A Modern Mid-Century Makeover | Via Royal Design Studio

After a month of behind the scenes coordination, a few weekend’s-worth of finishing touches and one sneaky sneak peek, I am finally ready to share one of my greatest triumphs as a DIY-er. I’ve seen many a creative personality tackle a full furniture makeover, but I had always been a bit scared to try it myself. However, I am happy to report that it’s not NEARLY as hard as I had expected, and the finished product is well worth the struggle…


But look at me jumping ahead of myself…Some of you may remember what this thrifted mid-century mod dresser looked like before. It was one of the very first pieces that John and I bought together when I moved in a year and a half ago. Although we loved the lines, we were a little less thrilled with the finish – Light wood just isn’t our jam, at least not in such a large scale piece like this one. Despite the rough spot on that one drawer though, the piece was in fairly decent shape and only cost us $150, huge mirror included.



With no real motivation or direction on how to change it, we simply lived with it as is. But fast forward almost 2 years later and something wonderful happened to change the course of fate. I was approached by one of my all time favorite companies – Royal Design Studio. With their kind encouragement and the offer to try one of their high quality stencils, my mind immediately shifted to our tired old dresser. Once the wheels started turning and after involving John, we devised a plan that would transform this piece of furniture into a treasure that we would be proud to show off.

Before I get too deep into the prep work, allow me to explain our thought process. I have been captivated by the look of mid-century pieces wrapped in a painted white exterior – A few looks to demonstrate this can be found herehere and here, but basically the top, sides and edges of the piece are painted white, while the drawer fronts are left as stained wood. But to make this look really OURS, we decided that the Royal Design Studio stencil would perfectly provide a pop of character if we used it down the front middle of the drawers.

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Oh, and the MOST important decision we had to make was which stencil to order! Since we had already happily used their Endless Circles Lattice Moroccan Stencil in our living room, I knew we needed to go with something more linear and something a bit sharper for contrast throughout the house. So this time, I went with the medium Herringbone Pattern Wall Stencil from the Allover Modern Stencils Collection (pictured above).



The first step in the process was to carry the dresser down two flights of stairs to the garage where we could sand and paint to our heart’s content (and to the content of our nice furniture and carpet upstairs). John helped me out by sanding all of the old stain and varnish from the outside of the piece, while I got to work on the painting and staining portions. We used Kilz 2 Latex Primer to make sure that everything was nice and sealed, and then “Ultra White” Valspar kitchen and bath paint on top. As for the new stain on the drawers, we used Minwax “Dark Walnut” for its rich finished color.




After giving the exterior and edges of the dresser one coat of primer and two coats of the ultra white, we let it dry indoors for a good two days. The same went for the drawer fronts, which got about four coats of the stain to make them as dark and saturated as possible.

Once everything was cured, we brought it back up to the bedroom where I laid out the drawers face up on the ground, ready for stenciling. I simply taped off the edges of the outlying drawers, used more masking tape to hold the stencil in place and then grabbed my paint and roller. For those curious about the color, I ended up using leftover paint from our living room (“Halcyon Green,” by Sherwin Williams). It’s such a pretty shade of dark mint and seemed like a better choice then true icy mint – I thought the extra brightness of light mint might be a bit TOO much contrast in the end.

With the color chosen, I dipped my small 4-inch roller in the paint tray, rolled it on a piece of paper towel to remove the excess and then very gently rolled a light amount of color over the stencil. I simply repeated the process until the color was saturated enough, and then slowly removed the tape and stencil to reveal nice, crisp edges. After letting the first section dry, I gingerly laid the stencil down once more to cover the bottom drawer, overlapping a few shapes from the top to make sure my pattern was lined up perfectly.




Once the second half was finished, I removed my stencil and used a tiny art brush to clean up any of the edges that came out a little uneven (I pushed a little too hard on the roller in my excitement). When stenciling, patience truly is the best virtue.

After allowing the stenciled portions to dry completely and putting the original hardware back in place, we were finished.



I think the stencil was the final key in making this piece special. That hit of pattern is so eye-catching and really sets the dresser apart from any other piece in our home. Plus, just the satisfaction that John and I were able to work on it together makes it even more important.




Oh those colors…The dark brown stain, the white and mint – This is one of my favorite combinations of color and works well against our deep gray walls. As for the styling on top, I tucked our television in a corner (to be hung in a more unobtrusive spot on the wall later on) and replaced it with a stack of art books, a couple of little thrifted pieces (like the brass elephant and succulent dish) and finished everything off with my brand new-to-me mid-century vase from Etsy. The bright orange lamp and white bookends and books help to balance out and finish off the other side.





