White + Wood Chest

By Kate Riley July 26, 2012

It’s a habit that can never be broken, and that is my constant need to visit to thrift stores in search of cool pieces.  Four out of five times I walk away empty handed after seeing a lot of junk, but last week was a gold mine at my local St. Vincent de Paul.  On the floor were no less than five pieces I would have loved to buy, including a beautiful French buffet plus a few fab armoires.  At one point, I heard two college girls discussing a six drawer dresser and they said “We can prime and paint this, I saw it on a blog” which made me feel proud of us DIY bloggers!  I departed with my favorite find, a fab little mid century style chest, and since it was 50% off day, it cost me $20 bucks.

I thought this little chest of drawers would be absolute perfection for my hub’s office – for storing extra office supplies.  Matt has his own small real estate office and all of the furniture is dark wood, but he’s a dude and he likes it that way so I don’t mess with that preference.  But I couldn’t pass up this perfectly sized piece that screamed “make me wonderful” so I brought it home and gave it a facelift.

He used to give me the hand pinching the top of the nose plus creased forehead combo when I brought beat up stuff home years ago – but no more.  I snuck this revamped piece into his office while he was out on an inspection and then got an email three hours later when he returned that read “LOVE it.”   Mission totally accomplished.

I’m a big big fan of the wood + white combo (hello, these tables and these shelves) so again I’m up to my old tricks.  I was inspired by this mod Austin Dresser by DucDuc and all the wood/white combinations – check out the reverse too!  The real wood drawers on this particular piece were just too amazing to cover up, but the laminate faux wood grain top?  Um, no.  Goodbye and good riddance.


As you know it’s easy to paint laminate (remember this unit and this credenza) as long as you use the right primer, but I thought it a crime to paint the beautiful real wood drawers, so those we’re revived with one of my favorite tools for sprucing up wood.

Here are the players:

I used Glidden’s ‘Muslin White’ latex paint leftover from the window seat; Floetrol, an additive I love; Zinsser primer (we’re pretty tight); some Restor-A-Finish, and clear furniture wax protectant.

First, the drawers and hardware were removed.  The drawers were great shape, so they were given two treatments of Howard’s Restor-A-Finish.  The outside got a coat of Zinsser spray primer and two coats of paint mixed with Floetrol.  I’ve mentioned it before, Floetrol is a great product for conditioning latex paint giving you longer open time to minimize drag and brush strokes.


I work quickly and with thin coats, my theory is two (or even three) thin coats is better than one thick coat – keep it thin to avoid drips and don’t worry about full coverage the first time around, it always takes two.   Also be sure to work in cooler temperatures, frustrating I know for those who live in humid or hot climates, but 55 to 70 degrees is really the ideal temperature for painting furniture with latex paint.  Be sure to use a great brush, Purdys are my favorite!

With white paint, these days I pretty much stick with clear wax as a protectant to avoid any yellowing.  I apply it with an old washcloth and buff it with a homemade soft cloth – two coats, then allow it to dry for a day.

Before and after:


I love this inlay pattern in the wood…

… and dramatic contrast!

Matt has a collection of some very cool old things like this antique radio he found on Ebay years ago and some vintage maps he had framed.

Now every time I walk into his office, I’ll say with a wink “Nice chest”  – ha!




  1. I love how that turned out! I have a desk that I’m going to try your method on: the drawer fronts are in great shape, but the veneer on the sides is cracked and peeling.

    I’m going to look for the Restor-A-Finish. I can’t believe you just used that, and didn’t strip and refinish the drawers. Awesome results!

  2. Today is my 2 year anniversary of reading your blog. Thank you so much for your insight. I love your tips, tricks and wit. I have learned so much and done so much with my home because of you. You give clear instructions, show what can be done and save me time with your product recommendations. I’ve been in The Home Depot, Lowe’s or the hardware store with my husband to pick up a few things and he’s like, “How do you know this stuff?” It’s great – thanks!

  3. Nice chest, indeed! I, too, love to take on these kinds of projects. I think I’m pretty good at spotting the potential in unloved pieces of cast-off furniture, but you have me beat here. I would have passed by this particular chest, yet you made it into something unique, attractive, and very usable. Well done!

  4. It’s so beautiful!! How did you polish up the wood inlay drawers? They look so crisp and new compared to before!!

  5. Beautiful! You have inspired me to try painting furniture. This past month I repainted my childhood provencial (sp?) furniture to my teenage daughter’s liking. Thanks for you all your advice and tutorials.

  6. This is gorgeous! I have to echo your hubby, “LOVE it”! Last night we stumbled upon a happy “As-Is” find at Ikea, a wooden child’s table with 2 chairs, all for $45! They were display items and are in need of a little TLC (and new paint!)…so excited to use your painting tips to purty ’em up!

