Quick Antique Dresser Restoration

This is one of those posts that was totally not planned, but I just have to share this quick antique dresser restoration with you! Our recently graduated nephew has come to live with us while establishing himself in Oregon and that meant an overhaul of our son’s room (see his previous surprise extreme room makeover here) to accommodate two college-aged men.

DIY Quick Antique Dresser Restoration - An Oregon Cottage

I’m planning to share the entire new room mini-makeover soon, but today is all about a $90 antique dresser we found after realizing the shorter, wider dresser our son had been using made the room too crowded with two twin beds. And how I was able to quickly restore it to a nicer finish – an amazing finish, actually!

Of course we waited until the weekend before our nephew was scheduled to arrive before finding a dresser that would work with our budget and space considerations. I had been searching Craigslist for a couple weeks to no avail, so we tried the area thrift and used furniture stores and found this gem:

90.00 dresser before

Original hardware, sweet turned legs (on casters!), dovetail joints, and a key point for a boys dresser – smooth working drawers {of course those who follow me on Instagram already know about this score!). I couldn’t believe it was only $90.00! We found it at a used furniture/liquidation store and a similar dresser at a thrift store we visited had a price tag of $249, so as soon as I saw the drawers were in good condition we bought it.

Antique Dresser Before Details

Now I’m sure one of the reasons it was priced so low was because of the condition of the finish. It was covered with water spots and nicks, but the veneer was in good condition – only slightly coming up in a couple of areas, but nothing major.

While this seemed like a prime candidate for painting (I wasn’t even sure I liked the center motif…), I did mention we saved this to a few days before our nephew’s arrival, didn’t I? Time was a major factor in this case. That and the fact that I really wanted a wood-finished piece for the room.

Using Finish Restorer-An Oregon Cottage

So after lightly sanding the whole piece, I pulled out an old bottle of Restor-A-Finish that I’ve had for a long time, sorta desperately hoping I could just make the dresser presentable. Remember we’re not big on perfection around here? I actually like the character that comes from years of use on furniture, so I’m not always trying to make something like new.

But I was still amazed – as in, AMAZED – how this stuff worked! My photo of a drawer in-process looks just like the bottle’s cover photo – it actually works just like that!

Quick Antique Dresser Restoration Steps:
  1. Lightly sand entire piece of furniture with a fine grit. You can remove hardware or not (I didn’t).
  2. Using gloves and a rag in a well ventilated area, apply a bit of finish restorer to the rag and then rub it into the wood a section at a time. Wipe section with a clean rag before proceeding to the next section.
  3. Continue until the whole piece is covered to your satisfaction. It’s okay to reapply to areas, but it may not make a difference.
  4. Let dry 24 hours before coating with water based polyurethane or furniture wax as needed. I only coated the top.

Dresser drawers before-after

Look at the difference in these drawers – see? I’m not even exaggerating! Since I wasn’t sure if it would even work, I only used my phone to take these photos – that’s how unsure I was of even being able to share this with you guys.

Antique Dresser Leg before-after::AnOregonCottage.com

And while the legs aren’t quite as dramatic, it still covered the scuffs nicely and brought a richness to the wood. And seriously – I’m in love with these legs!

Antique Dresser Half Restored-An Oregon Cottage

So I finished the whole bottom section of the dresser – it looks great, right? It only took about 30 minutes and you can bet I was pretty excited.

But look at the unfinished top. It was in the worst shape and when I sanded even more of the finish came off the edges, so I saved it for last. I thought for sure I’d have to strip and restain the whole top, but before I did I tried the finish restore just to see {hoping…} what it would do.

Antique dresser top before-after::AnOregonCottage.com

Okay, now I was beyond amazed into the realm of shocked. It evened out the color just fine for our purposes and I didn’t have to strip and restain it!

After letting it dry overnight, I gave it one coat of water based polyurethane to make it a bit smoother and to extend the life of this quick restore job just a bit.

Restored Antique Dresser Before-After::AnOregonCottage.com

So there you have it – in only 45 minutes I was able to restore this $90 antique dresser to something of it’s former glory, but with it’s character still intact. I love how you can see the wood grain of the veneer now and the painted details.

