Painting a Knock Off

By Kate Riley August 25, 2009

I had a little problem.  In my recent attempt to spruce up the guest bedroom space, I realized I had a small closet for my guests, but no dresser.  And the end table next to the bed was a bit small.  So when I spied a small three drawer chest at the local thrift for $13 dollars, my brain clicked into gear. 

Now most people would walk past this piece, and for good reason.  It had a spotty black paint job with gold trim and gold hardware.  It’s a Dorothy Draper knock off, but I’m just not a fan of this paint job.  Funny, because I typically adore classics.  I really loved the lines and the design, just not the traditional black and gold paint – this color combination was simply unsuitable for my blue and white space.

I’m all about freshening a classic piece with great lines in a new and modern way, and I am not alone. 

black dresser before

I loved the detail of this chest, just not the paint job, so I decided to make it my own.  As much as I long to paint everything white, I like to mix it up with dark wood tones or pieces painted something other than white.  

Instead, I chose a fresher, less traditional, more casual style – a slate blue front trimmed in white to enhance the routed detail.  

dresser after

First, I gave the edges a good sanding.  Then since I was going for a medium tone blue, I used two coats of gray primer instead of white primer to cover the old paint job. 

gray primer

Next, I gave the dresser three light coats of Rustoleum’s Slate Blue spray paint.  

slate blue

Finally, I hand painted the ridges with three coats of my own mixture of white primer and cream acrylic paint.  Then I spray painted the hardware and reused it.   

white hand paint

One thing about older dressers:  often, the drawer guides aren’t as sophisticated as modern pieces, so your drawers can scratch up your paint job as they slide back and forth and rub up against one another.  Here’s a little trick.  Apply a thin line of hot glue to the bottom of your drawers and let it completely solidify.  The dried glue will act as a small buffer between your drawers and help protect your paint. 

hotglue as dresser guide

I also sewed a custom pleated table runner to protect the top of the freshly painted dresser.  To the runner, I added some beading and velvet ribbon for another layer of texture. 

runner with flowers 

A chest made new for my guests. 

ready for guests

I am certainly enjoying every last one of my garden’s latest blooms of the summer season.  Sigh.  Simple pleasures. 

late blooms of season

Even though many would have passed it by, or kept the paint job because “it looks like a classic Dorothy Draper”, I chose instead to paint it blue.  I don’t regret the color choice, or the fact that I rescued it from a spotty paint job. 

double duty endtable

After I painted my own find, I was emboldened when I found how some other designers are painting the classic Dorothy Draper style in a fresh new way. 

draper custom designs Century Design Ltd on 1st Dibs

pink dorothy on 1st dibs Coral version from Antique Center on 1st Dibs

dorothy draper aqua Ellen Ward Scarborough Antiques

Dorothy draper tangerine Modern One

kindel blue dorothyCarleton Varney for Kindel Furniture

Gorgeous lines. Fresh color. Classic design with a modern twist.  Just my style.


  1. Hi Kate-love your blog…I have a question about dressers…do you ever paint the inside or outside of the drawers? I'm wondering what it looks like when you pull the drawer open…from the side and inside the drawer.

    Thanks for all your information and inspiration…and your sense of humor too!


  2. Hi Dianne – great question. I typically don't paint the inside. Rather, I line the drawers with stylish fabric or pretty paper, and spray it with lavender linen water.


  3. Hi Kate,
    I have to know what color and brand of paint you used for this i have a dresser that i want to repaint and i love this color and can't seem to get the right blue/grey that i am looking for. Thank you so much

  4. OMG I can't believe it! I absolutely can't believe it. What a gorgeous piece. Not only do you have talent for refinishing pieces…but you also have an amazing eye for FINDING pieces to makeover AND impeccable taste in colour.

    Well done, as usual.

  5. Another amazing project! Kate, you're killin me :-) I wanna have your DIY talent and do magic just like you! You should have your own show!
    And what a funny funny title hahaha. Love it!

    Mocca & Me blog

  6. I adore the colors you choose, you did a wonderful…no AWESOME job!! Love the piece now, it was tacky but now glorious

  7. Fantastic! I was just joking with some other bloggers about seeing some tacky stuff at a hotel surplus in Vegas a few years back. I just don't have the vision to see the above when I see old pieces. You have a gift, for sure!

