Vintage Dresser Makeover

For years, many DIYers have been turning to various types of paint to transform vintage finds, but have you ever considered sanding?

If you've been following me for very long, you know I love a good DIY and vintage find  - combining the two? Match made in heaven! I picked up this piece from The Big Red Barn recently and while the dresser was in good shape, I couldn't help but envision how much better it would fit our French Farmhouse style if I sanded it down to expose the lighter natural wood.

One of my favorite reasons for decorating our home with vintage finds vs. new is how well older pieces are made. They are generally made of real wood with beautiful craftsmanship and are more ornate.

This was my first time sanding down a piece and I if I am honest - I wasn't 100% sure it would turn out. I decided to go for it though knowing I could always stain or paint it. If you are wondering where to look for quality vintage pieces or considering sanding down one of your own finds - below are a few things to consider.

1. Where to Find

Facebook Marketplace, antique stores, flea markets, thrift stores and even barn sales are great sources for finding vintage furniture pieces to makeover. Always inspect each item to see if it is made of solid wood so you know what you have to work with. I have a very strong aversion to cigarette smoke, so if a vintage piece smells...I usually pass. You can also always clean your finds with white vinegar and warm water.

2. Prep

Once you've selected your piece, confirmed it is suitable for sanding and cleaned, make sure you have all the appropriate tools and safety equipment. For us, it was much easier to move the dresser outside to avoid wood dust cleanup indoors.


You'll need:

  • Sand paper - I used #120 (a medium grit)
  • Palm sander - I would recommend this Palm Grip Sander Kit
  • Extension cord
  • Dry rag or brush
  • Safety goggles
  • Particle mask

When you have everything together, be sure to remove the hardware and any drawers if you haven't already.

3. Sand

I'll be honest - this is not a quick process if you want to do it right. To sand an entire piece is messy and hard work. I spent at least two straight hours sanding this dresser.

If you look closely at a piece of wood, you'll see the pores form a pattern which is the grain. I always sand in the directly of the grain - never perpendicular to it or at an angle. The same would apply to edges and corners. Any scratches made by sanding against the grain will show if you stain/seal.

The palm sander did most of the work for me, but in the corners and around the trim, I did have to sand by hand. It is very tedious work.

You'll want to monitor the wood dust while sanding as well. Every so often, use your dry rag or brush to remove any extra wood dust.

4. Finish & Clean Up

I'll be honest, while I did clean up this piece and finish sanding, I did not go back over with a fine grit sandpaper (eg. #220). For this piece, the wood felt smooth to touch and I didn't complete the extra step. However, if you plan to stain, I would recommend a final light sand. You could also apply a thin coat of Minwax Polycrylic to seal, but I skipped that step too. This dresser will not be used on a daily basis at this point. The last few steps are to re-install the hardware and bring inside to style!


I absolutely LOVE how this piece turned out. By sanding, I got the French Farmhouse feel I was hoping to achieve.

I hope this post encourages you to find and tackle your own vintage furniture project! I would love for you to tag me with your DIY's on Instagram at @maisondemings!

As always, thank you for following along here!



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  • What about a clear sift paste wax used after chalk painting? Also i have a derp cherry stained piece ftom 1920 im afraid some may be veneer can veneer take sanding down? I was going to chalk paint distress then wax over in brown to make look farmstyle


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