which might work depending how big and area you have to remove paint from.

The drawers that remain usable, I'd line with either fabric or drawer dividers.
For that matter you could use old wallpaper or even drawer liners, some stores still sell them. They have a fragrance to them usually.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 5:57PM
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I should be a little more specific on the sides of the drawers issue. Assuming you have drawer glides on the sides of the drawer and you let the paint cure before putting the drawers back in, you won't have sticking issues. If it's an old-fashioned drawer that rides on a rail on the bottom, then yes, painting the sides will probably lead to sticking.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 6:10PM
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collins design

Thanks guys :)

Here's a photo of the dresser: (wi-sailorgirl, can you believe I'm doing something so vintage?!?!?!? It's so not my usual style... but this is the second bath: it's the general household-use bath but ALSO my teen daughter's bathroom. And she REALLY didn't want sleek and modern!)

I don't have a photo of the sides of the drawers, but they are mostly still raw wood, except the person who painted it last slopped the maroon paint around the edge onto the dovetail joint. I guess I will try to sand that off and then just paint the fronts.

sailorgirl, the lower two drawers won't have glides, they'll remain as-is, with just old-fashioned wooden guide rails.

The top two drawers need to be cut back pretty severely, and their center rail removed for the sink, so those two WILL have new, undermount glides installed.

I'll try to take some pics of the drawer insides and sides, too...

I have a gorgeous piece of Vermont White quartzite (pretty grey, actually) that's been cut to fit the top, with the curvy front, and a white Kohler undermount sink. I'm thinking about doing faceted crystal knobs, too. it's a real departure from my normal style :)

I've just laid the radiant floor heat wiring last night and will be pouring the self-levelling compound today. Can't wait to start tiling!


    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 8:07AM
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I've heard good things about the BM Impervo and Cabinet Coat but have not used them. I painted a builders grade oak vanity with SW Pro-Classics and would definitely recommend the paint. I did not paint any interior or sides of drawers as they still looked like new. This paint drys with a very hard finish and I don't think it would cause the drawers to stick if you went thru the proper curing time. One way that I judge this is I did paint the inside of the drawer fronts and I don't notice them having a tendency to "stick" when shut. You might post this on the Paint forum and ask some of the paint experts.

Another option, just for aesthetics to clean up the goofs, would be to sand or strip the runs off and use a nice water-base poly on the interiors and sides just to "clean" it up.

Can't wait to see it finished.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 9:17AM
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collins design

Thanks, tuesday! That's a great idea about using clear poly on the insides. if I can get them nice-enough looking, that's what I'll do.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 11:06AM
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