Empire Dresser Makeover Using Fabric

Hello!  I hope everyone is ready for some fun!  

I found this dresser right after we moved to our new home in Illinois.  Our neighborhood was having a garage sale and when I spied this piece I had to have it.  One problem was I didn't see the piece in person, but rather online.  The hubby went and picked it up and then brought it home for me.   When we pulled it out of the back of the SUV, my heart sank a little.  It wasn't in the best of shape and I was so overwhelmed with moving I knew this piece was going to the bottom of the to-do pile.  

The laundry list of things that needed to be fixed with this beautiful empire dresser:

1.  There was no back to the dresser
                               2.  All the drawers needed to be taken apart and regaled
                                              3. There were tons of gouges in the wood that needed to be filled
                                           4. The veneer was REALLY peeling on 2 of the larger drawers
                         5.  The dresser was missing the right part of the leg 

Basically, there were a lot of things wrong with this dresser, but I still loved it and knew it could be beautiful again.  

Here's a picture of a few of the problem areas.

I had originally thought I would leave the top and stain it dark.  I planned on putting this dresser in my office and wanted to paint the body white and have a beautiful stained top.  Well, that idea was quickly kicked to the curb when I started sanding the top.  The entire top was a thin piece of veneer and in the middle it had been taped down.  It was something I hadn't seen before.  I decided it would be best to just paint the entire piece.

Now about that leg that was missing.  Empire pieces have rounded parts on the front of the leg.  This piece just happened to be missing the entire half circle on the front of the leg.  I started to plan out how to fix it and came up with the idea to use scrap wood I had on hand.  I found two pieces of scrap wood, cut them to the right width, then glued them together and clamped them together for a couple of days.  That was the easy part!  Then I had to figure out how to make a semi-circle out of a rectangle.  I traced out the shape by using the other leg as a template.  Then I took the wood piece over to the mitre saw and started taking pieces off until I had a crude semi-circle.  Last thing I did was sand the wood down into the shape I needed.  

OK, so honestly the hubby thought my idea was insane.  Secretly in the back of my mind I was worried too and his worry made mine even worse.   So I just did it....I decided it would work and it did!!!  I have to say to date, this is one of my proudest DIY moments.

Here's the leg all fixed, sanded, glued and filled.

This is the other leg, so in comparison, that's not bad at all!!  Pat on the back for me!  

My next challenge was the peeling veneer.  I looked on the web for ideas on how to remove peeling veneer and tried two options...neither one worked.  Then I thought, "OK why not just fill all the holes and gouges from the peeling veneer with wood filler?"  Well, the reason you don't do that is it doesn't work.  There was no way to fill the holes without removing all the veneer.  I decided the best thing to do was sand.  I got some 60 grit sand paper and sanded for a very long time.  I got all the veneer off one of the 6 drawers, then the HUGE light bulb went off above my blond head!!!  Don't remove it, cover it silly!!  So that's what I did.  I decoupaged fabric to the drawers using Mod Podge!

Applying fabric to the drawers was something I'd never done and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Now because I was sort of winging this whole thing, I don't have any in-progress pics.  However, I will tell you what I did.  I had bought my fabric a couple of weeks prior from Hobby Lobby for another project in the office so I used what I had.  

First I measured and cut out the fabric I needed for each drawer.  Once I had the fabric cut, I put a thick coat of Mod Podge on each drawer, then laid the fabric over the drawer.  I pushed it down into the glue, then made sure the edges were getting enough Mod Podge.  Once the fabric was attached, I applied a coat of Mod Podge on top of the fabric.  After the coat of glue was dry, I applied another coat.  About an hour later, the glue was dry and I cut off the excess fabric with some sharp scissors.  For the hardware, I used an Exacto knife and cut an X in the fabric to make the holes for knobs.   The biggest concern here is make sure you have enough Mod Podge on the edges to insure your fabric stays put.

For the body of the dresser I used Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan decorative paint in Old White and Pure White.  I didn't want the dresser to be too stark white, but I also didn't want it to be too creamy.  I did a half and half mix of both color to get there perfect color. 