But, as you know per DG-DIY policy, this makeover isn’t the end of the story. I’m pleased to announce that Royal Design Studio is offering up a SECOND stencil to one of my lucky readers!! If you have been itching to tackle your own furniture makeover (or maybe a painted tray, feature wall or patterned backsplash), check back in this time next week to enter your name in the drawing. Be thinking about what you’d do if YOU won!

P.S. I’m linking this project up over on East Coast Creative – If you love how it turned out, feel free to click over and show it some love (you just need to click on my thumbnail – #175 – to give it a view)!! I can’t thank EVERYONE enough for the support…

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  • February 11, 2013 - 10:45 am

    Kim @ Yellow Brick Home - It looks so beautiful! Well done! Love your color combo – I’ll never get sick of mint green.ReplyCancel

    • February 11, 2013 - 10:52 am

      Carrie - Thanks, Kim! I know what you mean – Mint green is just too good to be true…ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 10:51 am

    Ainhoa - It’s BEAUTIFUL! What an awesome job. It must have taken a long time, but you should be very, very proud!ReplyCancel

    • February 11, 2013 - 10:52 am

      Carrie - Thank you so much!!! It actually wasn’t nearly as time consuming as I had expected! I think having my hubby help made all the difference though…SO glad you like it =)ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 10:56 am

    Twórczy Nieład - I love this pattern 😉 I’m thinking about using it on my old closet 😉ReplyCancel

    • February 11, 2013 - 11:00 am

      Carrie - You should!! It was super fun to work with…ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 4:41 pm

    must be thrifty - Wow. I don’t usually like modernising old pieces, but what you’ve done to that dresser looks pretty awesome.ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 5:32 pm

    Fran - You’ve done it again. Fantastic transformation. You’ve given me inspiration to tackle two smaller dressers inherited from mother-in-law. Very similar to your dresser but think of two dressers each about 30 inches long with the same shaped feet. Thanks for the thorough materials list and pictures.ReplyCancel

    • February 11, 2013 - 5:34 pm

      Carrie - Thank you!! Glad you like it 🙂 I hope you’ll send pictures when you’re finished!ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 6:38 pm

    Shannon - Fantastic redo!! I love that you kept the original hardware. It didn’t need flashy handles after the great stencil.ReplyCancel

    • February 11, 2013 - 8:36 pm

      Carrie - Thank you! I considered updating the hardware, but am with you now – The originals were perfect all along!!ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 8:34 pm

    Beckie - Wow you made the cabinet totally different! Thanks for sharing this bright idea Carrie!ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 11:33 pm

    Woman in the Middle - It looks great! A real stand out piece!ReplyCancel

  • February 12, 2013 - 8:06 am

    Alex Landar - I looove the stained wood!ReplyCancel

  • February 12, 2013 - 10:18 am

    Brittany - That looks fantastic! You did a really great job. I love the paint, the stained wood and the stenciled pattern. It also goes together so nicely.ReplyCancel

    • February 12, 2013 - 10:21 am

      Carrie - Thank you so much for your sweet words!!ReplyCancel

  • February 13, 2013 - 4:32 pm

    Brooke - Hey! While I normally cringe at the thought of painting mid century furniture this turned out pretty nice (I too like darker mid century opposed to the light). The only thing I’d strongly recommend is to oil your wood drawer fronts. They look like they’re screaming for re-hydration.

    Check out this blog article and you’ll see what I mean. Your drawer fronts look like the step where someone might panic because…”your wood will be so dry and hazy and sad looking that it seems like nothing will ever save it”


    • February 13, 2013 - 5:23 pm

      Carrie - Thanks for the suggestion!! Glad you like how it turned out 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 27, 2013 - 4:30 pm

    Sarah {Lacquer and Linen} - Saw this on Craft Gawker and had to stop by and tell you how much I love it! The dark stain and light blue paint look so lovely together. And i love that you showed restraint by only stenciling the middle drawers. Great job!ReplyCancel

    • February 27, 2013 - 4:47 pm

      Carrie - Thank you! I really appreciate you stopping by!!ReplyCancel

  • June 24, 2013 - 10:29 am

    Heather - Saw this in BHG! I’ve just primed a $40 mid-century thrift store console and can’t figure out what tool to use for the final layers o paint for a nice smooth finish like yours — do you have a sprayer or did you use a brush or roller?ReplyCancel

