The Stenciled Dresser Challenge

Last summer I was searching all over for a French Provincial dresser.  I had this type of furniture in my bedroom when I was a child.  Growing up I had the typical children's twin canopy bed with the matching desk and tall dresser.  I was searching for a long nine drawer version when I finally found one on Facebook.  I swooped in and it was mine!  

Then it sat in my garage for almost a year.  It was originally going to be a custom job for someone, but with the weather this winter I wasn't able to work on it.  Then in an effort to clean out the garage I decided to sell it as-is.  When it didn't sell quickly I decided to dive-in and get it painted to sell.  I had a vision for the dresser.  I wanted to do a version of a dresser I refinished last year For the Love of Mahogany  A sweet woman named Emily bought this piece and I've since seen it in her home a few times.  It's one of my favorite dressers so why not try and recreate it a bit??  

Here is the dresser before....

One big difference between this dresser and the mahogany piece Emily bought was the top of this one is laminate.  I knew there was no way I could stain the top of this piece.  I decided to paint the body of the dresser in Annie Sloan French Linen, then do the drawers in Pure White.  I painted two coats then applied a coat of clear wax on the entire piece.  For the drawers I wanted them to stay bright white so I only used the Annie Sloan clear wax.  For the body and the top I applied some Annie Sloan dark wax.  

This picture shows how the paint looks after the clear wax is applied.  The wax gets worked into the paint which creates a smoother surface.  The paint before the wax feels chalky and has a bit of texture from the brush strokes.  

Here you can see how the wax deepens and darkens the color a bit.  The wax gives the paint a lot of depth.

Now, what you won't see in these pictures are the next step I attempted.  Adding the dark wax to the body and top of the dresser.  This is when everything went wrong.  The dark wax gave me major problems going on the top.  I've used this paint and these waxes a lot and I've never had such trouble.  No matter what I did the wax looked streaky and horrible.  It was then that I knew I had to redo the top.  

I decided to try sanding the top a bit.  That didn't work.  Then I thought I could darken the top with some stain after I put mineral spirits on to take off the wax....didn't work.  Then I figured why not just try white-washing the top with some of the Pure White.....didn't work.  Oh did I forget to mention this dresser is about 6 feet long??  All these changes and attempts to save this piece from the dumpster each took me several hours.  My 'final' solution for the top was to paint it out in Pure White.

In this picture you can see the newest paint.  It's still a bit wet in the picture.

I painted three coats of Annie Sloan Pure White on the top, then after it was all dry I applied the clear wax.  I was finished!  Or so I thought.  I stood in front of the dresser and then I realized the paint on the dresser and the paint on the drawers looked a few shades off.  The top was stark and bright while the drawers were creamy and softer.  I sat down on a chair I have in the garage that's waiting to be reupholstered and cried.  I knew I was going to have to paint the top again.  I had spent so many hours working on this dresser that all the fun was gone.  I was out of ideas, out of inspiration and I was now questioning any talent or ability I thought I might have had.  

I decided to turn my attention to the drawers.  After I removed the hardware I lightly spray painted it all with Oil Rubbed Bronze by Rustoleum.  Then I distressed the edges of each of the nine drawers and put the hardware back on.  At least I had a bit of skill left in me!  :-)

At the same time I was working on this dresser I was working at my friends house reupholstering and painting her dining room table and chairs.  It was a fun project and my friend was a huge help, but it meant I didn't have a lot of time to work on the dresser.  In hindsight this was all for the best.  It was a perfect distraction.  Had I not been working on her project I know I would have taken a sledgehammer to this dresser.....or maybe thrown it off a cliff or even set it on fire.  Yep that's how frustrated I was.  

I was trying to sleep one night and then it hit me (why can't my mind work like this during the day?!) I had a solution for the dresser!!!!  I had recently purchased 3 stencils from Cutting Edge Stencils.  One of the stencils I bought was the Zamira stencil.  I thought this would be beautiful on the top of this piece.  The only thing I couldn't decide on was color.  I had also recently bought a can of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Aubusson Blue.  It's one of my favorite Annie Sloan colors.  My friend Emily, yes the same one who bought my mahogany dresser, had sent me a picture of a mirror she had painted in Aubusson.  That's when it hit me what color I wanted to use!!  I could see the finished piece!  I knew it would be amazing.  

I have never used a Cutting Edge Stencil before.  You can find their website here  They have lots of stencils to choose from.  I quickly read the directions that came with the stencil then went to their site and watched a few videos.  I was ready to start!  

All I had to do was paint another coat or two of paint on the top of the dresser again.  Yes, at this point I've lost track of how much paint I've used on this piece!

 This is a picture of my first few sections.  They were perfect!  However, as I went down the 6 foot span I must have started getting sloppy.  I had some bleed through and for someone who is a perfectionist like me that's a huge problem.  I just kept going thinking I could fix it after.