And though I’m using my Amazon affiliate link for the Restor-A-Finish that I used, they did not sponsor this in any way. This is just one of those cases of “oh my gosh, who knew this worked so well? I gotta share about this!” because it’s nice to find products that actually do what they say – and save you time and money on top of it.

So tell me, am I late to this party – have you already used this product with good results like this?

I’m sharing at: Fabulously Creative Friday, Weekend Wrap-Up, Saturday Nite Special


  1. A says

    Wow, I think you should send before and after pictures to their company, not only did it do a good job you can clearly see the difference.
    Wonder how long the finish will hold up. Great job, always nice when you can recycle something useful.

  2. Sandy says

    I HAVE to try this! I have an old dresser that I just love. But our dry climate has been hard on it. I was afraid the project would be a major overhaul, if I ever got to it. But this looks like something that would be easy, and prevent any more damage to the original finish on my antique. Thanks!

  3. Angela says

    We bought almost the exact same dresser years ago for our daughter. It was missing the casters and the piece along the back but the lines and hardware are nearly identical. I think hers had two small drawers at the top. We paid $65 back then with the thought that we might need to refinish it but lucked out when Scott’s Liquid Gold polished it right up. Isn’t it great to find pieces with such as these? We live it the Willamette Valley also and I have seen other dressers similar to these in antique shops around the area. Our daughter is grown and is still using it to this day. It fits so well in her early 1900’s home they recently purchased. I enjoy your blog, thanks for embracing imperfection and encouraging us to do the same.

  4. says

    Wow the dresser looks great. My son has an antique dresser in his room that needs some help. I think I will pick up a can of restore a finish and give it a try.

  5. Rachel says

    I totally agree! I have my grandmother’s antique oak dining table. Restore a Finish works wonders on it to keep it up and remove the bad water stains that seem to result from my guests.

  6. Lisa says

    Really beautiful! I have a china cabinet that could use a little of that restorer – thanks! (I REALLY) like that dresser!

  7. says

    I have used Restore A FInish for years and always have several different colors on hand – try to pick them up at estate and garage sales! There was a dining set the shop sold and then repurchased a couple of years later that had been improperly stored in the meantime. I was so disappointed in the condition! Even after years of restoring furniture I thought the set was a goner. Restore a Finish to the rescue and that set not only turned out beautifully-we sold it again for more than the first sale price. Howard’s has no idea we exist but I can’t tell people enough how wonderful the product is – glad you agree!!

    • says

      Lucky you, Joann! To print a page, click on the green ‘print’ button at the bottom of the post and a page will come up that you can print without the comments. You can also click to delete any other part of the article you don’t want, so you’re left with only the instructions. Hope that’s helpful to you!

  8. Leslie says

    I have a serious preference for this kind of older wood furniture and that piece is GORGEOUS. Finding these kind of pieces at reasonable prices here on the coastal NY/NJ area has become difficult because we’re flooded with bulk buyers who ridiculously mark up their pieces for resale.
    I have my late parent’s circa 1950 mahogany bedroom dresser and highboy. It had been through years of abuse (4 kids + small house) and my parents decided to paint it “colonial blue” in the 70s. After my father passed away in 2010 I had it professionally stripped and refinished to all its warm mahogany beauty. It cost a small fortune. One of my nieces wanted the highboy and I have the serpentine front triple dresser which I promised to said niece who lived with my father for a few years.
    I’ll have to invest in the product you’ve highlighted.
    One problem I have is that I’ve been searching high and low for over 3 years for original hardware. It was an oval version of your original hardware with a rose motif in the center portion of the plate. I refuse to put back the colonial hardware from the 70s…not giving up on returning it to the beautiful look I remember so well from my childhood. Funny what some “girls” dreams of these days…LOL.
    Originally came to your site when searching for “non-blanch” method for freezing sugar snap beans and found this bonus. Thank you!

    • says

      That sounds like a lovely restoration, Leslie! I hope you do find the original hardware – that would be awesome. So glad you found the site and took the time to leave a comment. :)

  9. Shirley Gates says

    I have a similar dresser and am trying to find out WHAT it is called and it’s value. Could you tell me what your dresser is? Researching the parts and style is a real nightmare.
    Thank you for any help,

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