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From Tired to True Blue

Updated: Jan 2, 2021

I took this three drawer chest from tired and washed out to a vibrant new beautiful blue.

One of the best places I know to get furniture I can restore, refurbish, rehab, flip...however you want to say at estate sales. There are many online estate sales that I use, and sometimes it takes time and energy to get the pieces you want. This particular estate sale was one I had used before and within twenty five miles so I felt comfortable bidding on a piece of furniture.

I paid $10 for the chest above. It wasn't in terrible shape at least from what I could see from the auction pictures. When I picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the pictures were pretty accurate. One side had some warping, and of course, the paint job was really bad. But I knew those were things I could fix easily. This was a solid wood three drawer chest with beautiful dovetail joints on the drawers. When I saw the piece online, the beautiful waterfall down the entire front side caught my eye, and I wanted to make that really stand out. In my head, the rest of it needed to be a good, solid but "new" color that stood out but didn't take away from the front area.

The first thing I did was clean it up. I turned it over and found spider nests, cob webs, and some random pots and pans in the drawers. (Oh the joys of estate sales!) Using Murphy's Oil Soap Wood Cleaner, I wiped inside and out, top to bottom. Then waited 24 hours for that to completely dry.

The process to transform this piece was multi-layered. The top, back top, and waterfall had the white paint removed which revealed 2 more paint layers plus an additional layer of lacquer underneath. I typically use Klean Strip Strip-X Stripper when removing several layers of paint. I wasn't sure how many times this chest had been painted so I went with my go to stripper. The lacquer took 2 extra sessions to completely remove along with some manual sanding. I let this dry for 24 hours, then because Klean Strip is pretty harsh, I conditioned the top, back top,and waterfall with Howard Feed-N-Wax, a wood polish and conditioner.

I wanted to highlight the beautiful waterfall of stained wood down the front but also wanted a bit of drama on the sides. I decided to do an embossed raised design in those areas and then paint those areas with Sherman Williams “Anchors Awheigh”. I used stencils purchased from Michaels. For the actual embossed design a paste or putty is needed to create height on design areas. There are a lot of expensive raised stencil pastes, but I used Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty (available at Lowes for $2.78/16 oz).

Durham's putty is a white substance and when mixed with water, creates an almost cement like texture. The more water, the less rigid the putty is. I tested the white putty under the Anchors Awheigh and to me, the design came out too pronounced.

So I added a bit of gray paint to the putty to produce a gray color.

This blended in to the blue much better so there is only a hint of the design.

I laid the stencil out on the drawer face and taped it down. Using a putty knife, I applied the putty to the stencil, smoothing out across the stencil but still leaving some lift. After removing the stencil, it left a nice raised pattern on the drawer face.

After drying, this will need to be sanded a bit on top to make sure it is as level as possible. You want the design to be raised consistently across the entire project.

The picture below shows the embossing on the white paint prior to painting blue, but you can also see the embossed areas peeking out on the blue painted areas also. The embossed area is muted yet whimsical, and the waterfall of wood continues to shine.

This was my first time doing an embossed design, and of course, I learned a few things the hard way:

  • Make sure the putty is as level as possible across the entire stencil so there are no huge peaks and valleys

  • Immediately wash the stencil after use so it will be ready for the next stencil. If you allow the putty to dry on the stencil, you'll spend some time removing hard putty, risk tearing the stencil, or if you use it without cleaning, you could see some degradation on your next stencil from hardened putty on the top or bottom

  • Tape off the areas that you don't want putty or paint on. Green Frog tape is the best. As you can see in the picture above, the blue tape is already peeling up.

  • Tape down the stencil as well. Otherwise, you'll have movement which will affect the putty adherence.

  • Allow enough time for the putty to fully dry before moving on to sanding and painting

Once the putty was fully dry, I lightly sanded the entire areas that were puttied. Because it is a light sand, I used a manual sanding sponge versus my orbital sander. Just for reference, I allowed each area to dry at least 24 hours before sanding. I then used a hand vacuum on blower mode (not vacuum) to make sure all the sanded putty was removed before I moved on to painting.

The paint went on super easy (especially after the stenciling process!). A little sweat, a lot of waiting between process times but end result is a beautiful chest I’m proud to have in my home.

I saw the potential and I really think I was able to bring her beauty forward. Hope you agree!

I would love to hear any feedback or anything you would have done to this piece. Let's talk about it in the Forum!


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