    • June 24, 2013 - 12:16 pm

      dreamgreendiy@gmail.com - Thanks for stopping by! What an amazing deal you got!! I used a foam roller for my top coat and a soft bristle brush for the hard-to-reach areas. I definitely suggest splurging on a GOOD paint brush, since it makes all the difference. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • June 26, 2013 - 10:23 pm

    Crystal - I saw this BHG and was so inspired! Funny enough, I’ve purchased a similar type of dresser from a thrift store recently that I wanted to use as a changing table/dresser for my baby. I was wondering, do you think I can get away with priming with primer like KILZ oil primer if I didn’t want to sand? I hate sanding and I’m trying to avoid it (so much so that even though I love how you stained the middle drawers, I’m willing to just paint over it with just glossy white). I can’t tell if my dresser is veneer, laminate, or shiny poly. I just don’t want to sand because I’d be doing this in my dining room.ReplyCancel

    • June 27, 2013 - 6:42 am

      dreamgreendiy@gmail.com - Thanks for visiting! And I love the idea of turning your dresser into a changing table!! While I probably wouldn’t recommend skipping the sanding step, I think starting with a primer would definitely give you a good shot at achieving a nice finish. They DO make a liquid sander (sort of like a paint stripper) that you could try. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • September 26, 2013 - 10:42 am

    Stefan Salinas - Is the Sherman Williams paint an oil-based or latex paint? I would be worries that the paint wouldn’t adhere well enough to the Minwax.
    Also, is there a need to put a clear coat over the drawers at the end?

    Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • September 26, 2013 - 10:46 am

      dreamgreendiy@gmail.com - It’s latex – I’m not a big fan of oil based, if I’m being honest. But despite that, so far so good!! I did put a clear coat on top to protect the finish. Let me know if you have any more questions!! Happy to help =)ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2014 - 9:52 pm

    Emily - So you did put a clear poly coat on top of the stained drawers?ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2014 - 9:52 pm

      Carrie - Yes – I did. It helped to seal the paint and give it a bit of shine!ReplyCancel

  • March 26, 2014 - 8:35 pm

    Beja - I love your work! My most popular post is a herringbone dresser, so I kind of have an affinity (or obsession)!

    Congrats on your feature in BHG. I might have to use the stencils on some projects. I usually freehand my homemade tape stencil ;DReplyCancel

    • March 26, 2014 - 9:39 pm

      Carrie - Thanks x 2!!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • July 14, 2015 - 1:48 pm

    Erica - Hi there, I’m sure it must seem odd to have a new comment on a not so recent post. But I just wanted to tell you that seeing your dresser makeover featured in BHG prompted me to go back and buy a very similarly styled dresser (if not also manufactured by the same company) I had walked past only a month or so earlier.

    I have had it tucked away in our garage all this time, but I’m thinking of finally spiffing up my piece and putting it somewhere permanent in our home and I wanted to ask, by any chance, did you ever find a maker’s mark or any other identifying labels on yours?

    And if so, who was the piece made by and approximate age? I tried without success to google based upon description alone and came up with all manner of MCM items, but none that looked exactly like what I found to help me along. Nothing on the back panel either.

    Lucky you, you found a mirror with yours – I stole mine (purchased for $39 in Farmville VA), but I do love mirrors!ReplyCancel

    • July 14, 2015 - 5:38 pm

      Carrie - So great to hear from you Erica!! Unfortunately, I don’t see any kind of maker’s mark on my piece…I hope your searches prove fruitful soon!!! 🙂ReplyCancel

      • July 15, 2015 - 9:32 am

        Erica - Thanks for your reply! If I’m ever able to find out, I will be sure to share with you.

        Your piece was in much better overall condition to start. Mine is a little rough around the edges with a dark stain, but I’m really looking forward to giving it the love it needs.ReplyCancel

        • July 15, 2015 - 3:15 pm

          Carrie - That would be great! Thank you!! I will let you know if I somehow come across a marking when we move and have the piece out and taken apart completely 🙂ReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2015 - 9:06 pm

    Shayden - Mooch Style - I LOVE THIS, I am often up cycling and haven’t tackled anything this large yet!

    WELL DONEReplyCancel

    • October 12, 2015 - 11:00 am

      Carrie - Thank you so much Shayden!!ReplyCancel

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