  7. Such a great contrast, never thought that I’d like the white with wood but its great! Great transformation :)

    • Ha! Too funny Amanda, you should see the other side, covered in rugby posters and sports paraphernalia ! :)

  8. Hi Kate: how much Floetrol do you use? I bought some for a repaint desk project and I followed the directions on the bottle, I could still see some brush lines. Can I add more than what the directions say on the bottle? You inspire me and my 17 yr-old daughter. We are always looking at your blog for ideas.

    • Thanks Sandi, I always add a lot more, maybe double the amount? Triple? I add a lot!

  9. When I’ve painted pieces of furniture in the past, they end up being sticky on top. My accesories stick to it & leave a mark when I move one. I’ve tried applying a poly coat of to the top of my last piece but it dried so fast as I was applying it that I couldn’t get a smooth coverage.
    Would wax be a better way to go?

  10. Kate you are just too much (in an awesome way, of course!!) I’m now waiting for the first coat of paint to dry on the back of my built-in bookshelves. Yes, a totally CG driven (although I’ve always wanted to do “something” like this) project… I settled on Van Deusen Blue! I am in the middle of so many CG-inspired projects. I’ve always been house-proud but since discovering you about a month ago, my house has never looked better. That’s saying a lot since I have three young boys – (4, 3 and 1). Even they are impressed! I hope you saw the pictures I posted on Pinterest :)

  11. Hi Kate! LOVE your blog but lately it’s not updating in my feed. What can I do to fix it????

  12. Gorgeous!!! I have a thrift store mid-century design table from a thrift store too that I would love to re-finish,yours is a good inspiration for my next project! Hope I can make it as lovely! Thanks!

  13. Love this transformation! I’ve been thinking about a change of bedside tables and now you’ve added another look I would love. So hard to commit.

  14. Hello Gorgeous!!! Kate I love this piece. You really inspire me to want to paint a piece of furniture. By the way, I have talked the hubby into painting our kitchen island. He loves the look of the island and the other cabinets being different colors. YES!!! :) Now I will read up on how to paint kitchen cabinets. Any pointers you want to give me? We are so nervous, but so excited to make this change in our kitchen. :)

  15. I can’t even believe you found such an awesome mid-century modern piece for $20. I haven’t run across anything in my local thrift stores and everything in Craigslist ‘mid-century modern’ is WAY out of the price range I’m looking for. It looks awesome.

  16. OMG!! Can I just say I found your website very recently & am so thankful I did. I check your site at least once a day to see the magic you’ve come up with. I love your projects & fabulous tips. Thank you for your blog, the time you take to post, create & everything in between. Thank you! Hugs =)

  17. Hi Kate,
    would you recommend the steps and products you used to restore this beautiful chest for laminate kitchen cabinets? I so desperately want crisp white cabinets rather than the ‘fake blonde’ wood look. I would love your advice!

  18. Is the primer oil based? Im never sure about what type to use. Oil or water based. What a great piece! Beautiful!

  19. This piece looks really beautiful! I think the white paint actually brings the wood out even more.

  20. It looks amazing! Makes me want to visit my nearest Salvation Army. I need a new project.

  21. Oh my, I am obsessed with the contrast! You did such a beautiful job! I am currently restoring/repainting an old radio cabinet and it has been so fun to check out other blogger’s furniture restorations. Simply stunning job, really.

  22. Wow! Love. I have a mahogany chippendale chest on chest that I want to refinish for my daughter.. was thinking of trying the Restor-a-Finish – was it easy to use? I had looked it up and was a little intimidated.. so I was thinking of just painting it white, instead…

    • Hi Alexis, Restor-A-Finish is a wipe on product, like a polish, couldn’t be easier!

  23. This is my first time checking out your blog and I am already a HUGE fan. Love the pics and your breezy writing style.


    • Thanks Kristyl – love your blog name “Sex and the Suburb” – so clever!!

  24. You have a GREAT eye. I would have walk past that chest and thought it was worthless junk! And I’m a University trained Interior Designer. Thanks for the eye opening blog. You now have a new follower!

  25. That’s great! I am in the middle of doing the same treatment on a little mid-century bedside table. I did the same to my boys’ dresser. I always check the wood, type of joints and to see if there is a makers mark so I don’t ruin the value of a signed piece. After my checklist is clear, it’s a go!

  26. Hey I am in the throws of finishing almost similar piece thanks for the tip on the wax I have some right now I am going to use. And i will have to look for the restore a finish. Hope Homer Depot has it. Great post thanks Elaine

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