We Fixed a Dresser: A Milk Paint Review

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(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for which I receive a small commission.)

Dresser Before and After – Behold the Beauty!

So this is a pretty old project but it’s one I still love. (Honestly, let me begin by apologizing for less than amazing pictures. I took them for me, not for the world. I didn’t blog back then.) It was my first time using milk paint and my first time working on a huge project like this. That means, there are a few rookie mistakes (like a less than stellar job of distressing.). That also means I can help you avoid some of those. ūüôā

Let’s start with the pros of this dresser.

It came from my in-laws which equals free. If I remember right, my husband used it during a lot of his childhood. It was sound and had all necessary pieces. It was also a nice size (not too tall or too big) for using as our son’s first dresser. Plus, it had a good shape and some interesting details.

Before Drawers
Big Weird Awkward Pulls – High Gloss Black – Super Smudgy – Beat Up

Let’s move on to the cons.

Most obviously, it was high gloss black. While that probably looked great back before it got beat up, it really lost it’s luster…not to mention, it just wasn’t my style. Plus, the smudging of little fingers showed up pretty glaringly.
Also, the drawers had some really random (and difficult) pulls and they had a tendency to get off track. They were hard to pull out straight and push back in straight. Since we wanted Casey to use it,¬†we needed the drawers to open and close smoothly. Those huge pulls were way too big for his little hands and didn’t even work well for us.

The solutions for the cons.

First things first, those pulls had to go! I searched through Pinterest and analyzed the situation and came up with a solution. Luckily, the pulls were just circles of wood screwed on to the front of each drawer. All we had to do was unscrew them and ta-da! Pull free drawers. Of course that left us with some holes but those are easy to fill…especially if you paint over it.

Pull Screw Inside
Inside view of screw holding pulls on the drawer
Removing dresser pulls
Just a simple unscrewing rid us of those awkward pulls










The rest of the drawer solution came from the inability to open or close these drawers straight. My theory was, pull from the center and it will be much easier. I also wanted something easy for Casey to grab. Cutting a slot seemed like a pretty grand plan. My husband wasn’t so sure but in the end, he was willing to run the power tools for me. Such a sweetie. ūüėČ

So I made a template of how I wanted the opening to look and we traced it onto the front of each drawer with a nail. Don’t forget to find center or this won’t fix the crooked slide! We tried pencil and pen and marker and nothing showed up so we scratched it with a nail. Perfect!

Finding Center
I had a pretty adorable helper for measuring to find the center point. And yes, that drawer liner went. Pealed out quite easily in fact.
Cutout Template
Create a template for your pull cutout. I folded mine in half so both sides would be perfectly even.










Marked Drawer
Nail traced pattern on every drawer front. X marks the cutout spot.


DSCN1630 (2)As I said, my husband ran the saw. We actually borrowed this one from our awesome neighbor. We don’t do enough of these projects to own our own tools for the job. He simply cut right along the lines we traced.

Now that the pull situation was well on it’s way to being fixed, we still had to figure out a little more on the crooked drawer sliding.

Fixing the pulls helped but they still weren’t perfect. Below is a picture showing how the left hand side of this drawer pushes in way too far. DSCN1504Really, the whole drawer pushes in too far but the left hand side is even worse. When we cut out the center slots for pulls, we had better control over the slide but for some reason, they still pushed in too far in some places.

Enter (again) Austin to save the day. He started looking around inside the dresser where the drawers are supposed to sit. First off, he noticed that some of the center pieces of wood (that probably have some technical name that I don’t know) had gotten misaligned. A tiny tap of a hammer here and there fixed those right up.

But then you can see on the top row on the left and the middle row on the right little stoppers. You might notice their absence elsewhere. That was the main problem with the crooked shutting drawers. The stoppers kept the left hand side of the top drawer from going in as far as the right hand side. You can also see Austin’s solution for this problem…for which I was now the skeptic. He pounded little nails into the missing stopper slots. I didn’t expect those dorky little nails to do one dang thing. But they did. Perfectly in fact. Two years¬†later and they still work perfectly! No crooked drawers. At. All. Like magic. ¬†DSCN1640


Now we’re on to the fun part. All that technical stuff is out of the way, let’s get to painting! Oh what? Not yet? Why?

Prepping. That’s why. Except that when¬†using milk paint, this was minimal. I used Old Fashioned Milk Paint¬†in their SafePaint formula. This is made to use on smoother finishes AKA already painted surfaces. So sanding isn’t actually required. But I did it. A little. Mostly because this dresser had some rough patches. Where we took the pulls off, we found there were actually several layers of paint underneath and it was rather uneven. So we sanded things down a bit. But because we were using SafePaint, even the high gloss didn’t have to be completely removed or sanded or anything. Ah-mazing! I especially liked this because I wanted to use some of the black to show through once I distressed it.

