Ombre Dresser DIY


Months ago I joined a group on Facebook called Buy Nothing after circuitously reading an article about the project. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see this great community of giving in my own little neighborhood: “Give where you live” is the motto. If you’ve never heard of it, check it out! Giving through the group generally feels better than receiving, but I was pretty excited when someone posted a dresser they wanted to part ways with, which had seen better days. I had ideas for that thing! (Plus dreams about not sharing one lone dresser with my husband anymore)

The dresser as it was kindly dropped off by a neighbor I didn't realize lived on my block.

The dresser as it was kindly dropped off by a Buy Nothing member I didn’t realize lived on my block. Her partner even brought it to my door, it was so nice and neighborly 🙂

At first I had a few different concepts in mind, but I was quickly waylaid by the fact that it had already been painted many times in its previous life and needed to be sanded down. Living in a condo with no immediate outdoor access, I was worried about how I would accomplish that. Luckily, a lovely friend of mine loaned me his sander which even has a little catch bag attached to it, so the sawdust wasn’t flying all over the place. I’m sure my neighbors appreciated sawdust not getting all over their balconies as well. (Thanks to my husband for doing about 75% of the sanding, too. My shoulder injury made it difficult to do it all myself.) Note: I did attempt to use some liquid paint stripper first, but I found that as it ate through the many layers, to get the last bit off was really tough and ended up with me gouging the wood with my scraper. I switched over to sanding after that, and it was labor intensive. One thought I had was to refinish the drawer fronts with a metallic copper contact paper like this. But, my coworker had a good point that I could always do that later if I get bored with the paint I chose. So by the time the sanding was almost done (almost 2 months after this dresser originally crossed my doorstep…) I decided that I wanted to do ombre drawers in grey. Things you will need:

  • Belt sander and strips to go with it (unless your dresser is already in good/smooth shape, which for your sake I hope it is!)
  • A fine grit sanding block for finishing
  • Paper towels
  • Drop cloth (or a garbage bag or if you’re me, broken down boxes that have accumulated near your front door and have yet to magically transport themselves to the recycling bin)
  • Drawer knobs of your choosing
  • Primer
  • Rollers and paint tray
  • One paint brush for all the edges and smaller areas
  • Paint: I got one color for the overall body (delicate white) and then I found a paint chip that had the different shades of grey that I liked and bought 1 small sample of each in satin finish.

    Supplies: paint and a fine grit sanding block.

    Supplies: paint and a fine grit sanding block. These are my tiny paint samples.

  • Contact paper and an exacto knife
  • Some tools: I needed a hammer to fix a few drawer sections where a nail was starting to stick out, and you’ll want a screwdriver to change out the drawer knobs. You will also want a hairdryer if you have to remove old contact paper out of the drawers.

I already had some of the supplies since it’s not my first time crafting, but the paints and knobs were the most expensive parts. In total I spent about $40. If you are starting from 0 supplies, you can expect to spend more than that – probably closer to $60. Prep: Start by taking all the drawers out of the dresser body and removing the drawer knobs. This is the easy part. Step 1: Sand down your dresser and drawer fronts. It doesn’t have to be down to the wood, but it needs to be as smooth as you can reasonably get it.


Sanded top and moving to the front.


Partially sanded

Step 2: Wipe it all down with a damp paper towel, make sure all the grit and debris is off of it. Step 3: Primer the body, let dry.



Step 4: Remove old contact paper out of the drawers while the main piece is drying. This is what your hairdryer is for! Turn it on high and hold close to the paper as you peel it away with your free hand. The heat loosens up the adhesive so you can pull it off more easily. Step 4: Primer the drawer fronts. Step 5: Paint the main dresser body in white (or whatever color you chose). Make sure that you get the ledges that hold the drawers; parts of those will be visible even once you put the drawers back in. Step 6: Paint your drawers! You will either need to have several roller heads, or you can be cheap like I did and use a small foam roller that is easy to rinse and dries quickly. I (mostly, with a few exceptions) washed it when I changed to the next shade in the ombre lineup.

Painted drawer fronts

Painted drawer fronts and testing out the new knobs

Step 7: View all your component parts in good lighting and decide if a second coat is needed. You will most likely need a second coat. Step 8: Coat 2 for all parts, if needed. Let everything dry. Step 9: Now cut your contact paper to fit in the drawer. It’s best to give yourself some extra length on the pieces you cut, then trim it down with an exacto knife once you’ve got it inside the drawer.


Most contact paper has grid lines on the back for easier measuring and cutting.

Step 10: Put your knew drawer knobs on. I had an issue with two of the drawers: the original hole for the screw to go through had worn a lot and become too wide for the screws that came with my new drawer knobs. When I put them on at first, if I pulled on the knob the whole thing came right through. To fix this, I bought some washers to give it extra diameter and keep it from pulling through. Step 11: Put all the drawers back in the dresser.

Put all the pieces back together...

Put all the pieces together…

Lastly, put all your clothes away and enjoy!

Ombre dresser drawers with faux "crystal" knobs.

Ombre dresser drawers with faux “crystal” knobs.

It was a lot more work than I had originally thought – mainly the sanding and prep work. The painting itself isn’t that arduous, if you have a piece that doesn’t need a lot of prep. After all that, I’m glad I love the way it turned out! And of course, I still have another concept when I’m ready for a new look.

Before & After: ombre dresser makeover

Before & After: ombre dresser makeover

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