 For the top of dresser I used a new to me brand of paint called Blackberry House Paint, Country Girl Color Collection in Iron Skillet.  Iron Skillet is a great black!  I found the paint at an antique store in Franklin Tennessee this summer on vacation with the hubby.  

My last step was to apply a coat of Annie Sloan clear soft wax and attach the new Hobby Lobby hardware.  I love these drawer pulls!  They're a beautiful mercury glass and they really give the piece that WOW factor.

And here she is!!!

Here's that leg I partially rebuilt!!  

I get a lot of questions about where I get the items I use to stage my pictures.  Here's a source guide for what's on the dresser top:

1. Follow That Dream print (Hobby Lobby on sale 50% off,  $12.49)
2. Gold framed print (Art Crate http://www.artcrate.co)
3. Marble horse book ends (Goodwill $4 for both)
4.  Brass mirror tray (Goodwill $2)
5. Small brass urn (Goodwill $1.49)
6. White 'wood' lamp (Home Goods $40)
7. Old books, misc locations all less than $.50

This dresser was a lot of fun and a good challenge for me.  It's always nerve wracking to do something for the first time, but the two firsts on this project went off without a hitch and that doesn't happen very often!

  Now, all that's left is to finish my office.  The office is painted now, but I have a big project I need to start, another first for me, before I can put the final touches on the room.  I'm excited about having my 'girls only' space to work in.

I love hearing from you, so keep those comments and emails coming!  Also, I post a lot to Facebook, so if you're not following me there you can follow me by clicking here.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

Furniture Feature Fridays


  1. This turned out beautifully my dear! I love the fabric that you chose!

  2. I love it. And, I love that fabric!!

    1. Thanks Lynn!! I can't wait to use this fabric again!

  3. I freakin love it and as for the leg...THAT IS EXACTLY HOW I WOULD HAVE DONE IT!!! When you said you had to fix it I was like oh she probably...INSERT WHAT YOU DID...LOL Great minds I tell you!!!
    I am now no longer afraid to try modge podging fabric either..I have wanted to try it forever!
    I love this
    Great Job!

    1. You of all people should know that you can do anything! You're an artist!! Funny about the leg and yes great minds :-) I want to see a mod podge dresser from you stat! Thank you sweet friend!

  4. I love Mod Podge fabric! This is gorgeous. I did a dresser a couple of years ago and have had a vanity ready for years. Maybe this will make me get off my ass and finish that! Hope so. You did a great job.

    1. Thank you Karen! I can't wait to see your vanity project!

  5. Now the desk is almost as fun as YOU! Great job, Melody.

  6. It looks fabulous! I'm impressed that you figured out a way to repair the missing part on the leg. I also love your paint color and fabric choices! Bravo!


    1. Thank you Paula!!! I was pretty impressed with my repair too, not bad for a girl with power tools ;-)

  7. Melody, this is an absolutely incredible makeover!!! And the fabric on the drawer fronts is just plain genius. And beautiful. I'm as much in love with how you styled this piece as I am with the makeover itself!!!

  8. Melody - I'm new to your blog and just love it!!! Your work is amazing. This current piece is so so impressive. Wish I lived closer so I could buy items you sell (though I'm sure my husband wouldn't be thrilled - he'd go broke.) Thank you for sharing! Karol from Virginia

  9. I really love the way this dresser turned out. It is so unique and so cute, it would be so much fun to put a dresser like this in my daughter's bedroom. This would match her bedspread and her wall color in her bedroom. I hope that I can figure out how to do this dresser and make it for my daughter. http://www.yourgiftshopping.com/default.asp?dept_id=50000

  10. Hi Melody, this is awesome post. Thank you for the inspiration. What is the name of the fabric that you used and where did you get it?

    1. Thank you! I got the fabric at Hobby Lobby. I'm not sure what the name is off the top of my head, but you won't miss it. It's in the upholstery fabric aisle!

    2. Nicely done. Peeling veneer would be easiest to burn of the paint. You can easily scrape off the existing paint. If you want to learn how to exterior Paint Wooden Doors click here

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