So, while sanding isn’t the most fun job, at least we could take it pretty easy with this particular project. Even with only lightly sanding, I still wiped the dresser off thoroughly to remove any and all dust and residue.

Ok, now the fun part right? DSCN1642Right. I mixed up my milk paint according to directions.
Oh yeah, did I mention that it came as a powder? Yup. It does. Kind of weird but it stores really well for a really long time as a powder so only mix up what you need. It’s not hard to mix so if you’re unsure, go with less. It can go bad once you mix it with water. I stored mine in the fridge between coats and it was fine. Also, it seems to go a long way. I had a pint and probably only used about half of it for the whole dresser.

Milk Paint Drawers
Freshly painted drawers.

I¬†applied two coats. Here’s what I like best about using milk paint. You don’t really know what you’re going to get. I’m a perfectionist by nature which is why I don’t do projects like this. I want them to be flawless at the end. Milk paint took that crazy part of my brain and threw it out the window. You¬†can not¬†control this stuff perfectly. I had places that crackled a little. I loved it. Would have liked to get more of that. Don’t know why or how it happened though. Some places flaked off a little. Also, don’t know why. It sands off super smooth and easy where you want to distress.

This paint covers great. Two coats covered up that black without sanding it off or needing primer.

Oh, and could we talk about the fact that that picture above was taken in my living room? Yes, I painted it indoors. Milk paint doesn’t smell. At least not really. No chemicals. No awful fumes. Dries super fast. We started outside but I did this in the spring in Nevada. That means I started getting hailed on halfway through my beautiful sunny day. No problem. Move it inside!¬†DSCN1681

Now this picture here shows my rookie mistakes pretty darn well.¬†When we cut the edges off the drawers, the wood looked too new for me. I wanted it to stay raw wood though, so I rummaged around my house to find something to darken it up a bit. All I found was some Restor-A-Finish…which normal is one of my favorite products ever. (Check it out on Amazon at this affiliated photo link for reviews and what it IS actually used for. Seriously great stuff. If you choose to purchase it, I will receive a small commission.)

I thought it would work ok to age those edges, even though it wasn’t really made for that. It didn’t. Well, technically, it¬†did¬†but not in the way I was hoping. While the raw wood looked better, the product seeped down into the painted area, leaving a weird looking ring of oily residue. I think I must have also touched the rag on the top because there is the same weird oily area up there.

Kinda wanted to cry.

But then I realized eventually, when I get ambitious, (which hasn’t happened in two years yet!) I want to put something more fun on the front of these drawers. Textured wallpaper perhaps? I’ve even seen people do some pretty awesome stuff with regular wallpaper. I don’t know. But it’s for a little boy and looks far too boring for that.

Another rookie move – I did a terrible job distressing¬†the front of those drawers. At the very least, if I don’t get to papering it or something, I may try just painting another coat over it and not distressing so horribly. Yes, I see that it’s not good on those drawers. Not blind here. I had no idea what distressing was supposed to look like. Honestly, I tried to get it to chip off at first and that didn’t happen so…why not try sanding it! That’s why. Look at that picture. That. Is. Why.

After CloseBut I must say, those edges and corners! Mmm mmm mmmm! They look fabulous! I love the black and raw wood and random other stuff showing through. I love the attention it brings to those little details.

Now, I need to add, with Milk Paint, you need something to seal it. Depending on your project, you could use lots of different stuff. I used Johnson Paste Wax (click on the picture to purchase through Amazon. This is an affiliated link for which I will receive a tiny commission.)
to seal this dresser. I was told that anything that would receive a lot of wear or abuse would need something stronger than wax. It has survived a couple of years of serious little boy abuse without a single problem. So, I don’t know what kind of abuse they are talking about!

The wax was stinky. Whew! I didn’t expect it to smell so I also did it indoors. It took days for it to fully dissipate. After applying, you let it set for a bit and then buff it back off. Even once it was buffed – stinky. It had to fully dry or cure or something before that smell disappeared. Waxing also deepens the paint color. Milk Paint is naturally completely matte. Super flat paint here. Waxing it gave it a little life.

Honestly, I was sold after this project. I’ve used Milk Paint and suggested it to lots of other people multiple times. Maybe one day I’ll show you some frames I did but the photo montage is a little lacking for those because I didn’t expect to show them off. (My favorite is to use it over lightly sanded laminate wood and watch the crackle happen. Beautiful I’ll tell you.)

So have any of you worked with Milk Paint before? I’m interested to find out about different brands. I’ve never tried Miss Mustard Seed’s before. If you’re familiar with it, let me know in the comments how it works for you!Milk Paint Dresser Redo

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