 On the left you can see one of my HUGE mistakes.  I have no idea what happened.  This is not Cutting Edge Stencil's problem this was a Melody problem.  After 24 hours of working on this dresser (yes I kept track) I just wanted to be done and didn't have as much patience as I needed.  The stencil is easy to use and they work great, but you need patience to make sure you're not making a mess like I did.  I think I didn't wipe off enough excess paint from my foam roller.  Then one time I laid the stencil in the wet paint.  You get the picture!  The stencil is easy to use and a high quality stencil....just make sure you're patient and paying attention unlike I did!

Here is the stenciled top all done.  You can see it's pretty dark out.  In this light it looked amazing.  Fast forward to the next afternoon....all the imperfections I saw made me cry yet again.  When I went to wax the top all the blue smeared into the white.  It made a huge mess and I couldn't fix it.

I did everything I could to try and fix the spots I could see.  I couldn't get past the fact it wasn't perfect.  Some people can put paint on a piece and be happy with it.  Not me!  I can't be happy with it until in my mind it's perfect.  (That's another post!)   I think at this point I had spent so much time on this dresser that no matter what I did I wouldn't have been 100% thrilled.  So I did the only thing I could think of and got out my sand paper.  I had lightly distressed the rest of the dresser and the drawers so why not distress the top too?  I 'finished' and put a final coat of clear wax on the top and walked away disgusted.

The Hubby was away for the week on business so when he got home I asked him to take the ugly dresser outside with me to take some pictures in front of the tree.  I ran around the house pulling what I wanted for staging, while thinking about what a waste of time it was.  I disliked this dresser so why even bother?

Here is the finished dresser.....

OK so funny thing happened once I took it out for pictures and staged it.....I fell in love.  

I think it's beautiful now.  The contrast between the three colors, the stencil combined with the curves of the dresser and the drawer hardware all work together.  

I love the top distressed.  It gives it more dimension and fits in perfectly with the other distressed parts of the dresser.  

This dresser pushed me and my anxieties to the brink.  I honestly felt while I was working on this piece that I didn't have any talent, abilities or vision.  I kept telling myself I shouldn't even be allowed to use Annie Sloan's amazing paints or pick up a paint brush.  I posted a quick picture of the dresser on my Facebook group page and a status update about how I was feeling.  It was nice to read the comments everyone made and the encouragement they gave me.  

Looking at this piece now I can admire it and appreciate its beauty.  I had initially started this piece to get it out of my garage and into someone else's home, but now this one needs to stay with me.  It's my reminder to NEVER give up.  I've had lots of times in my life where I wanted to give up, but not as much as with this dresser.  Now this all might sound so dramatic, but there have been a lot of things going on in the background besides the dresser that I don't write about.   Lots of 'stuff' going on right now.   I hope sometime soon I will be able to share a bit of the 'stuff' with you.   

Some wonderful friends of mine had a Stella and Dot party a couple of weeks ago.  I bought a necklace that has a tree of life charm.  In the box there is a quote that says "Stay firmly planted, but always reach for the sky"  I've been thinking about these words a lot lately.  These words were just the reminder I needed to keep pushing and keep reaching.  

Thank you for reading,



  1. You continue to amaze me with your vision for art. I love reading about what worked and didn't work. It helps us all. As a "dump digger" I love to repurpose stuff and now I can see more of how this works in furniture. The good, the bad and the ugly. This one is a beauty!

  2. Your dresser is really stunning! I understand all your frustration as I have been there. It is quite a process we go through to redo a piece of furniture and it is sometimes one hurdle after another. You did persevere through it and it is gorgeous! I have experienced the same thing and disliked a piece until it was all put back together again and while taking pics, I am beginning to love it! I understand. The piece is great - the stencil is perfect and distressed is the best! I adore it. Pinning your masterpiece!
    Stacey of Embracing Change

  3. Its gorgeous and you've inspired me to create my own version. Thank you so much for the inspiration. All the hard work and anxiety was worth it. I think its flawless.

  4. Oh a few questions: Why chalk paint? Is there a specific sealer I could use?

  5. Thank you so much for your honesty in this post! So many decorating and craft bloggers seem to love to make it all look effortless. For those of us who have to put a lot of effort into tackling projects like this, it's great to know that even the pros have some projects that don't go right at first. I find it a lot more encouraging to know that this kind of frustration happens to everyone from time to time.

    1. Thank you! I wish it was effortless! I guess if it wasn't challenging it wouldn't be any fun and everyone would do it :-) I'm a very honest person so I don't think it's fair to not be honest when things don't go right. I've had lots of projects start off on a good note then take a turn. In the end the most frustrating projects end up being the most rewarding, right? :-) Thank you again for the sweet comment!

  6. It is nice to see at the end how your struggle turns in to the happiness. I think all of us have a moment of helplessness but still is good to know somewhere somebody feels the same way, it is helpful.
    Thank you for sharing your experience I feel better now.
    By the way your dresser is stunning.

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