  8. I believe you saved that little chest from a velvet painting of Elvis hanging over it, Kate! : ) It turned out really nice in the slate blue; you are a master {or mistress, rather} of spray paint – everything always looks so nice and smooth.

  9. Beautiful! Reminds me of a piece of Wedgewood China!! And thanks for the tip about using the bead of glue as a buffer for the drawers. Very clever!

  10. I just stopped by yesterday…not even sure how I got here ;) I have four kids and am really loving your projects (thinking about them helping me with some like this). I am getting some great ideas. You really have a talent. Keep them coming! Have a wonderful day!

  11. Simply gorgeous, daaahling! I'm working on my masterbedroom right now. I have a dresser and chest of drawers awaiting a fresh coat of white paint and my bed is already painted white. I have 2 end tables that are wood with glass inserts on the top. I've been trying to decide what to do with them. I feel like more white would be too much. Still flip flopping between restaining an espresso color or painting it. Slate blue could definitely be a contender.

    I swear, I never find the kinds of furniture deals that you seem to be able to snatch up! You go, girl!

  12. LoL, now I'll be singing Christmas songs for the rest of the day! My husband is notorious for bursting out in a Christmas carol- when it is 90 degrees outside. Lovely job on the dresser. :-)

  13. I just love this piece! I often find myself painting pieces white because I don't know what other colors to use. So this was an inspiration…

  14. Oh my gosh! That is amazing!!!! Your vision for things is very inspiring to me. I'm going to be amazed about that dresser all day!

  15. I'm new to your blog…having hopped over from….somewhere….I've been to a few different sites in the last few days, and I can't remember exactly who's site it was. Anyway, just had to say….GREAT idea! The dresser looks really nice! I always wondered how to deal with those 60's-70's style dressers with the ugly ridges in the drawers. I am planning to repaint the old dressers (they are the ones dh and I used as children) in my twins' room soon. It's taken me forever to decide on a color, but I think I'm going to do either distressed turquoise or turquoise with lime green drawers (to offset the very pink walls).

  16. she may BE blue, but she is not feeling blue after such a great makeover…she looks stunning now. She is a glamour shot for sure! love it!


  17. AAA! Cute overload! I am going to nab me some of that slate blue… I just can't stand it! It's too fabulous!

  18. I'm a stalker, not a commenter and I have loved everything you have done. BUT. THIS. BROUGHT. ME. OUT. OF. HIDING. As I scrolled down, I knew to expect good, but this is GOOOOOOOOOD. It looks like a super expensive peice made to replica the Wedgewood Pattern. *Sigh* It makes me happy.

  19. GASP! Goregeous!

    You find the best things at thrift shops for cheap! I'm so jealous. We usually just have junky furniture.

  20. AHHHH!!! GORGEOUS!!!!

    Salvation Army, here I come!!!

    You are so so inspiring. I would love to see your garden! I want a cutting garden SO bad but have no idea what to plant!

  21. I want my own Vegas dresser – Great transformation! The lines on the piece are great and I am glad you kept the original hardware they are perfect.

  22. Great transformation! Thanks for the tip re: using the hot glue gun. I'm going to try that out!

  23. I like your remix of Blue Christmas,, and LOVE the dresser,, No one would ever know it was U-G-L-Y before ..

  24. It is gorgeous! You have such an eye! It is amazing the deals you find too! That piece would have probably been $30+ at my goodwill, forcing me to truly have vision for it before I spent the money in case it didn't work. I love it!

  25. Great transformation. I love your color choice. Not too bad- $13 dollars for solid wood!

  26. It's gorgeous! And, yes, I'm one of those who would have painted it white. And, yes again, you're all to blame for the Elvis stuck in my head now!

    Have a super day!

  27. I can not even believe that is the same dresser. It looks beyond amazing. Job very well done!!!

  28. Well, Christmas in august is definitely a first for me… but no worries. All the ideas I get form you are TOTALLY worth a misplaced song or two. ha ha

  29. Kate- This looks great! I'm not sure I understand the glue trick though- you run it along the outside edge of the drawer that would scrape against the frame? I'll probably need to do something similar to my buffet I'm just finishing.

    And, did you sand this puppy before you primed? Looks so fabulous!

  30. Love slate blue, it's one of the colors in my bedroom. It really takes the piece from dated kitsch to vintage chic. The ridges would probably look great with something less-contrasty, like a smokey grey or light, muted brown.

  31. My word girl, when are you going to get picked up for a show on HGTV (or whatever the American equivalent is)? Incredible. Another beauty.
    Question, what is the red thing you have attached to your spray paint cans?

  32. wow…you are insanely talented! it looks amazing and that arrangement is beautiful!-carlee

  33. Great transformation but I have to say that the flowers are my fave. They are so beautiful. You must do a segmaent on gardening blooms.

  34. Another amazing transformation!! I marvel at your special "eye" and transformation of these pieces. They look more beautiful than anything in retail! Loves it :0)

  35. Seriously Kate, you never cease to amaze me! I "stop by" your blog daily and with each new project that you've completed I feel more and more compelled to try my own hand at DIY! I would have never, in a million years, looked at that black and gold dresser and seen THIS as a result! You definitely have "an eye" and I am grateful that you are willing to share your talent with all of us!

  36. What a great job you did on your Vegas dresser! You just never know what you'll find when thrifting…it just takes a little imagination sometimes!

  37. Wonderful transformation, yet again! And inspirational for my own spray-paint project that I hope to tackle this weekend. The flowers are gorgeous and go so well with the room!

  38. I like the color choices. They really pop. I think covering up the bad paint job was worth it!

  39. great job! i'm never afraid to paint something if i don't like the current paint job or color…regardless of who's classic it looks like! good for you!

  40. This is SO CUTE! You did a fantastic job! I can't wait till I have to get all new furniture just so I can paint it and make it my own!

  41. That's pretty amazing for $13, paint and some work. One thing I really like about transformations like this is that it's done to suit your color and style for so cheap! (Okay frugal, not cheap.)

    Going through blogs like your blog has really given me a better eye towards rethinking what can be done rather looking at an item "as is"…I picked up some Hobby Lobby fleur-di-lis things that are on stands for under $3 ea (two were $29.99 and one $24.99 full price) and plan on taking them off the stands, painting them and hanging them on the wall. I noticed they were secure with screws in places that wont show. Due to blogs like yours, I look for little details like that and I thank you (and the others too).

  42. Kate, I love your choice to go with blue. It looks amazing. The black and gold made me gag a little bit. I liked the yellow and white inspiration pic too. :)

  43. I ADORE this transformation! and I'm completely inspired. I have a nightstand that I was going to just get rid of. But I'm pretty inspired to transform it to fit into my decor. Thanks for the tutorial. I'm quickly becoming addicted to checking out your blog to see the latest transformation!! :D


  44. Oh my beautifulness!!! I loooove everything you do, but this is definitely one of my favorites! Thanks for all the never-ending inspiration!

  45. Kate…you have the most amazing style and talent fot transforming ugly ducklings into beautiful swans! LOVE the slate blue color.

    Have a relaxing few days off…enjoy!


  46. You definitely made the right choice! It looks great. Thanks for sharing the other photos as well. I loved seeing the same piece interpreted in so many ways.

  47. Hi
    I came across ur site by accident and LOVE it:-) It is so inspiring and I love what you did with the drawer much better than all the others:-)
    X M

  48. Thanks for the glue gun suggestion. I have an old dresser that could use this tip.

  49. Just wanted to say “great job on the dresser!” I’m all about repurposing something old and turning it into something fresh and new (especially when it’s incredibly inexpensive). Thanks for the ideas, hope you keep em coming.

  50. I’m glad I found your site. I love finding furniture pieces at junk stores, dumpster and such and giving them new life. Thanks for the ideas.

  51. I just cannot believe how lucky you are to find furniture like this for $13! I am truly envious. Original paint or not, this is a fantastic find! I love it!

  52. You are incredible! I never stop learning from you…. and I really appreciate you letting a way for us (those that are not any artistic like me or have any handly-woman instint in them–like me) in details of how to transform things… Oh how I wish you could stop by my blog and tell me what would you do with a table like the one I’ve found! ;) I know it would be turned into a treasure in your magic hands…


  53. Hi Kate,
    Just happened upon your blog and I love it!! I noticed you have completed a lot of projects using spray paint which I love. However it is hard to find the colors I need in the ergonomic spray can holder…where did you get your little red spray can handle adapter thingy??? After spray painting a rattan chair last summer my hands and forarms were sore for a week from holding down that little nozzle!

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